Roman Holiday (1953) debuts on 4K UHD Blu-ray from Paramount Pictures on August 15th, 2023, 13 days ahead of the film’s 70th anniversary. In a related note, this author’s lungs are full of fresh air.
This 4K release is, at heart, “just” a 4K update of the 2020 edition 2K Blu-ray, which Elements of Madness reviewed at the time. By all appearances, the only differences between the previous release and this one, both seemingly printed from the same restored transfer, are the inclusion of a 4K UHD disc and an, unfortunately, more minimal slipcase. And that’s what’s so great about it.
At just $19.99, the price is only $2 higher than the 2K Blu-ray’s MSRP, has all the previously included special features, and it’s $13.99 less than the average priced 4K UHD Blu-ray in Hollywood’s biggest historical celebration of 2023, WB100, with its inconsistent special features and extras selection.
It’s not fair for Warner-Brothers Discovery to take all the blame for the recent assault on physical media’s position of importance in the cinematic arts. Disney’s canceled all releases in the continent-country of Australia. Meanwhile, Paramount’s rode in with an excellent, consumer-friendly offering to celebrate one of the 1950’s great films while also causing the previous, more than adequate release to become even more affordable on the resale market. That’s a double win.
The transfer of Audrey Hepburn’s (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade) debut film is incredible. Comparing it to the 2K disc (a great option for those who like their films clear but not sharp enough to cut your eye), it’s stunning how much detail is drawn out of Hepburn’s early outfits when played in 4K. In particular, the dress in which she struggles with her shoe at a reception has a whole texture this author couldn’t see before, and the diamond necklace around her neck, sparkly then, now shimmers with individual facets. It’s just stunning to look at in motion.
It sounds great, it looks great, the price is great, but it’s not ideally perfect, it’s only practically perfect. There’s no commentary track from filmmakers or critics about the film, and the menus are very ugly, especially the one on the 2K disc, which drew an audible reaction. But that’s all just a stinky pickle in the basket with a perfectly great cheeseburger. You’re still gonna love the burger. Included extras in the set are the following:
Roman Holiday 4K UHD Special Features:
- Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on Roman Holiday
- Film Critic Leonard Maltin (Gremlins 2: The New Batch) gives a thorough and impressive analysis of the film.
- Behind the Gates: Costumes
- Takes you behind the scenes to look at Paramount Studios’ historic costume archives.
- Rome with a Princess
- A very travel-brochure-y overview of the real locations of the film, which manages to both successfully educate and make the ludicrous claim that Rome has never been shot better than it was in Roman Holiday. The film looks gorgeous, but c’mon, The Bicycle Thief (1948) was shot there, among a thousand other Italian films.
- Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years
- Corporate Voice Over mixed with personal interviews; does a fairly good job covering Hepburn at Paramount.
- Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist
- An above-average overview of Hollywood Blacklist and the House Un-American Committee’s attack on the freedom of speech, seeing this re-release from a modern studio is a great thing. It does neglect to mention that Hollywood’s relationship to the Russian Communist Party began in service to the USA’s wartime government, who asked them to sell Communists as allies to the American public, then turned on Hollywood for doing so afterward. Instead, the short is surprisingly warm on American Communism.
- Paramount in the ’50s: Remembering Audrey
- Vey PR-colored glasses, but a good starting list for the history of Paramount’s post-war era.
- Theatrical Trailers
- The Theatrical Teaser Trailer, Original Theatrical Trailer, and Theatrical Re-Release Trailer
- Four Photo Galleries: Production, The Movie, Publicity, The Premiere
Roman Holiday is a pretty perfect film and an iconic romantic comedy. Now it’s got an even better release at a great price in a moment when that’s a little rare. Strongly recommended.
Available on 4K UHD Blu-ray and digital August 15th, 2023.
Film: 5 out of 5.
Restoration: 5 out of 5.
4K UHD Release: 4.5 out of 5.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.