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Roman Holiday Collectors Edition DVD Review

Roman Holiday Collectors Edition

January 15, 2003

Director: William Wyler, ,
Starring: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert, Hartley Power, Harcourt Williams, Margaret Rawlings, Tullio Carminati, Paolo Carlini, Claudio Ermelli, Paola Borboni, Alfredo Rizzo, Laura Solari, Gorella Gori, Heinz Hindrich, John Horne, ,

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DVD Review

The 1953 romantic classic, Roman Holiday, receives a dust off as it is released in Paramount’s ‘special collector’s edition’ series. The restoration process has really elevated this re-release, it looks great. There have been a few minor qualms from analysts who’ve spotted two or three shots which appear to have been left out, but overall, its nothing which lingers long enough to catch your attention.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the plot, Roman Holiday can be summed up in the following two words, ‘Romantic Comedy’. That’s not a bad thing though, as director William Wyler’s decision to shoot the entire film on location in the city of Rome, plus the bittersweet ending make this about as romantic as they come. Although the primary function of shooting in black and white is to keep the audience focused on the characters and not on the beautiful locations, I personally feel it adds another layer of thick classic romance to the film. It sort of emphasizes the fact that you’re watching a film and further removes you from the situation on screen.

Roman Holiday is the tale of a young princess named Anne (Audrey Hepburn) who, tired of the tedious obligations and the general luxury (silk nightgowns, royal coaches, etc) of her title, seeks to escape from her prison/palace and become the tear away she always wished she was. During a visit to Rome, on her European tour, she takes a chance and sneaks out of her country’s embassy in search of fun. Unfortunately, the princess had just been pumped full of a powerful sleep inducing drug and ends up sprawled out on the streets of downtown Rome lager-lout style. Enter American journalist Joe (Gregory Peck) who stumbles across the princess on his way home from a poker game and is forced to put her up at his place when she fails to tell him where she lives. When Joe finally realizes who she is, he offers to take her out for the day in Rome to do all the things she’d always wanted to do. Secretly in league with his photographer pal Irving (Eddie Albert), Joe is covertly prying Anne for material to construct a scoop for the paper he works for. You can see where this is going. As the day winds on, the pair are seduced not only by each other but by the charm of Rome. This all sounds painfully predictable, but Wyler handles the material with astounding maturity, not only bringing out fantastic performances from Peck and Hepburn, but also providing an ending which is memorable and ambiguous enough to survive multiple viewings.

Hepburn won an Oscar for her portrayal of the princess, (only her first starring role!) and went on to become a household name and one of the most sought after actresses in Hollywood. Gregory Peck’s contributions to American cinema, including my favourite To Kill a Mockingbird, have remained some of the most impressive films to come out of Hollywood. Roman Holiday is no exception, as Peck’s distinctive ability to interact with the space and characters around him further compliments Hepburn’s performance and the overall aesthetic of the film.

Special Features

‘Remembering Roman Holiday’ features interviews with Eddie Albert and various next of kin of the cast and crew of Roman Holiday. The feature gives a brief overview of the film, but mainly focuses on pre-production issues such as the casting and controversy surrounding the then black-listed script writer Dalton Trumbo.

‘Restoring Roman Holiday’ chronicles the restoration process of the film. There is an original/restored comparison shot which does show the extent to which the cleaning process has improved the look of the film, but there is absolutely no explanation of the shots which didn’t benefit from the restoration process.

‘Edith Head The Paramount Years’ showcases the work of Costume designer Edith Head. This is an interesting feature, despite being present on other Paramount Collector’s Edition DVDs. There also are several photo galleries and three trailers (teaser, theatrical release and re-release trailers).

The special features on this edition aren’t bad, but they could be a lot better. In particular, the limited discussion of the political climate at which the film was released is disappointing. The Korean War was in full swing and there is little mention of this as motivation for producing such up-lifting pictures as Roman Holiday. Nor is there any thorough discussion of the events which ran in parallel to the film’s release and how this affected the public’s attitude towards the film. At the point of the films release, the English Princess Margaret was forced to give up a relationship with a commoner because of royal protocol. It would have been nice to add a documentary about the significance of the film not just in terms of escapism from the War, but also the affect it had on the public opinion regarding Princess Margaret’s situation.

This Collector’s Edition of Roman Holiday is worth buying if only for the restoration. The special features aren’t great, but if you enjoyed the film then they’re worth a look. In my opinion Paramount are selling short a little by presenting a one disc edition with barely an hour’s special features. A second disc, cram-packed with extras is really all that can warrant a re-release for such an old film, especially as its widely considered a classic.

 

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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