DVD Review

Rebel Yell

EW reviews ''The Complete James Dean Collection'' -- We take a closer look at the DVD box set that includes the actor's landmark roles in ''Giant,'' ''Rebel Without a Cause,'' and ''East of Eden''

EW reviews ''The Complete James Dean Collection''

Watching East of Eden — making its DVD debut in a two-disc set — it's easy to see why James Dean set off a youthquake that still rumbles almost 50 years after his death at 24. As outsider Cal, he captures brooding, adolescent confusion with a seductive, rock-star charisma. Of course, he was lucky to have Elia Kazan guiding him and Julie Harris as his costar. Their scenes together, full of guarded longing, are sublime highpoints in a stirring, visually sophisticated film that feels thoroughly modern. (And Harris' speech at the end always puts a lump in the throat.)

Considering the Dean hagiographic excess over the years, the extras are thankfully restrained. In addition to Richard Schickel's analytical commentary, standouts include the ''Art in Search of Life'' doc, in which Kazan gleefully recalls fueling the friction between Dean and on-screen father Raymond Massey. (''Do you think I would do anything to stop that antagonism? No, I increased it!. . .The absolute hatred. . .that's precious, man!'') Alternate takes of Harris and Dean prepping for a party offer a fascinating glimpse of how actors affect dramatic impact with slight shifts of emphasis and pacing.

The equally great Rebel Without a Cause has been repackaged with an informative commentary fromauthor Douglas L. Rathgeb and an extras disc that has Dean's eerily ironic ''Drive Safely'' PSA. The overrated Giant, previously released in 2003, confirms that Dean needed a sympathetic director to thrive. His Jett Rink is flashy and unconnected, provoking the uneasy thought: Where would he have taken his wild talent? Eden, Rebel: A
Giant: B-

Originally posted May 30, 2005 Published in issue #823 Jun 03, 2005 Order article reprints