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Paramount Studios presents
"Look at me! Joe College with a touch of arthritis."
DVD ReviewAudrey Hepburn stars as Sabrina Fairchild, daughter of the Larrabee family chauffeur (John Williams), in this excellent Billy Wilder comedy from 1954. From a distance, the young woman falls in love with the family's playboy scion David Larrabee (William Holden), who pays no attention to his young admirer until she returns from cooking school in Paris, all grown up. Unfortunately, during her absence, David has become engaged to Elizabeth Tyson (Martha Hyer), and the Larrabee and Tyson families are intent on closing the wedding and a major corporate merger deal simultaneously. David's older brother Linus (Humphrey Bogart) takes it upon himself to quash the inconvenient romance, his motives purely business-driven... or are they?
Sabrina is one of those all-too-rare movies, nearly perfect in every aspect. The script is funny, clever, warm and tightly structured, adapted effectively by Billy Wilder, Samuel Taylor and Ernest Lehman from Taylor's play, Sabrina Fair. The lead performances by three enduring stars are uniformly excellent. Audrey Hepburn effects an outward transformation from awkward schoolgirl to beautiful woman of the world, while her inner emotional turmoil remains palpable and touching. Humphrey Bogart is completely credible as a man who scarcely recognizes his own emotions, combining his customary melancholia with a surprising flair for comedy, even allowing himself a few smiles. William Holden takes a break from his earlier, darker work with Wilder and cuts loose as a likable, philandering rapscallion. The supporting cast is populated with veteran Hollywood character actors, including the dignified John Williams, silent star Francis X. Bushman, and Nancy Culp, later of television fame. And the technical filmmaking is top-notch, with some great visual moments and convincing rear-projection work.
Director Wilder consistently finds the comedy in Sabrina without ever allowing the humor to overpower the story, and he guides the central romantic triangle through the plot's unpredictable twists and turns with a sure hand. All of the characters are sympathetic, and the script doesn't tip its hand too early, making for a richly entertaining and involving experience. If you've never met Sabrina (or if you've only seen the recent remake), you really must pay her a visit. Highly, highly recommended.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Paramount presents Sabrina in its original 1.33:1 Academy ratio full-frame format. The black&white transfer is clean and sharp throughout, with minimal source print damage (ignoring a few reel-change markers), deep blacks, and crisp detail. The dual-layer transfer handles light grain and a bit of gate wobble during the opening credits with aplomb, though there is a hint of edge enhancement in a few scenes. A fine presentation of a great movie.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Sabrina is presented in English and French monophonic audio formats, digitally mastered in Dolby Digital 2.0 for ProLogic-decoding to the center channel. There's a fair amount of background hiss in the unrestored English audio, as well as a few brief dropouts, but dialogue is clear and music sounds reedy but listenable. The dubbed French track sounds surprisingly tinny and muffled, as though recorded from a radio speaker rather than in a controlled studio environment. A perfectly functional but audibly dated presentation.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Layers Switch: 01h:06m:03s
A fairly substantial collection of black&white behind-the-scenes stills, nicely presented in anamorphic format. Navigation through the gallery can be a bit tedious with the DVD remote, and an auto-play function would have been a nice addition.
A nicely assembled but all-too-brief twelve-minute documentary, featuring clips from the film, behind-the-scenes photos, archival Audrey Hepburn footage, and new interview material featuring A.C. Lyle, one of the few surviving members of the production staff. The documentary is on the fluffy side, with little reference to the legendary problems of the production, but it's nice to see some production effort invested in support of this terrific catalog title.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsSabrina is a marvelous romantic comedy with a stellar cast and confident direction by the great Billy Wilder. Paramount's DVD sports a fine transfer and a short documentary. Highly recommended.
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