East of Eden UHD Review

4 Stars James Dean’s Oscar-nominated performance
East of Eden UHD Blu Ray cover

Warner completes their James Dean trifecta with the 4K release of East of Eden, directed by Elia Kazan and based on the novel by James Steinbeck.

East of Eden (1955)
Released: 10 Apr 1955
Rated: PG
Runtime: 118 min
Director: Elia Kazan
Genre: Drama
Cast: James Dean, Raymond Massey, Julie Harris
Writer(s): John Steinbeck, Paul Osborn
Plot: Two brothers in 1910s California struggle to maintain their strict, Bible-toting father's favor as an old secret about their long-absent mother comes to light.
IMDB rating: 7.8
MetaScore: 72

Disc Information
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
Audio: Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
Rating: PG
Run Time: 1 Hr. 58 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Digital Copy
Case Type: UHD keepcase
Disc Type: UHD
Region: All
Release Date: 08/01/2023
MSRP: $24.99

The Production: 4/5

East of Eden is a sprawling soap opera set in Salinas and Monterey, California on the eve of World War I, based on John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name, which was also loosely based on the biblical tale of Cain and Abel from the book of Genesis. James Dean stars as Cal, a young man seeking the love and acceptance of his father, Adam (Raymond Massey), a lettuce farmer in the Salinas Valley, while his older brother Aron (Richard Davalos) is the favored one. Both brothers have been told that their mother has been dead since childhood, but Cal has been drawn to a brothel run by a madam he believes to be his mother. When Adam’s lettuce farm goes bust after a trainload spoils in transit, Cal borrows $5,000 from his estranged mother, Kate (Jo Van Fleet), to start a bean farm. The farm thrives while a love triangle develops between Aron, his girlfriend Abra (Julie Harris), and Cal, leading to a tragic and explosive ending.

This was James Dean’s first starring role after a string of supporting roles on television, and he would complete two more movies (Rebel Without a Cause and Giant) before his untimely death in 1955. East of Eden would also be the only film he made at Warner Bros to be released while he was still alive. Dean is the standout here, the beginning of what would become his trademark of the brooding, angry young man. Director Elia Kazan is no stranger to this character study of 1950s teenage angst, having made On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire, and takes a chance by only adapting the back third of Steinbeck’s classic novel with help from screenwriter Paul Osborn (South Pacific). The result would pay off, with four Oscar nominations, including Dean for Best Actor, Kazan for Best Director, Osborn for Best Screenplay, and a win for Best Supporting Actress Jo Van Fleet.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

East of Eden was photographed on 35mm film by cinematographer Ted D. McCord in 2.55:1 CinemaScope and WarnerColor. Warner’s HEVC-encoded 2160p transfer has been harvested from a 4K scan that, per Warner’s press release, was “restored and remastered by Warner Bros. Creative Services: Motion Picture Imaging and Post Production Sound” in partnership with Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation. High dynamic range has also been utilized on this release in the form of HDR10. Overall, this is a very nice looking transfer, with strong color gradations and deep blacks, and a mostly sharp picture with a healthy layer of film grain. As with most WarnerColor productions from this era, it does occasionally suffer from very soft opticals that will suddenly pop back into focus once the effect is complete.

Audio: 4.5/5

The default Dolby Atmos track is a reworking of the 5.1 mix found on previous DVD and Blu-ray releases. The Atmos track does offer a wider front soundstage where sounds move much more smoothly, yet this is still a very front-heavy presentation. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout. LFE is used sparingly, mostly used to give the score a nice low end. Warner has also included an “Original Theatrical” mix in DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo.

Special Features: 2/5

This 4K UHD Blu-ray release follows a recent pattern with Warner catalog releases – only a 4K disc is included, and only the audio commentary has been retained. No Blu-ray has been included, and most of the previous extras are available when you redeem your digital code, at least on some retailers.

Audio Commentary with Film Critic Richard Schickel: This track dates back to 2005, and was included on the film’s original DVD release. Schickel provides a scene-specific commentary that includes some interesting stories on the making of the film.

Digital Copy: A Movies Anywhere code is included to redeem a 4K digital copy. As of the publication of this review, only Movies Anywhere and Apple TV offered the film in Dolby Vision/HDR10 and Dolby Atmos, while Vudu offered Dolby Vision/HDR10 with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 and Prime Video was HD and Dolby Digital 5.1 (although lately Prime Video has quietly been upgrading their Warner titles to 4K). The only extras included on Apple TV (on iOS devices only) and Movies Anywhere are East of Eden: Art in Search of Life (SD; 19:29), Screen Tests (SD; 6:19), Wardrobe Tests (SD; 22:15), Deleted Scenes (SD; 19:10), 3/9/1955 NYC Premiere (SD; 14:40), Theatrical Trailer (SD; 2:45) and the Audio Commentary.

Overall: 4/5

East of Eden has probably never looked or sounded better, but the lack of extras is becoming something of a drag.

Todd Erwin has been a reviewer at Home Theater Forum since 2008. His love of movies began as a young child, first showing Super 8 movies in his backyard during the summer to friends and neighbors at age 10. He also received his first movie camera that year, a hand-crank Wollensak 8mm with three fixed lenses. In 1980, he graduated to "talkies" with his award-winning short The Ape-Man, followed by the cult favorite The Adventures of Terrific Man two years later. Other films include Myth or Fact: The Talbert Terror and Warren's Revenge (which is currently being restored). In addition to movie reviews, Todd has written many articles for Home Theater Forum centering mostly on streaming as well as an occasional hardware review, is the host of his own video podcast Streaming News & Views on YouTube and is a frequent guest on the Home Theater United podcast.

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Mark Mayes

Second Unit
Joined
Mar 14, 2004
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Mark Mayes
I wouldn’t call it a soap opera. I think that’s selling it short.


I agree, it is employed to diminish--still, most stories are soap operas, really, aren't they?

The problem is we no longer have much reference to what that means... as there aren't left in "Daytime Drama,"

Guess there needs to be a more modern way to diminish melodrama.
 
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