George Stevens’ epic western Giant gets a 4K upgrade from Warner Bros in this nearly bare-bones release.
The Production: 4/5
Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean star in director George Stevens’ sprawling western epic, Giant, tells the tale of Texas rancher Bick Benedict (Hudson) who in addition to traveling north to Maryland in the 1920s to purchase a stud horse comes home with a new wife, Leslie (Taylor), the daughter of the horseman. Leslie doesn’t realize just how barren ranch country in Texas can be, and does not get along all that well with Bick’s sister Luz (Mercedes McCambridge), who shares ownership of the ranch. When Luz dies after being thrown off the horse Bick purchased from Leslie’s father, she bequests a small piece of the ranch to ranch hand Jett Rink (Dean). Bick tries to buy the land from Jett for twice its value, but refuses to do so. After years of trying to scratch a living from the small plot of land left to him, Jett discovers oil on the property, which does not sit well with Bick, who tries to get Jett off his property. As the years pass by, Bick resists drilling for oil on his ranch, preferring to continue to raise cattle, until he realizes none of his children are interested in ranching. His stubbornness over wanting his children to be ranchers drives a rift between himself and Leslie, especially when their son Jordan (Dennis Hopper) announces he wants to become a doctor. The film follows the continuing conflict between the Benedicts and the Rinks, with Jett becoming exceedingly wealthy, but also deals with racial tensions of poor Mexican immigrants during the three decades that span the film.
Giant is a very long movie, running three hours and twenty-one minutes, and definitely takes its time telling the story originally published as a novel by Edna Ferber in 1952, and it is a long and complicated story to tell. George Stevens (Shane, The Diary of Anne Frank) won the movie’s lone Oscar for Best Director, and was nominated in nine other categories including two for Best Actor (Dean and Hudson), Best Adapted Screenplay (Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffat), and Best Picture. Giant was also Warner Bros’ highest grossing film until the release of The Exorcist in 1973.
3D Rating: NA
This recently completed 4K restoration premiered in April at the TCM Classic Film Festival. Warner created new 4K scans of the film’s “original camera negatives and production RGB separation master positives for the best possible image, and color corrected in high dynamic range for the latest picture display technology.” This UHD Blu-ray release showcases the film in an HEVC-encoded 2160p transfer in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio and uses HDR10 high dynamic range. The OCN shots here really pop, with excellent fine detail and vivid colors, while the separation masters are quite obvious (and seem to comprise of at least half of the movie’s running time), appearing noticeably softer. This is probably the best that Giant will ever look.
The default audio on the disc is a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track, sourced from “a 1995 protection copy of the Original Magnetic Mono soundtrack.” This is a clean track, free of any hiss, pops, or other anomalies, and has excellent fidelity and surprisingly wide dynamic range. Bass response is excellent, even without a dedicated LFE channel, especially when Jett’s oil rig hits a gusher in chapter 29. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout.
Special Features: 3/5
Warner Bros. has released Giant in a single-disc UHD only release (no Blu-ray disc has been included) and one lone special feature ported over from previous home video releases.
Audio Commentary with George Stevens, Jr., Screenwriter Ivan Moffat and Film Critic Stephen Farber: The track is a wealth of information, although some sections are repeated as filler.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy on Movies Anywhere, which added the following special features as of June 21, 2022: Introduction by George Stevens, Return to Giant, Memories of Giant, New York Premiere Telecast, Hollywood Premiere, GIANT Stars Are Off to Texas, Behind the Cameras, George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey, George Stevens: Filmmakers Who Knew Him and four trailers.
This new 4K release is likely the best Giant is ever going to look. None of the special features on the 2013 Digibook Blu-ray release have been included here (except for the commentary), so owners of that release looking to upgrade to this 4K release will want to hold on to that previous version.
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