By Robin E. Simmons
With indoor movie venues still closed, and a reluctance of movie goers to return to traditional cinemas — even if open again — in this time of global contagion ravaging our country and the planet, it’s a real treat that some great older films overlooked or forgotten are finding their way to the home theater in pristine, hi-def editions.
ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953)
Audrey Hepburn lights up the screen in her first starring role (!) opposite charismatic Gregory Peck in this funny, beautiful, life-affirming and intoxicating romantic comedy.
Ranked as the #4 greatest love story of all time by the American Film Institute, the film earned 10 Academy Award® nominations, including Best Picture, and won Best Actress for Hepburn, Best Costume Design for legendary designer Edith Head, and Best Writing for Dalton Trumbo.
Director William Wyler’s 1953 fairy tale was one of Hollywood’s first on-location motion pictures and memorably captures the bustling streets and iconic sites of Rome. Wyler’s movie expresses the exhilaration against the backdrop of post-war Europe embracing long-awaited peace.
Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee and his name was not included in the film’s original credits. In 1992 the Board of Governors of the Academy voted to finally credit Trumbo for the “Story Writing” Oscar and his widow received a statuette in 1993. In 2011, the Writers Guild restored Trumbo’s name to the screenwriting credit. This is the first physical home entertainment release to correctly credit Dalton Trumbo with both the screenplay and story by credits both on packaging and the film itself.
For the restoration (newly remastered from a 4K film transfer), the original negative was processed at a local film lab in Rome and was unfortunately badly scratched and damaged. The film had to be pieced back together, but the splices were so weak due to the damage that extensive amounts of tape had to be used to allow the negative to make it through the printing machine. Because of the fragile state of the negative, a Dupe Negative was made and then enlarged a few thousandths of an inch to cover all the splice tape that held the original negative together.
In anticipation of this new Blu-ray release, the film was digitally restored using the Dupe Negative and a Fine Grain element to capture the best possible image. Every frame was reviewed, and the film received extensive clean up to remove thousands of scratches, bits of dirt, and other damage. Because the audio elements to properly up-mix to 5.1 do not exist, the original mono track’s minor anomalies were corrected — and the results are breathtaking. The film has been resurrected to it’s original vibrancy and beauty that now fully reflects Director William Wyler’s original intent and vision.
The generous extras include fascinating featurettes on Hepburn, Trumbo, Paramount in the’50s and more. Recommended. This is one for the home library. Paramount Home Entertainment.