Roman Holiday (1953)

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Released 8-Apr-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Remembering Roman Holiday
Featurette-Restoring Roman Holiday
Featurette-Edith Head-The Paramount Years
Teaser Trailer
Theatrical Trailer-2
Gallery-Photo-Production; The Movie; Publicity; The Premiere
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1953
Running Time 113:17
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (29:28) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By William Wyler
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Gregory Peck
Audrey Hepburn
Eddie Albert
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Georges Auric


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Arabic
Bulgarian
Czech
Danish
German
Greek
English
Spanish
French
Hebrew
Croatian
Icelandic
Italian
Hungarian
Dutch
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Romanian
Slovenian
Serbo-Croatian
Finnish
Swedish
Turkish
English for the Hearing Impaired
German Titling
Spanish Titling
French Titling
Italian Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Imagine a life of unparalleled privilege. You have dozens of staff to wait on your every beck and call. A personal cook to prepare your favourite dishes, a personal doctor to attend to your needs, maids and servants to pamper you. You mix with rarefied company: royalty, stars of stage and screen, heads of state. Your clothes are tailor made for you by the world's most famous fashion houses. You live in the most opulent residences, of which you have many. You travel the world in first class luxury and see sights that most would will only see in books. You have it all. Now imagine that the price of this life is your freedom.

    Princess Ann, heir to the throne of an influential country in Europe, is on a goodwill tour of European capitals. After travelling to Paris, London, Amsterdam, and others, Princess Ann has made her way to Rome. And as her hectic schedule continues relentlessly, the strain is starting to show. It's on the eve of another day of factory openings and state receptions when Ann cracks under the pressure. Unable to bear the constant regime of the royal life, Princess Ann looks down from the balcony of her stately residence to a group of people enjoying themselves, enjoying a freedom which she longs for, but knows in her heart she will never have. In an attempt to calm the anxious Princess down, a physician has given the young royal a shot of sedative. And as it doesn't take immediate effect, the Princess has just enough time to escape out the window, into the back of a passing delivery van, and on into Rome city. As the Princess alights from the van, she begins to feel the effects of the sedative, and unable to travel further, she collapses on a public bench. Passing by is reporter Joe Bradley, who is about to stumble on the story of a lifetime. He just doesn't know it yet.

    Coming to the aid of a seemingly helpless drunk young female, Joe Bradley eventually ends up with his intoxicated (sedated) charge at his apartment where she promptly falls asleep on his bed. Moving her to the couch, he himself finally goes to sleep. Awaking late, Joe rushes to his office where his editor is waiting. Joe was meant to interview a certain visiting Princess, but because he slept in, he's missed the interview. Or maybe not, for on the cover of his newspaper is the story of the now missing Princess, and she bears a striking resemblance to the girl sleeping in his apartment. Promising his editor the the biggest story of the year, with an exclusive interview with the missing Princess, Joe is quickly back to his apartment. Having contacted his friend Irving, a photographer, Joe's arranged for all three of them to meet for a coffee, a chat, and a few discreetly taken pictures. It all starts to go well as the newly free Princess begins to let her hair down (by cutting most of it off, strangely), but as Joe and the Princess become closer he starts to question his motives and whether he should even write a story at all. As Irving says, "It's always open season on Princesses", but is it?

    It's strange how life imitates art. Not long after this film appeared on cinema screens, a real-life version of this film was taking place in England where Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth, was forced to abandon a relationship with a commoner because of royal protocol and convention. The princess in this film resembles both Princess Margaret and Princess Diana, as both were caught in the system that was bigger than them both and a system that perhaps brought them to their eventual fate.

    This film was originally meant for Cary Grant and Elizabeth Taylor, but when Grant turned down the role and Taylor wasn't able to do the film, the film's producers turned to popular actor Gregory Peck and newcomer Audrey Hepburn. Audrey had performed to much acclaim on Broadway and had starred in minor roles in various films, but the studio decided to take a chance on this (at the time) unproved star and cast her in the lead as the runaway princess. Gregory Peck was so taken with the ability of his co-star that he convinced the studio to place her name in equal billing with his as he was confident that Hepburn's performance would earn her the Academy Award for Best Actress. He was right, and she won the Oscar, one of three the film would win; the other awards being for Best Costume Black and White as well as Best Writing for a Motion Picture Story. It was nominated in seven other categories including Best Supporting Actor for Eddie Albert, and Best Director for William Wyler.

    After 50 years, this is still a great film and continues to stimulate an audience. Even in this day of CG, surround sound and $US300 million budgets, it takes a film like this to show that in the end it's all about the story. The events in the life of Princess Margaret and later Princess Diana would show just how accurate this film would be. As a former resident of Rome, I have always had time for this film and now with this restored version, I have even more time. While time had not been kind to the original print of this film, a complete restoration has been done. It is a shame that we have to go to such a major exercise with some of these films, but it is nice to see that to some extent these ravages of time can be alleviated and we can continue to enjoy them for many more years to come. One of my favourites and very highly recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This film has been totally restored and remastered as the best remaining print suffered from some quite pronounced film artefacts and flaws that had become worse over time. The end result is a very clean version of the film.

    This film is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1, which is very close to the original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. There is, understandably, no 16x9 enhancement.

    The version we have here, for the most part, is quite sharp and clean. There are some out-of-focus issues to be seen during this film. Some of these may have been intentional soft-focus or frost-lens techniques such as seen at 80:24, but others seem to be flaws in production such as seen at 29:43 and 48:34. Some reviews of this remaster have complained that the automated image restoration program has mistakenly smoothed out texture that was intended to be seen on screen, and to a certain extent I'd agree, but this looks to be a small price to pay in order to get this film looking better than it has in over 50 years. In a time where colour productions were becoming the norm, the producers of this film decided to film this movie in black and white so shading, lighting, and grey levels were of prime importance. This film uses just the right amount of lighting to capture a detailed image while preserving the dynamic essential to a black and white production.

    This film being in black and white, colour isn't an issue. The cover might lead some to think that this is a colorized version. The abomination of colorization that became popular in the 1980s would have ruined this film, but thankfully this has never to the best of my knowledge been inflicted upon this movie. As stated before, shading and grey levels are much more important with this movie and are achieved and portrayed competently here.

    Spread over two layers, the compression job is quite competent and mostly free of major MPEG artefacts. Some very slight pixilization is visible from time to time, but it is very slight and this film has never looked better on home video. In comparison to the VHS released about 1994 here in Australia, this version is much better with an image not affected with excess levels of edge enhancement (which was quite pronounced on the last VHS release). There are a few moiré effects visible from time to time, especially at 101:34 on the shirt, but this isn't common enough to be a major distraction. The effect of cross colorization might be expected on a lesser disc, but even on images like that at 48:39, which would usually be susceptible, this annoying artefact is absent. Aliasing is infrequent and not a real problem with this title. Because of the major restoration process that this film has gone through, film artefacts are quite infrequent and only pop up on the odd occasion. The most pronounced evidence of these artefacts is seen during the news reel section at the start of the film. Strangely, the stock footage portions feature the most film artefacts such as white and black specks as well as more pronounced grain, while the portions filmed for the movie are almost perfect. This perhaps mirrors the effect seen when the film was first screened, and to that effect, this flaw is indeed part of the original film that we have restored here. There are frames that seem to compress from time to time such as that seen at 13:55, but this is probably a flaw in the original print and not a transfer flaw. There is also an odd jump in the film seen at 23:08, but again this is probably a remnant of the original print and may have been unavoidable. Otherwise, film nicks and flecks, hairs, scratches and grain are for the most part wiped out and what's left is a very clean (some say too clean, but I'd disagree) print that serves the film well.

    This film features a myriad of subtitle options with the English version working well to convey the overall meaning and tone of the film while not being word for word. An English for the Hearing Impaired title is also available.

    Now this is what I call a layer change. Perfectly placed and timed in between chapters 6 and 7 at 29:28, I found this one hard to pick, and completely missed it the first time through. It is in a silent part of the film where the image has faded to black. Perfect, and even some older machines this change should almost unnoticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio on this film is workable, though not a standout offering that it could have been.

    There are 5 audio tracks available on this disc, being Dolby Digital tracks in German, English, Spanish, French and Italian. All are in 2.0 mono.

    For the most part the dialogue quality is good considering the limitations of the recording medium as available in the early 50s. The sound overall, including the voices, is quite thin and lacking in any major dynamics, but this is expected and we have a listenable and workable audio mix available here.

    Audio sync is reasonable during most of the film, but it does suffer from some ADR flaws such as that seen on the Vespa chase scene during the middle of the film where Audrey Hepburn's dialogue doesn't match her lip movements. A niggling flaw, but it is there.

    Music for the film was composed by prolific French scorer Georges Auric whose work included the score for the 1952 version of Moulin Rouge as well as many French productions from the 1930s to 1978. Georges Auric passed away in 1983. His score works well with the material and serves the film well.

    As this is a mono soundtrack, surround and LFE issues are a non-starter. It might have been nice to have this film's audio remastered in a 2.0 surround encoded manner as an option to the original mono audio, but this isn't the case and we'll have to endure mono. Use your amplifier's Mono Movie DSP function to generate a bit more ambience, but millions have listened to this film in its original mono soundtrack for 50 years and they can listen to it in mono for another 50 years.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     While not overloaded in extras, we get some useful supplementary material here.

Menu

     After the Language Selection menu, we are taken to the usual copyright warnings, then the disc's Main Menu which offers us the following:

     The Main Menu is animated and features audio from the film's soundtrack in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

     Selecting the Special Features icon takes us to the Special Features Menu which offers us:

Featurette - Remembering Roman Holiday - 25:28

    This is a fond and entertaining look back at the film that would captivate a generation. Featuring interviews with the films main contributors, we gain an insight to the making of the film from the perspective of time as the stars of the film and their families talk about how the film was made and how it impacted on not only the audience, but themselves as well. Sadly, the least contribution is from the film's main star, Audrey Hepburn, who passed away in 1993. This feature is presented full frame with audio in English Dolby Digital 2.0.

Featurette - Restoring Roman Holiday - 6:48

    As this film had deteriorated over the last 50 years, it needed a complete restoration to preserve the original look and quality of the image. The audio hadn't suffered the ravages of time, but the image had with many flaws affecting the various frames of the film with sometimes up to 300 different nicks and flecks on a given second of footage. This was cleaned up and the film restored to its original glory. Another problem rectified was the omission of the name of the true author and screenplay writer of this film, Dalton Trumbo from the film's original opening credit sequence. Because of the anti-Communist blacklisting that took place in the U.S. in the 1950s, Trumbo's name had to be omitted and instead Ian McLellan Hunter's name was used. Now, with this restored version, credit where credit's due can be given and Dalton's name is properly and seamlessly inserted into its proper place. If you didn't know that his name had been omitted, you wouldn't know that it had been restored. Also covered is some interesting before and after footage that shows just how far the deterioration had gone. Presented full frame with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Featurette - Edith Head - The Paramount Years - 13:42

    This feature shows the contribution to the fashion of film from one of the most recognized and awarded costume designers of modern cinema, Edith Head. Starting by outfitting Clara Bow in Ladies of the Mob in 1928, Edith would go on to win 8 Academy Awards for Costume Design. This featurette covers a major force in filmmaking who might have been forgotten by this generation. Presented full frame with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Teaser Trailer - 1:43

     Focusing on the fresh-faced new star that was Audrey Hepburn, this teaser promised a tale of romance in fairy tale fashion filmed in the most romantic city in the world. Full frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio.

Theatrical Trailer - 2:06

    This trailer features more footage from the film and some of its most memorable scenes. There are some alternate shots used in this trailer that are not as they are seen in the finished film. Presented full frame with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Re-release Trailer - 2:21

    Eight years after the success of Roman Holiday, another film would come along and again propel the beautiful star Audrey Hepburn to the heights of stardom. Wishing to capitalize on the hype of the new film Breakfast at Tiffany's, Paramount re-released Hepburn's first major film as a tie-in to the popularity of Breakfast. Features some cringe-worthy clichés trying to work the title Breakfast at Tiffany's into the promo. Again, full frame and audio in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Photo Galleries - 103 images

    This gallery features many images from the film, its publicity as well as some behind the scenes shots. This feature is broken down into the following sections:

    These are placed mid screen and are advanceable via the remote.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There are few differences between the Region 1 disc and this Region 4 title. The main differences would be in the language department with the Region 4 disc getting German, Spanish and Italian language tracks as well as 24 additional subtitle options — the Region 1 disc only has English and French language tracks and English subtitles. Other than these, the two versions are the same. I'd call this one a draw, with the Region 4 version getting a slight edge for those who don't use English as their first language.

Summary

    I can't believe this film is 50 years old. In an age of 'latest and greatest', you sometimes forget the films that have already come and gone, a lapse of memory that would be to our detriment. Good filmmaking, acting, and story transcend time and this film is a prime example. It still looks great, and now with a complete restoration we have the film as it would have been seen theatrically 50 years ago. Gregory Peck is still a great star and Audrey Hepburn is a beauty that still captivates the screen. A wonderful film that should live on for many more years to come.

    The video is quite good, this being a total restoration version with many of the nicks, flecks and scratches, as well as grain, removed. Some have complained at the restoration obscuring some of the minor detail seen during the film, but this seems a slight price to pay for an image that looks pristine and exhibits the film as is would have been seen on its release.

    The audio is fairly flat and while probably exactly the same as it would have been on its initial release, could have been made a bit more 'theatrical' and dynamic, as the original mix lacks any major dynamic. Still, this is the original soundtrack, and it'll have to do.

    The extras are not overabundant, but the ones we do get are relevant and are very interesting to those who are interested in this classic piece of filmmaking.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Sunday, April 20, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD RA-61, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko TRW 325 / 32 SFT 10 76cm (32") 16x9. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2090
SpeakersVAF DC-X Fronts, VAF DC-6 Center, VAF DC-2 Rears, VAF LFE-07 Sub (Dual Amp. 80w x 2)

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