SABRINA Paramount Centennial Collection DVD Review

     November 16, 2008

Reviewed by Jackson

It’s one thing for Hollywood to remake foreign films for American audiences. But why studio feels compelled to remake classic films from Hollywood’s Golden Age is hard to comprehend. No matter how good the remake is, it always suffers in comparison to the original. Take Sabrina. No offense to Sydney Pollack, Julia Ormond and Harrison Ford, but how can you compare to a film directed by Billy Wilder and starring Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden.

Based on Samuel Taylor’s play “Sabrina Fair”, the original Sabrina is a delightful romantic-comedy. The ever-versatile Wilder (whose previous film was the war movie Stalag 17) had an amazing way with actors that is fully on show here. William Holden (Wilder’s Academy-Award-winning star) reportedly had the time of his life playing billionaire playboy David Larrabee, and his relish for the role shows through every time he is on screen. Wilder also completely recreates Humphrey Bogart in the role of David’s all-business brother Linus, taking the hardnosed tough guy and letting him show a sad, soft side as he slowly falls for the allures of Sabrina.

But as strong as the two male leads are, it’s Audrey, in only her second starring role, around whom the success of the film hinges and, of course, she delivers with flying colors. Whether dressed-down as the ugly-duckling teenager or glammed-up as the fashion-plate who returns from culinary school in France, Hepburn is absolutely captivating every second she is on screen. That even corporate-king Linus eventually falls for her is no surprise. The only stretch in believability is that neither David nor Linus ever noticed Sabrina prior to her trip to Paris. One has to chalk it up to Sabrina being only a teen.

What old Hollywood excelled at, and the modern studios rarely seem to understand, was how to make a genre movie that would appeal to all audiences. That may be why so many remakes fail. The original Sabrina is an example of just such a classic film that works for all, a romantic-comedy that men and women alike can both enjoy.

Video / Audio / Extras

Wow! The picture quality is absolutely fantastic, with the black-and-white video rivaling even the best Criterion Collection releases in terms of clarity, contrast and sharpness. The audio is nearly as good; I thought I picked up an ever so faint hiss on the opening narration, but it disappeared immediately afterwards to the extent that I had to question my own ears as to whether I ever heard the hiss at all.

The special features consist of several featurettes, galleries and a brief booklet about the film. The galleries and booklet are pretty much standard fare. Although the production values of the featurettes are run of the mill and altogether uninspired, the content varies in interest level, ranging from the interesting (such as those on the Long Island world in which the film took place and on the various character actors in the cast) to the blasé (“Audrey Hepburn: Fashion Icon”, which devolves into an Audrey-inspired fashion show by one current designer).

This release is #3 in Paramount’s Centennial Collection, and the overall viewing quality of the film has this reviewer hoping the studio has plans to make this a long-running series.

Final Words

Audrey, Humphrey and Holden, beautifully restored. Need I say more?

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