A Few Words About A few words about...™ The James Dean Collection -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Oct 27, 2013.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    We're coming down to the final releases of 2013, but for me, Warner's newly released Blu-ray set of the three James Dean films, along with a myriad of extras, will be at or very near the top of the list.

    After a number of performances, most of them on live television, James Dean's work remains, almost 60 years after his death in 1955, some of the most intriguing in the history of film.

    He actually received credit in only three feature films, all produced by WB, and all released during a 19 month period between March of 1955 and October of 1956. The final two were posthumous.

    I recall discussing the second film, Rebel Without a Cause with Mr. Mineo, after we screened my 16mm print at a gathering that he held in NY. It's been a few years, and I'm a bit hazy on details, but he had told me that either he had been unable to bring himself to view the film. Our screening was either the first time he had seen it or the first time since 1955.

    The two other productions were East of Eden and Giant.

    All three had extraordinary filmmakers at their helms -- Elias Kazan, Nicholas Ray and George Stevens.

    From an archival perspective, the greatest problem with three films, is that they were photographed on early to mid-emulsion 5248 stock, and processed by one of the most problematic labs in the business, in WarnerColor.

    It's a testament to Ned Price, and the staff at WB, that these new Blu-rays look as good as they do, and for the final film, Giant, quality is a fleeting thing.

    As the most problematic of the three, Giant was negative cut and assembled for single strand, direct positive step-printing, and rather than short-cut what would have been printer functions, all fades and dissolves were cut long -- meaning entire shots were dupes. So rather than the audience seeing a jump-cut in quality, the quality of the dupes is merely continually poor.

    That noted, let's take brief look at the three films.

    The earliest East of Eden was a CinemaScope production, gorgeously photographed by Ted McCord. Mr. McCord's career began in the early 1920s, and ended in 1966. During those decades he is credited with 157 films, inclusive of a number of government shorts during WWII.

    For those interested in specifics, Mr. McCord was behind the camera on some wonderful production, inclusive of The Treasure of Sierra Madre, Flamingo Road, The Hanging Tree, and a little large format show, The Sound of Music. Although uncredited, he is noted as handling location camera on Giant.

    East of Eden, was and is now, 4-track stereo.

    The Blu-ray of EoE is generally magnificent. I'm seeing no problems. Grain levels are superb. Blacks are gorgeous -- take a look at Jo Van Fleet's dress in the opening scenes.

    Rebel Without a Cause is another beautifully shot film, with Ernest Haller behind the camera.

    Like Mr. McCord, Mr. Haller began his career in the early days -- 1918. His credits, which end in 1965, list 181 films, inclusive of the first version of The Dawn Patrol for Howard Hawks in 1930, The Emperor Jones, Captain Blood, Jezebel (one of my favorites of the era), The Roaring Twenties, Mildred Pierce, Saratoga Trunk, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Lilies of the Field, as well of one of the more important of the 3-strip Technicolor films shot in 1939 -- Gone with the Wind.

    Rebel is another knockout of an image harvest from WB. I can honestly say that I've never seen any of these three films look better. Once again grain, black levels, color and overall detail are beautiful. Like East of Eden, the early CinemaScope anomalies are in place.

    Giant was also photographed by a gentleman with a bit of experience, William C. Mellor. Mr. Mellor spent his first few years behind the camera as an operator, before making the move to DP. His early years were spent at Paramount, where he worked on Cleopatra (1934), The Song of Songs, The Great McGinty, Road to Morocco, A Place in the Sun, and later Love in the Afternoon, State Fair, and The Greatest Story Every Told. He was also behind the camera for much of Mr. Stevens' WWII documentary footage.

    Which brings us to Giant, an image harvest with (based upon the original elements, not upon the way that they have been handled, had the highest highs and lowest lows. Take a good look at the beautiful grain structure of original photography, and you'll know you're seeing something very special. Unfortunately, some of the most iconic shots in the film, for example the entrance to Reata, are dupes, and naturally extremely soft.

    For the record, there is nothing to be done about it.

    The James Dean Collection is one of those big boxes from WB. And this time, it's not fluff. Everything inside is a quality affair.

    Currently at Amazon for $90. Worth the price of admission?

    No need to ask.

    East of Eden

    Image - 5

    Audio - 5 (Stereo)


    Rebel Without a Cause

    Image - 5

    Audio - 5 (Stereo)


    Giant

    Image - 5

    Audio - 5

    Along with the set, which is seven discs, three Blu-rays and four DVDs. one receives the James Dean bio from American Masters, James Dean Forever, a separate disc of Giant extras, and the wonderful documentary, George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey.

    Three great films, from three great filmmakers, all of which have beautifully stood the test of time.

    Very Highly Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

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    Mine just shipped from the UK. It's got all the extras minus one DVD. I would have bought this even without the glowing recommendation!
     
  3. lukejosephchung

    lukejosephchung Screenwriter

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    My set is also shipping from Amazon.co.uk...truly looking forward to enjoying the James Dean cinematic canon in full HD image glory and lossless multi-channel sound...everything else about it is frosting on a delicious and substantial cake... :dance:
     
  4. Mark Walker

    Mark Walker Cinematographer
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    Looking forward to purchasing this set...eventually.

    I have run out of space and LOVE condensed packaging.
    It is nice to know the "box o' junk" is without junk, per RAH.
     
  5. Dr Griffin

    Dr Griffin Cinematographer

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    After years of a non-anamorphic DVD, Giant will be most welcome.
     
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  6. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

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    For the record the U.K. set, which is region-free, can be had at Amazon.uk for $35 including shipping to the U.S.
     
  7. Andrew Budgell

    Andrew Budgell Screenwriter

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    I've had the set for a few weeks now (I ordered from France) and was blown away.

    I never thought I'd see Giant, one of my all-time favourites, looking so great.
     
  8. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    Hmm, my post is MIA. I have the Canadian DVD of Giant that is anamorphic, but it looks terrible. I ordered the UK set from Amazon.co.uk for GPB18, or US$29. It is missing a supplemental disc, but at less than half the Amazon.com price, I'll deal with it.
     
  9. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    Good to read these thoughts, because perusing the other board at you-know-where and having to read the usual suspects and armchair experts going on ad nauseum about a blue tint or push, severe cropping (as if they'd know what the proper cropping was on ANY film let alone these), too dark (because, yes, we all know that the DVD counterparts must have been perfect and boosting the brightness has never been done on a DVD), and best of all, the usual screen cap takers posting caps from Giant that are clearly from the dupes/opticals, and others posting that parts of Giant look really good while other parts look bad and soft. Duh. So, am looking forward to this set, which sounds like an achievement and that we'll finally get these looking as they should or better.
     
  10. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    These films could have been extremely problematic, but Mr. Price and everyone at WB, have brought these to Blu-ray in style, quality and without a Hitch -- no pun intended. Just gorgeous work from all involved, on a trilogy of very important films.RAH
     
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  11. moviebuff75

    moviebuff75 Supporting Actor

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    So proud to call Dean a fellow Hoosier. Fairmount is about 45 mins. from Indy, and I have been to the Winslow farm and the gravesite several times.
     
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  12. atcolomb

    atcolomb Second Unit

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    I also have the Canadian dvd and it's anamorphic and it looks uneven. Some scenes ok and others soft and faded. Both dvd's and even the version broadcast on TCM looked soft overall so i will buy the blu-ray for sure.
     
  13. bugsy-pal

    bugsy-pal Stunt Coordinator

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    Thank you for this review. I am looking forward to owning the set. Here in Australia, the infdividual films have been out for a few weeks, and I saw the set of all three films the other day, for a paltry AU $20. Unfortunately, it's just the individual films - none of the local releases include all of the extras, from what I can tell. So I'll probably go for the UK set.

    One thing has always puzzled me about Giant - the DVD and the George Stevens documentary have that scene where James Dean climbs the tower, and there is bizarre color fringing around him. I thought it was something to do with how the film was transferred to DVD - but from the Beaver screencaps, it is still present, so I assume it's something baked into the film - is it a deliberate effect they were aiming for, of a nasty result of all the 'duping' in the film?
     
  14. Persianimmortal

    Persianimmortal Screenwriter

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    I've had the Aussie set for a couple of weeks now, and aside from expert endorsement from RAH, even a film ignoramus like myself can see that all three of these films look great. Visiting the thread on that other forum is really only worth it if you enjoy a good laugh, as it's almost literally the blind leading the blind there :)

    Judging Giant from screencaps is particularly problematic, because as RAH notes, entire scenes can look relatively poor due to use of dupes, and the constant change in quality was a bit jarring for me at first. But it definitely doesn't look "bad", no matter which way you cut it (no pun intended).

    I'm very happy with the Aussie set precisely because it's just the three movies in a single case, and no shelf-hogging books, posters etc. The Australian set does have some extras on the discs though, for those who are into that sort of thing, as I list here. The great thing is that with we have different versions of the James Dean set across the world to suit different tastes and price points. Regardless of which one anyone goes for, I can't imagine that they'll be disappointed - at least in the quality of the movies themselves.
     
  15. bugsy-pal

    bugsy-pal Stunt Coordinator

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    Sorry for saying what you'd already said before - I missed that page of this thread, for some reason.

    I'm still curious to know what that color fringeing is on the scene where he climbs the tower.
     
  16. Persianimmortal

    Persianimmortal Screenwriter

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    No problem, I wasn't reacting negatively to your post :)

    Is this the scene you're talking about (I just capped this off the new disc):

    [​IMG]
     
  17. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Those are Mackie Lines and are present in all WarnerColor opticals. It's a flaw in the early intermediate stock. We discuss that problem in this article: http://www.3dfilmarchive.com/dial-m-blu-ray-review
     
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  18. mikeyhitchfan

    mikeyhitchfan Supporting Actor

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    I'll just be getting the East of Eden digibook, as it's my favorite of the three. The other films will get a rental since I just don't like them all that much, iconic as they are. It's great to read they all look very good for the most part.
     
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  19. bugsy-pal

    bugsy-pal Stunt Coordinator

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    No worries Kouroush - yes, that's the scene and the effect I was referring to.

    Bob, thanks for clearing up what it is. It's very noticeable on this scene. Having read this on Wikipedia, I sort of understand what was going on:
    During developing developer remains relatively fresh in an area of low density as less developing takes place and consequently, developer oxidation product concentration remains relatively low. At the border between high and low density areas the relatively fresh developer diffuses laterally into the high density area and causes there a continuation of development. The result is an increased border density of the high density area.

    It's like the film equivalent of over-zealous digital edge enhancement...
     
  20. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    From "Hollywood's Conversion of all Production to Color using Eastman Color Professional Motion Picture Films" by John Waner:

    Giant.JPG
    Giant 2.JPG
     

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