Roman Holiday (Paramount Presents) – Blu-ray Review
Film Title: Roman Holiday (1953)
Release Date: 2020
Rating: NOT RATED
Runtime: 118 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Distributor: Paramount Presents
Audio Format: Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Mono
Aspect Ratio(s): 1.37:1
Version Reviewed: 2020 Paramount Presents Blu-ray
Blu-ray Release Date: 9/15/20
Director: William Wyler
Cast: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert, Hartley Power
Jump to Sections:
Movie | Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full Blu-ray Tech Specs at bottom
“Roman Holiday, spine number 9 in the Paramount Presents Blu-ray series, was a romantic comedy from 1953 directed by William Wyler. Wyler is best known for directing such classic films as “Jezebel” (1938), “Wuthering Heights” (1939), “The Letter” (1940), “The Little Foxes” (1941), “Mrs. Miniver” (1942), “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946), “The Heiress” (1949), “The Desperate Hours” (1955), “The Big Country” (1958), “Ben-Hur” (1959), “The Children’s Hour” (1961), “How to Steal a Million” (1966), and “Funny Girl” (1968). It is certainly most worth noting that all of these films either won or were nominated for Academy Awards (“Oscars“) and that several of those films also included the female lead from this film, Audrey Hepburn.
“Roman Holiday” was based on a story written by Dalton Trumbo. Trumbo would also work, uncredited, on the screenplay adaptation of the film. Dalton Trumbo not only is best known for his writing but is known for being one of those blacklisted in the 1950s. Trumbo was truly best known though for his screenwriting on such classics as “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” (1944), “Gun Crazy” (1950), “Spartacus” (1960), “The Last Sunset” (1961), “The Sandpiper” (1965), and “Papillion” (1973). Trumbo also would go on to write a screenplay adaptation and direct a film based on his novel “Johnny Got His Gun” (1971). Lastly, the screenplay for this film was co-written by Ian McLellan Hunter and John Dighton.
The movie tells the tale of a modern-day princess, “Princess Ann” (Audrey Hepburn), who is visiting Rome. Princess Ann has grown extremely tired of her royal duties of just standing and greeting people she doesn’t even know. She has a bit of a temper tantrum, as one might call it, and decides to sneak off, away from her country’s embassy, on her own and explore the beautiful city of Rome.
In the process of exploring Rome, Princess Ann manages to perchance meet an American newspaper writer named “Joe Bradley” (Gregory Peck). At first, Joe has no clue at all that he’s talking to a princess and only sees a young attractive woman in need of some help out on the streets of Rome. Off they go on a very interesting journey, first back to Joe’s apartment where he lets the woman sleep it off — as she seems to have been having a bit too much fun before they met.
The two immediately start to hit it off and she eventually tells him who she really is. Ann does this not knowing that the American man she’s met works for a newspaper and might try to use this information to his benefit. Along the way here, you’ll get to see Joe discuss the situation with both his boss “Mr. Hennessy” (Hartley Power) and his close friend “Irving” (Eddie Albert) a cameraman. What may have just started out as an idea of how to make a news story ends up turning into a very unique love story. Roman Holiday is one of the finer early romantic comedies out there.
Movie Rating: 5 (out of 5)
“Roman Holiday” on its debut to Blu-ray Disc via this Paramount Presents version, is presented in the original 1.37:1 aspect ratio and in Black & White. According to IMDb, this movie was shot on 35mm film using spherical lenses. The movie has received a new 4K scan and remaster.
This release comes on a BD-50 (50 gigabytes dual-layered) Blu-ray Disc. To get even rather a bit more technical for a moment here, the film itself is using 34.0 gigabytes itself out of the 44.61 GB total used entirely on the disc. That’s rather impressive, just starting off, for a 4×3 aspect ratio film only in Black & White.
It looks very, very impressive for a film from 1953. The black level is solid here and that’s very important for a film that’s in Black & White. There’s an immense amount of newfound detail to be discovered here all throughout, most especially in the scenes with facial close-ups. Another type of close-up scene that I feel really shows off the amount of detail found here in this new 4K restoration can be seen in this screenshot. How is that for detail? There is a very nice amount of film grain that has been left fully intact here, which proves to be very visually pleasing. It is always a great thing to see a film preserved like this.
All of the beautiful scenery looks great here and that came with this film being the very first American movie to be shot entirely on location in Rome. You’ll get to see all of the historical backdrops finally get to show off here in this new restoration via the high-def presentation. Visually there is nothing at all to complain about here and this is by far the best the film has ever looked. Sure, there was a previous 2002 restoration of the film, and it was impressive in its own right for its time but this is an entirely different experience.
Finally, I can say that this 1953 Black & White classic has been done justice in HD and earns itself a perfect 5 rating for video quality. Paramount Presents has done an excellent job here on this film’s debut to the Blu-ray Disc format.
click to view a 1080p Blu-ray Screenshot
Audio here, on the Paramount Presents Blu-ray Disc debut of Roman Holiday is presented in Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Mono with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono core for those without the proper equipment to decode the TrueHD lossless format. This is the first time the film has been released in a lossless mix, as the previously released HD digital version only featured Dolby Digital (AC3) lossy audio.
The film is after all an older romantic comedy, so it’s heavily reliant on the dialogue, and I’m happy to report that this sounds great. The dialogue is distinct, never once requiring any volume adjustment throughout, and drives this film. The original mono sound mix has been cleaned up yet again here for this release it would seem. The film’s sound effects and most importantly the original music composed by Georges Auric all sound very nice.
It’s not a movie that you’d expect to really have some extremely elaborate or over-the-top sound mix, and it works fine for this type of subject material. That being said, this lossless 2.0 Mono sound mix does the film justice. I like that this release doesn’t attempt to try to do surround from a mono source and keeps it simple. All and all, “Roman Holiday” via Paramount Presents on its debut to Blu-ray earns itself a respectable 4.5 rating for audio quality.
Audio Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
Bonus materials on this release, are presented in HD video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (@224kbps) — unless otherwise noted below.
A Digital Copy of the film (in 1080p HD) is included here via a paper insert that is compatible with iTunes, Vudu, and Fandango Now streaming services. In fact, this release is the first Paramount Presents Blu-ray release to include a digital copy. I will, however, state upfront that this is actually a digital copy of the previous restoration of the film and is not from this new restoration. At least on the Apple digital video service that is the case. Speaking of which, I opted for the iTunes (or AppleTV) version and it came with some iTunes Extras, I felt worth listing here, as some aren’t included on this physical release.
Bonus materials only on iTunes Extras include:
- “Restoring Roman Holiday” (6:50 – SD) is actually from a previous restoration of the film, done in 2002 by Lowry Digital Images for DVD, way before this new restoration found on the Blu-ray was done. Disclaimer: Some of the folks interviewed here, if perhaps most all, may no longer hold these titles at the studio or such, as this is an archival featurette. This look back at the older restoration included interviews with Phil Murray (Paramount Pictures Senior Vice President Operations), Barry Allen (Paramount Pictures Executive Director of Broadcast Services and Film Preservation), Ron Smith (Paramount Pictures Head of DVD Mastering), Steve Elkin (Paramount Pictures Head Film Librarian), John Lowry (Lowry Digital Images, President), and Ryan Gomez (Lowry Digital Images, Project Manager). Lastly, some slide comparisons are shown before this previous restoration and after, which was impressive for its time and what the DVD format back then could achieve visually. This is actually a fun look back at how restoration worked back then and it’s a shame we don’t ever see that many featurettes like this and focus on the restorations of film.
- “Edith Head: The Paramount Years” (13:44 – SD) features a look back on one of the most famous costume designers of all time, Edith Head, through mostly still photos, narration, clips from films she worked on, and other archival video clips. Also, here you get interviews with David Chierichetti (Edith Head Biographer), Tzetzi Ganev (Head of the Custom-Made Department Western Costume), Bob Mackie (fashion designer), and Rosemary Clooney (actress). This is an archival 2002 featurette.
The bonus materials that are on the Blu-ray Disc include:
- NEW “Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Matlin on Roman Holiday“ (6:59 – HD) is hosted by the legendary film critic and historian. He looks back on this marvelous little romantic comedy in the charming way that only Leonard can. This is an awesome experience, like all of the other Filmmaker Focus features that he has done for the Paramount Presents release. Consider this a must-see!
- “Behind the Gates: Costumes” (5:31 – HD) features an interview and tour around the costume department on the Paramount Studios lot with Randall Thropp (Paramount Archivist). This is an archival featurette from 2008.
- “Rome with a Princess” (8:57 – HD) is a 2008 archival featurette that of course focuses on the location of Rome, Italy where this movie was shot. This acts as a highlight on the landmarks you see in the film itself. There’s a good bit of history here too.
- “Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years” (29:55 – HD) is a tribute featurette from 2008 about the film actress. This includes interviews with Jonathan Kuntz (film professor), Stefanie Powers (actress), Barry Paris (author), A.C. Lyles (producer), Pamela Keogh (author), Pat Crowley (actress), and Jeffrey Banks (fashion designer).
- “Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist” (11:55 – HD) includes the history of this blacklisted author and screenwriter, as told by interviews with Allan Rich (actor, blacklisted in the 1950s), Marsha Hunt (actress, blacklisted in the 1940s), Jonathan Kuntz (UCLA Professor & Film Historian), Betty Garrett (wife of Larry Parks, blacklisted actor), Nicolas Meyer (novelist & filmmaker), and Jean Porter Dmytryk (wife of Edward Dmytryk, blacklisted actor). This is a great archival featurette from 2008 that comes with some Hollywood history to it as well as the obvious focus on Trumbo.
- “Paramount in the 50s” (9:34 – SD) is an older archival featurette from 2000. This will show you some history of the studio [Paramount Pictures] over the years through some of its most memorable films — including this one.
- “Remembering Audrey” (12:12 – HD) looks back on the actress, Audrey Hepburn. This includes great interviews with her son Stan Hepburn Ferrer and Robert Wolders (Audrey Hepburn’s companion). This is a must-see for any fan of the actress. You’ll get to learn a great deal about Audrey’s life from a personal perspective in this featurette.
- Theatrical Trailers include:
- Original Theatrical Teaser Trailer (1:48 – SD)
- Original Theatrical Trailer (2:12 – SD)
- Theatrical Re-release Trailer (2:29 – SD)
- Galleries can be navigated manually by using the directional buttons on your remote. These include:
- “Production” (SD, 37 images)
- “The Movie” (SD, 44 images)
- “Publicity” (SD, 13 images)
- “The Premier” (SD, 8 images)
Physical bonus material here includes the collectible slipcover that features the film’s original 1953 poster art as a fold-out on the front. It also features new art (as pictured below) for the interior packaging.
Overall the bonus materials here are really nice. You get a lot of archival featurettes as well as a new Filmmaker Focus with Leonard Martin. Plus, there are the trailers and some still image galleries. There are even some digital (iTunes) exclusive extras that I consider to be part of the bonus. That all put together adds up to nearly an hour and a half. That’s a nice set of supplemental material for an older film like this and then there’s the digital copy of the film and the physical extra of the foldout packaging with the original poster art.
Bonus Materials Rating: 4 (out of 5)
“Roman Holiday” from 1953, now regarded as a classic, was a delightful romantic comedy with phenomenal performances from the legendary Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, in her first major feature role. Hepburn would go on to win an Academy Award (“Oscar”) for best actress in a leading role for her work on this film. The film itself won a total of 3 Oscars, including best writing for its screenplay/story and for best costume design by Edith Head.
This was a historical film for Hollywood in 1953. Paramount actually finally agreed to shoot the film entirely in Italy, upon the director William Wyler’s refusal to shoot it in Hollywood. This choice would end up making it the very first American film to ever be entirely shot in that country [Italy]. The tag line to the film even promoted where it was filmed with Lived Loved and Filmed in Rome.
This new 4K scan and restoration of the film proves to make the Black & White classic look more beautiful than it ever has before. There are some softer scenes at times, sure, but for the most part, you’ll see some excellent detail all throughout — especially in those close-ups. This Blu-ray debut of the film earns itself a perfect rating for video quality.
The audio presentation here in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono comes across clean and makes nice use of the lossless format. Dialogue is spot-on and that’s most important for this type of romantic comedy. The mix is impressive at times and most certainly does this film justice in terms of audio.
Finally, the bonus materials here are very nice and come with not only the physical extra of the foldout packaging with the original movie poster but they also come nearly an hour and a half of extras — if you count some of the older materials found on the digital version. Speaking of which, you get a digital copy of the film. This [a digital copy] is nice to see start to become a regular thing now on these Paramount Presents Blu-ray releases. This is one highly recommended film that starred two screen legends. “Roman Holiday” in its Paramount Presents Blu-ray Disc debut makes for A Classic Done Justice.
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
5 (out of 5) for video quality
4.5 (out of 5) for audio quality
4 (out of 5) for bonus materials