James Dean's death just after he'd completed filming George Stevens' epic "Giant" guaranteed this film instant appeal to audiences of the time. Years later this massive blockbuster still impresses with overblown drama, and justifiably gets a three-disc DVD release.
Picture The colours in this transfer are beautiful to watch, with the resulting image looking like a vivid oil painting.
Sound A 2.0 surround mix helps add a sense of scale to the movie, although it does little more than simply enhance the music score.
Introduction by George Stevens Jr This introduction is distinguished by the fact that George Stevens Jr worked with his father on many projects. George Jr is therefore able to offer a close insight into what his father believed in when making movies, and talks about that here. He also points out that, when this movie came out in 1957, it was the biggest hit Warner Bros had ever had.
Audio Commentary Joining us for the next 197 minutes are George Stevens Jr, scriptwriter Ivan Moffat, and film critic Stephen Farber. Despite the long running time, all have plenty to say as they dissect a movie that Stevens spent four years making without pay.
It turns out that the final casting did not include first choices - the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly were considered before Liz Taylor, and John Wayne before Rock Hudson. Back then it was normal policy to use older actors for films where we would see a character start young and become old. Stevens' choice to use young actors and age them was a radical departure.
George Stevens: Filmmakers Who Knew Him This 45-minute documentary is an in-depth analysis of Stevens' directing style from such people as Warren Beatty and Martin Scorsese. Beatty seems to sum him up best as a "slow moving freight train", when describing how he would slowly but surely get his own way when making a movie. Despite his assured nature though, Stevens would not plan shots, preferring instead to get on sets and think up camera angles to keep excitement in his work.
Memories of "Giant" Running at over 50 minutes, this documentary on the making of a classic has much to offer, including some brilliant anecdotes. Amongst the best is one told by Rock Hudson, who went for a 'get to know you'-style liquid dinner with Liz Taylor. Before they knew it, the time was 3am; only two and a half hours from when they had to get up.
Both were very hungover on-set, but thankfully had only to shoot a wedding scene with no dialogue. Instead of talking, they had to look lovingly at each other. Such was their concentrated stares at each other to avoid being ill, people started crying on set, so convinced by their supposed looks of love.
Return to "Giant" Quite fittingly, nothing on this disc is small-time. Here we have another 50-minute documentary, this time reflecting back on the film, with a visit to the location and a look at the sad ruined gothic house set where the story unfolded. There is some repetition of interview footage from Memories of "Giant", but there's some good material on the set design and on James Dean's method acting.
New York Premiere Telecast At 28 minutes, this footage from the premiere does get a little dull, bar the bizarre moment where a wheelchair-bound boy is wheeled out for a grotesquely stupid charity appeal. The boy quite rightly pulls faces at the moronic comments that fly over his head.
Hollywood Premiere This footage runs at a snappy four minutes and is nothing more than a guide to the faces of the evening.
"Giant" Stars are off to Texas This is a short newsreel item about the film production.
Behind the Cameras In this section you'll find two short featurettes on the music and the location of the film: Marfa, Texas.
Stills and Documents A fascinating section in which you can look through behind-the-scenes images from the film (with James Dean looking cool in every still), and internal memos from Warner Bros about the production of the film.
Trailers A selection of trailers and an awards list rounds off disc three.
Ratio: 1.33:1 (fullscreen un-matted)
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 or 5.1, plus DTS 6.1-ES
Audio Tracks: English
Menus: Animated, with music
Special Features Subtitles None of the special features come with subtitles.
This DVD was reviewed on a JVC XV-N5 DVD player.