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Paramount Studios presents

Paris When it Sizzles (1964)

"Depravity can be terribly boring if you don't smoke or drink, but a person does have to try to grow."- Gabrielle (Audrey Hepburn)

Stars: Audrey Hepburn, William Holden
Other Stars: Noel Coward, Tony Curtis, Marlene Dietrich, Gregoire Aslan
Director: Richard Quine

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild innuendo)
Run Time: 01h:50m:18s
Release Date: 2001-04-10
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B C+BB+ D-


DVD Review

Paris When it Sizzles is one of two things: an "insider" Hollywood comedy, funny only to those with an intimate knowledge of the ins and outs of movie-making; or a dull, unfunny satire that fails to elicit much more than a chuckle from the audience. Don't quote me, but I'm edging towards the latter.

Richard Benson (William Holden) is a screenwriter in trouble. He was hired to write a blockbuster script entitled, The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower. He had a year to do it. Unfortunately, much of that year was already pre-booked to include drinking and eating. With only two days left to write the 138-page script, Benson hires a typist to assist with the creative process. Gabrielle (Audrey Hepburn) arrives, with pet parakeet firmly in tow, ready to type up the marvelous masterpiece of a script. When she discovers that nothing has yet been put to page, she is a bit overwhelmed, but the charismatic Benson convinces her that, with a little ingenuity, the work will be completed in plenty of time. The two proceed to fantasize and act out the various proposed scenes from the script, rewriting, refining and, ultimately, putting themselves into the characters (and the budding romance).

The idea that the two make up the story as they go along, providing a nice little "movie within a movie," is a novel one. In practice, however, the set-up has been wasted. Some elements are a bit amusing (jabs at method actors; Gabrielle's ideas getting progressively weirder as she drinks; self-referential commentary by the characters in the script), but most of it falls flat or takes a joke too far. The comedy ranges from broad to very subtle (I did enjoy a few veiled references to Hepburn's work in Breakfast at Tiffany's and Charade), but most of it is fairly obvious. Likely, the audience will see most of the punchlines coming a mile away. I recognize what the writer was trying to do. A movie that points out the clichés inherent in moviemaking must have sounded novel once (seeing this post-Scream certainly doesn't help), but that doesn't excuse the dull writing.

Hepburn and Holden both earned their paychecks with this one. Not only do they carry the film, they hoist it onto their shoulders and up a mountain of mediocrity, to the peak of Mt. Average. Hepburn is excellent as the wide-eyed Gabrielle, and she carries off her role in the "film within...etc." with aplomb, playing the comedic aspects of the different characters very well. She is even able to wrench a touching moment out of the banal, contrived (but admittedly so) ending. Holden is good in his dual roles as well, but I more enjoyed him as the smarmy screenwriter. Watch for a farcical cameo from Tony Curtis and a brief walk-on by Marlene Dietrich.

Even with all the flat jokes, unfunny bits, and dull dialogue, Paris When it Sizzles still merits a viewing because of the two leads. Plus, the Paris scenery is beautifully presented. Here and there, moments of ingenuity evoke a chuckle or two. I like the sequence where the "credits" for the faux film splash up onto the screen, listing the production designer, make-up artist, and other technical positions as "Little Person", as in "I'd like to thank all the little people that made this possible." Unfortunately, that's probably the best joke in the movie, and it hits about ten minutes in.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: For a film over 35 years old, Paris When it Sizzles looks surprisingly good. Colors are Technicolor®—perfect, with nice, saturated images. There is a bit of visible film grain, which causes some minor artifacts to appear on fine textures, but nothing too distracting. Fine detail is a bit lacking, with images in the background lacking the crispness of such transfers as North By Northwest. The print used for the master was in pretty good shape, with no major lines or scratches (but quite a few flecks do show through). I'd say this is pretty much on par with Paramount's work on other older films.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: The mono soundtrack sounds very good for what it is. Dialogue and music are nicely mixed and compliment each other well. Speech is always understandable and natural with no audible hiss. The musical score sounds surprisingly full considering it is all coming out of the center channel. Sound effects are few and far between, but when they do occur, they also mix well with the other elements of the audio track. I'm sure this is every bit as good as it sounded in theaters.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 00h:54m:13s

Extras Review: Extras are limited to the rather hokey, original theatrical trailer. "See AUDREY HEPBURN and WILLIAM HOLDEN go Ape! In Paris When it Sizzles!"

I feel it is my duty to note the extremely well-timed layer transition. At least one studio has enough sense to place them during a fadeout.

Extras Grade: D-

Final Comments

Paris When it Sizzles benefits greatly from the star presence of Audrey Hepburn and William Holden. The two are able to overcome many of the rather labored, all-too-clever aspects of the screenplay. In the end, however, it's really just a poorly executed, great idea. However, it does star Audrey Hepburn...

Joel Cunningham 2001-04-08