Chris Hicks: 2 Audrey Hepburn classics receive Blu-ray upgrades this week

Published: Saturday, April 12 2014 1:00 p.m. MDT

The colorful musical "Funny Face" stars Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire, here acting rather coolly, though they'll soon warm up to each other. The film is on Blu-ray for the first time this week.


Two of Audrey Hepburn’s most beloved films have received Blu-ray upgrades this week, and several other vintage movies are on DVD for the first time. (Warner Archive titles are available at warnerarchive.com.)

“Sabrina” (Paramount/Warner/Blu-ray, 1954, b/w, $19.98, featurettes).

“Funny Face” (Paramount/Warner/Blu-ray, 1957, $19.98, featurettes, trailer). “Sabrina” is one of Hepburn’s most famous movies, coming on the heels of her first starring (and Oscar-winning) role in “Roman Holiday,” and “Funny Face,” while perhaps less well-remembered, is a vibrant musical co-starring Fred Astaire and is equally delightful.

In the title role of “Sabrina,” Hepburn shines as the daughter of a chauffeur for a wealthy family. She has long had a crush on the layabout playboy son (William Holden) though he has ignored her — but when she returns from schooling abroad, he suddenly takes notice. For business reasons, his older, workaholic brother (Humphrey Bogart) discourages the relationship by wooing her himself, and then, to his own dismay, falls in love. Bogart seems like an odd casting choice, and he’s 30 years older than Hepburn, but he makes it work. And in the hands of co-writer/director Billy Wilder, this romantic comedy remains enchanting.

Similarly, Astaire is also 30 years older than Hepburn, but he is so charming and full of energy that it’s easy to put that aside for “Funny Face,” in which he is a fashion photographer who coerces a shy bookstore clerk into becoming a model. The songs are Gershwin classics (“S’Wonderful,” “He Loves and She Loves,” “How Long Has This Been Going On?”), and the dancing, choreographed by Eugene Loring (“Silk Stockings”) is fabulous.

Both films look great on these Blu-ray discs, though the real beneficiary is “Funny Face,” in which the colorful décor and costumes really pop.

“Tim Holt: Western Classics Collection, Vol. 4” (Warner Archive, 1940-52, b/w, three discs, $40.99, nine movies). The fourth set of enjoyable Tim Holt Westerns puts on display a string of 60-minute movies primarily from his middle, most popular, period, including “Wagon Train,” “Cyclone on Horseback,” “Red River Robin Hood,” and the mistaken-identity comedy “The Fargo Kid.” Holt was an efficient actor, as he proved in “The Magnificent Ambersons,” “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and “My Darling Clementine,” among others. But his bread-and-butter roles were these RKO “oaters,” as they were called, playing the hero in formula yarns that supported bigger features on theatrical double-bills.

“Black Jack” (Cohen/Blu-ray, 1979, $39.98, audio commentary; 12-page booklet). This English period drama is about a French convict who manipulates a young boy into helping him escape, then together they rescue a young girl from being wrongly sent to an asylum. Then the trio goes on the run, eventually connecting with a traveling fair. This is an early effort by naturalistic filmmaker Ken Loach (“The Wind That Shakes the Barley”), made on the cheap with many non-actors, and occasionally it looks that way. But generally it’s an entertaining film aimed at family viewing. (Also on DVD, $29.98.)

“King Kong vs. Godzilla” (Universal/Blu-ray, 1963, $19.98).

“King Kong Escapes” (Universal/Blu-ray, 1968, $19.98). These discs (with no extras) are the American versions (dubbed in English) of the campy-in-the-extreme King Kong/Godzilla “sequels,” Japanese productions with silly plotting and even sillier special effects. But you already know that, right? No one approaches these expecting 21st-century CGI. But if you’re looking for picture/sound upgrades, these Blu-rays are exceptional transfers and will more than please any aficionados.

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