EAST OF EDEN [1955 / 2013] [Special Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook] [Blu-ray] [USA Release] James Dean – The Most Dynamic Star Discovery Of The Year!

Based on John Steinbeck's novel and directed by award-winning director Elia Kazan, ‘EAST OF EDEN’ was James Dean's breakout big-screen performance, one that will forever be remembered in Hollywood history. The emotionally charged film tells the story of lonely youth Cal Trask [James Dean], who vies for the affection of his hardened father Adam Trask [Raymond Massey] and favoured brother, Aron Trask [Richard Davalos]. The film received four Academy Award® nominations, and Jo Van Fleet won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for role as Cal Trask’s wayward mother.

FILM FACT No.1: Awards and Nominations: 1955 Cannes Film Festival: Win: Award for Best Dramatic Film for Elia Kazan. Nominated: Palme d'Or for Elia Kazan. 1955 National Board of Review, USA: Win: NBR Award for Top Ten Films. 1956 Academy Awards®: Win: Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Jo Van Fleet. Nominated: Best Actor in a Leading Role for James Dean [This was the first posthumous acting nomination in Academy Awards history]. Nominated: Best Director for Elia Kazan. Nominated: Best Writing and Screenplay for Paul Osborn. 1956 Golden Globes: Win: Best Motion Picture in a Drama. Win: Special Achievement Award for James Dean [Award given posthumously for best dramatic actor]. 1956 BAFTA Awards: Nominated: BAFTA Film Award for Best Film from any Source [USA]. Nominated: BAFTA Film Award for Best Foreign Actor for James Dean [USA]. Nominated: BAFTA Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Film for Jo Van Fleet [USA]. 1956 Blue Ribbon Awards: Win: Best Foreign Language Film for Elia Kazan. 1956 Directors Guild of America: Nominated: DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures for Elia Kazan. 1956 Jussi Awards: Win: Best Foreign Actor for James Dean. 1956 Kinema Junpo Awards: Win: Best Foreign Language Film for Elia Kazan. 1956 Picturegoer Awards: Win: Gold Medal Award for Best Actor for James Dean. 1956 Writers Guild of America: Nominated: WGA Award (Screen) for Best Written American Drama for Paul Osborn. 1958 Bodil Awards: Win: Best American Film (Bedste amerikanske film) for Elia Kazan (director). 1959 Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Spain: Win: Best Foreign Director (Mejor Director Extranjero) for Elia Kazan. 2013 Online Film & Television Association: Win: OFTA Film Hall of Fame for the Motion Picture ‘EAST OF EDEN.’ 2016 National Film Preservation Board, USA: Win: National Film Registry for National Film Preservation Board for the film ‘EAST OF EDEN.’

FILM FACT No.2: Principal photography of ‘EAST OF EDEN’ lasted ten weeks. Before filming began, Elia Kazan sent James Dean off to Palm Springs to gain some weight and get some sun so that he looked like a "real" farm boy. Dean hated getting a tan, having his hair cut, and drinking a pint of cream a day to put on pounds. Elia Kazan denied rumours that he didn't like James Dean: "You can't not like a guy with that much pain in him....You know how a dog will be mean and snarl at you, then you pat him, and he's all over you with affection? That's the way James Dean was." Kazan did intervene sternly, however, when James Dean started to feel his power as a hotly emerging star and treated crew members disrespectfully. Shooting in the fairly new CinemaScope process proved to be a challenge for Elia Kazan, but he was lucky to have a good working relationship with long-time Warner Bros. cinematographer Ted D. McCord. The studio camera department gave him instructions up front to keep the camera at least six feet from the actors, which rankled Elia Kazan. The underlying theme of ‘EAST OF EDEN’ is a biblical reference to the brothers Cain and Abel. Other themes touched upon in the film include anti-German xenophobia, specifically as wrought against a local German immigrant as resentment about United States entry into World War I grew. The themes of young love and sibling rivalry are also present in the film, as Aron Trask's girlfriend finds herself increasingly drawn to the more rebellious Cal Trask.

Cast: Julie Harris, James Dean, Raymond Massey, Burl Ives, Richard Davalos, Jo Van Fleet, Albert Dekker, Lois Smith, Harold Gordon, Nick Dennis, Abdullah Abbas (uncredited), John Alban (uncredited), Rose Allen (uncredited), José Arias (uncredited), Frank Baker (uncredited), Barbara Baxley (uncredited), John Beradino (uncredited), Joe Brooks (uncredited), Nora Bush (uncredited), Timothy Carey (uncredited), Jack Carr (uncredited), Wheaton Chambers (uncredited), Lonny Chapman (uncredited), George Church (uncredited), Edward Clark (uncredited), Harry Cording (uncredited), Roger Creed (uncredited), Bryn Davis (uncredited), Ray Dawe (uncredited), Anna Dewey (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited), (uncredited),     

Director: Elia Kazan

Producer: Elia Kazan (uncredited)

Screenplay: John Steinbeck (novel) and Paul Osborn (screenplay) 

Composer: Leonard Rosenman

Cinematography: Ted D. McCord (Director of Photography)

Image Resolution: 1080p (WarnerColor)

Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1 (CinemaScope)

Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
French: 3.0 Dolby Digital Audio
German: 3.0 Dolby Digital Audio
Italian: 3.0 Dolby Digital Audio
Spanish: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono Audio
Português: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio
Czech: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono Audio
Polish: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio
Japanese: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono Audio
English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, German SDH, Italian SDH, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hebrew, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Swedish and Turkish

Running Time: 118 minutes

Region: All Regions

Number of discs: 1

Studio: Warner Home Video

Andrew's Blu-ray Review: ‘EAST OF EDEN’ [1955] is based upon the acclaimed novel written by John Steinbeck. It was adapted for the screen by Paul Osborn. This production of the book was a gigantic undertaking for its makers, both in terms of what the director and studio brought to the production. Warner Bros. helped make ‘EAST OF EDEN’ one of the first films to be made in CinemaScope, a technology meant to pioneer widescreen filmmaking.

Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Elia Kazan [‘On the Waterfront’ and ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’] and introducing the young James Dean to the film-going public this is one of the greatest of Kazan's accomplishments, who was at his absolute best with this masterpiece. Elia Kazan helped to bring forth James Dean's electrifying performance, which to this day still stands as one of the best debut performances by an actor in a feature film.

James Dean actually got his start in small bit-parts on television programs before landing the big role in ‘EAST OF EDEN,’ which really catapulted James Dean’s career quickly and helped to make him a star. This role is the launching pad that led him to getting the roles in ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ and ‘Giant’ that would so closely follow. It was also the only film of the three he made that James Dean was able to see complete prior to release.

I've never actually read the John Steinbeck's "East of Eden" novel, though the film version by Elia Kazan, was adapted by Paul Osborn, and is supposedly only loosely based upon the second half of the book, so those who love the novel might find some issues with this film. Yet I find this story mesmerizing and very profound.

It is at least partially a narrative retelling of Cain and Abel. The storyline in ‘EAST OF EDEN’ focuses primarily upon Cal Trask [James Dean], who feels that his love for his father is  being rejected and that his father, Adam Trask [Raymond Massey] cares more for his other son Aron [Richard Davalos]. Adam Trask is a highly religious man and Cal Trask feels that he cannot live up to his father's idealism. As the storyline  progresses, Aron Trask [Richard Davalos] is in a relationship with Abra [Julie Harris] that Cal Trask is jealous about as he has feelings for his brother's girlfriend. Abra, who at first seems to dislike Cal Trask, eventually grows to feel attracted to him.

Abra and Cal Trask begin to spend some time together and they ultimately connect over the feelings they have felt under their upbringing. Abra sees the disappointment and pain Cal Trask feels in not pleasing his father, and in feeling a lack of love. Abra tells Cal Trask about how her own father had given her gifts of great monetary value, but was not there for her and that it made Abra feel she wasn't loved. This scene, set by the backdrop a beautiful field of golden flowers, is one of the most affecting and profound of the film.

At the start of the story, Cal Trask believed his mother to be dead. Later in the story Cal Trask discovers his mother actually is still alive but that his father had been telling Cal Trask and Aron otherwise for all of their years without her. Cal Trask seeks finding his mother, and when he succeeds Cal Trask meets Kate [Jo Van Fleet], who Cal Trask actually discovers runs a brothel. Kate seems to connect to the fact Cal Trask feels rejected from Adam Trask. Cal Trask, still desperate for his father's affection, asks to borrow money from Kate in hoping to sell beans during a war-time shortage so that he can repay his father for ice that he destroyed, belonging to his father. Reluctantly, Kate agrees to loan Cal Trask the money to get this started. Jo Van Fleet won the Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actress. Jo Van Fleet performance demonstrated the icy cold character of Kate, who Cal Trask fails to realise that he never looked for him or Aron Trask during all of their years apart.

The conclusion of the film is one that unfolds with brilliant pacing and some of Elia Kazan's most impressive framing of the characters. One of the things I appreciate about ‘EAST OF EDEN,’ after how wonderful the performances are, is the nightmarish fervour that Elia Kazan creates with tilted camera angles and bizarre framing that most directors would ignore. This makes the descent Cal Trask's feeling emotional seems to be represented through the ebb and flow of the camera.

‘EAST OF EDEN’ is a genuine American classic. When you think of films with great performances this is a film that easily comes to mind. James Dean is so fantastic and so unafraid to be emotionally resonant, that it's shocking to recognize it as a film debut. The supporting performance are so powerful as well, especially the supporting part by Julie Harris, which is so distinct when it's compared to her other performances. I love ‘EAST OF EDEN’ and it is one of the first films that were influential on my growing love of cinema and the power of filmmaking. It is a fine work of accomplished art that is worth cherishing and remembering for all of its immense worth and contribution towards the craft of filmmaking. It is truly an amazing tour-de-force, with brilliant characters.

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Blu-ray Image Quality – The 1080p image transfer of ‘EAST OF EDEN’ is a strong one indeed. The image retains adequate grain and there is a real sense of richness in the texture of the photography. I certainly find this to be a beautiful film, one with a complex visual quality that is astonishing, largely due to the stylistic choices of Elia Kazan and the brilliant cinematographer Ted D. McCord. The original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.55:1 has been preserved. The CinemaScope ratio effectively helps Elia Kazan create a larger sense of the “mood” in many of the scenes, especially when he makes things topsy-turvy during the story's darker moments. The CinemaScope format preserves the film as accurately as possible. This is one of the first films to use the widescreen technology of the time and in that regard it should be considered a pioneering effort. However, I find the use of CinemaScope in ‘EAST OF EDEN’ to be slightly disappointing in comparison to how ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ implemented it and only shortly thereafter. The only real issue with the film is that the scene-change dissolves have some weak detail due to the source limitations. This is not a fault of Warner Bros. or the restoration team at MPI, but it's nonetheless something that has an impact on the visual finesse of the presentation. This minor drawback aside, ‘EAST OF EDEN’looks stellar in an authentic and well-realised Blu-ray transfer who dramatically demonstrates the importance of film restoration and 4K scanning when preserving films.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – ‘EAST OF EDEN’ has received the least impressive sound presentation out of the three films. Unfortunately, the re-mixed 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sounded a bit unnatural to me at times. Take for instance, the sequence involving the falling blocks of ice as ruined by an outraged Cal. This scene was particularly troublesome to me as it sounded like an inauthentic expansion to 5.1 surround. The way the sound materials were utilized in this moment (and to a lesser degree some other parts of the film) made it a slightly less enveloping experience. I found it a bit distracting to my viewing. Dialogue clarity is good. The music score by Leonard Rosenman sounds beautiful and very haunting when it needs to be but also uplifting when the story and performances are in need of some emotional grace.

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Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

Audio Commentary by Film Critic Richard Schickel: Film Critic Richard Schickel discusses the film and as a fan, has seen it many times, but his audio commentary lacks the detailed presentation that one might expect from a scholar like Jeffrey Vance. Most of Richard Schickel's historical points (e.g. the animosity between James Dean and Raymond Massey) are covered in the "Art in Search of Life" feature. Film Critic Richard Schickel primary contribution in this audio commentary is an evaluation of the performances and direction in the film and to me this was very disappointing and in the end I could not endure Richard Schickel the whole of the audio commentary any longer and it is entirely up to you to decide whether you want to endure this very boring and vacuous audio commentary.

Special Feature: Forever James Dean [1998] [480i] [1.37:1] [60:00] This 1988 documentary narrated by Bob Gunton is valuable primarily for its compilation of archival photographs and interviews with childhood acquaintances and other interview subjects who are probably no longer alive. But one doesn't get a strong sense of who James Dean was or what made him distinctive. Ms. Julie Harris, William Bast, and some other "friends, co-stars, and teachers" share their "insightful" interviews. Ms. Julie Harris speaks sweetly about working with James Dean on the film ‘EAST OF EDEN.’ William Bast shares a very sweet story about when his mother came to visit himself and James Dean in their apartment. Kenneth Kendall talks about creating a beautiful head sculpture of James Dean, which was stolen from his grave, unfortunately. There are generous clips from James Dean's three feature films, but only a couple of clips which could, arguably, be called "never before seen." Charges against James Dean that he was "homosexual" are vociferously denied by typical right wing Christian Republicans. Chris Busone does a very 1980s sounding tribute song called "American Rebel." Contributors include: Bob Gunton [Narrator], William Bast, Bob Roth [James Dean's boyhood friend], Frank Worth, Jack Grinnage, Steffi Sidney, Julie Harris,  Adeline Nall [James Dean's drama teacher], Rex Bright [James Dean's boyhood friend], Bob Pulley [James Dean's boyhood friend], Kenneth Kendall, Frank Mazzola, Beverly Long, Corey Allen, George Barris, Jim Backus [Frank Stark] (archive footage), James Dean (archive footage) and Dennis Hopper [Goon] (alternative 'Rebel Without a Cause' footage) (uncredited).               

Special Feature: East of Eden: Art in Search of Life [2005] [480i] [1.37:1] [20:00] This is a documentary with interviews with various individuals who were involved with the making of ‘EAST OF EADEN.’ This documentary short was made in 2005 for Warner Hove Video two-disc special edition DVD and includes some fascinating and rare interviews. Contributors include: Susan Schillinglaw [Center for Steinbeck Studies], Thomas Steinbeck [John Steinbeck's son], Richard Schickel [Film Historian], Elia Kazan [Director] (archive footage), William Bast [James Dean's Friend], Julie Harris [Abra], Lonny Chapman [Roy], Richard Davalos [Aron Trask] (archive footage), James Dean [Cal Trask] (archive footage), Raymond Massey [Adam Trask] (archive footage), John Steinbeck [Author] (archive footage) and Jo Van Fleet [Kate] (archive footage).                     

Special Feature: Screen Tests [1955] [480i] [1.37:1] [6:21] In the former domain, we get screen tests between James Dean and Richard Davalos as they perform the discussion between their characters Cal Trask and Aron Trask that we already saw as a deleted scene. It's a decent titbit, though it's too bad we don't see some of the other existing screen tests as well.

Special Feature: Wardrobe Tests [1955] [480i] [1.37:1]  Richard Davalos [3:27]; James Dean and Richard Davalos [3:57]; James Dean, Julie Harris and Richard Davalos [2:21]; James Dean and Lois Smith [3:09]; Lois Smith [2:55]; James Dean and Jo Van Fleet [0:41]; Jo Van Fleet [4:21] and Costumes and Production Design [1:38].

Special Feature: Deleted Scenes [1955] [480i] [1.37:1] [19:15] It presents a conversation between Cal Trask and Aron Trask about their father's feelings and more of the birthday party for Adam. We get multiple takes of the various shots, so don't expect a full slate of new material. Nothing revealing appears in the party scenes, but the chat between Cal Trask and Aron Trask works well. It fleshes out Cal Trask's character change and might have been a useful addition to the film.

Special Feature: Vintage Documentary: 3/9/1955 NYC Premiere [480i] [1.37:1] [14:42] This mostly focuses on the activities in front of the theatre. Host Martin Block chats with the following notables as they enter the cinema: Margaret Truman, Milton Berle, John Steinbeck, Elia Kazan, Raymond Massey, Eva Marie Saint, Red Buttons, Jack Warner, Denise Darcell, Imogene Coca, Carol Channing, and Joel Grey. Of course, virtually nothing of substance occurs, but it is a fun piece to watch. I particularly liked John Steinbeck's very uncomfortable conversation; the author did not look at all happy to be there.

Theatrical Trailer [1955] [480i] [2.35:1] [2:54] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘EASTE OF EDEN’ What's notable about the trailer, is how much effort has been made to sensationalise the story.

BONUS: Here we have a superb and brilliant Special Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook consisting of 36 pages that includes the following articles: EAST OF EDEN; FROM BOOK TO BIG SCREEN; JAMES DEAN AS CARL TRASK; JULIE HARRIS ABRA; RAYMOND MASSEY AS ADAM TRASK; ELIA KAZAN DIRECTOR; JOHN STEINBECK AUTHOR and TRIVIA. We also get lots of rare black-and-white publicity photographs of the actors, director and behind-the-scenes. We also get see lots of black-and-white and colour film posters and some relating to the ACADEMY AWARDS® 1955, BAFTA AWARDS 1956, CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 1955 and the GOLDEN GLOBES 1956.

Finally, ‘EASTE OF EDEN’ is so marvellous to finally have this classic Elia Kazan film in 1080p High Definition. Despite the technical limitations of early CinemaScope filming of ‘EAST OF EDEN’ and it is now a fantastic marvellous film to experience. The cinematography and the colours look tremendous in the presentation MPI have created in restoring the film. James Dean is fantastic in this first big-screen performance. This essential film has never been presented better on Home Theatre media and this release is an essential purchase for fans of classic cinema at its finest and that is why I am so proud to add this brilliant Special Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook, as not only is it beautifully produced, but it is also such and honour to add another James Dean Classic Film to my Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller - Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado 
Le Cinema Paradiso 
United Kingdom

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