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Giant (SE)
DVD disk
06.10.2003 By: The Arrow
Giant (SE) order
Director:
George Stevens

Actors:
Elizabeth Taylor
Rock Hudson
James Dean

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
When Texan rancher Bick (Hudson) arrives at a farm to purchase a horse, he encounters, falls in love and eventually marries the gorgeous Ranch owner's daughter Leslie (Taylor). We then follow the couple through their life as family conflict arises and a spoke in the wheel surfaces under the guise of “oil Tycoon to be” bad boy Jett Rink (Dean). Aaaaahhh, the good old days…
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
After killing my VHS copies of EAST OF EDEN and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, this GIANT DVD set was my next step in “Dean 101”. Yes, I’m a HUGE fan. Based on Edna Ferber’s novel and running at 3 hours, 22 minutes, this beautifully shot and grandiose film almost played as a classy and lengthy “Dallas” episode. Themes such as love, rags to riches, family, birth, death, marriages that last (that exists?) arose throughout, making this sit-down a full meal. At the same time, being somewhat ahead of its time, the narrative also tackled racism and displayed strong and independent women characters (it's a 1956 movie). THANK YOU!

The strong cast was, in my opinion, the movie’s highest card. Elizabeth Taylor was gloriously beautiful and endearing, while her scenes with Dean were beyond gripping. The chemistry they had off set translated magically on film. The same can be said of Hudson and Dean’s scenes, which were hypnotizing in their contrasts. Dean being a “method” actor and Hudson being more of a “straight” actor made the screen time they shared together compelling to witness. As for James Dean himself, although a secondary character, he owns every single frame of celluloid on which he appears via his magnetism, his natural demeanor and his unorthodox acting choices. His status as an icon was solidified for me (and for the world all over) through this vulnerable, yet edgy performance. Nobody did it like Dean and nobody has equaled him since.

Although GIANT surprisingly remained engaging for the whole of its running time, I do feel that some editing here and there might've benefited the piece. Redundancy arose at times and a little more tightness would’ve been much appreciated. I mean, how many “family gatherings” does a man need to sit through? Having said that, GIANT did the smart thing-- although vast in scope, it kept its attention where it counted, on the three main characters, their extensive families and their evolution through the rocky road that we call life. Long live Texas!
THE EXTRAS
DISC 1:

Introduction by George Stevens Jr (~ 3 minutes): Director Stevens’s son George comes in to give an admirable intro to the film talking about his dad, the work he did and the film’s accomplishments and its present status. A good opening to the trek that is GIANT.

Feature Length Audio Commentary: Film critic Stephen Farber (who deconstructs the flick as it rolls on), screenwriter Ivan Moffat (who talks about the script, its translation to screen and its changes from the novel) and George Stevens Jr (who dominates the track) sit down together to talk EVERYTHING and I mean EVERYTHING about GIANT. You name it and it's addressed. My favorite part was hearing about everybody’s reaction when hearing of James Dean’s death who passed on while the flick was still shooting. The commentary is full length, sports some dead time, but is a fascinating listen.

Documentary George Stevens: Filmmakers Who Knew Him (~ 45 minutes): Warren Beatty, Frank Capra, Rouben Mamoulian, Joe Mankiewicz, Alan J. Pakula, Antonio Vellani, Robert Wise, and Fred Zinnemann all come in to sing the praise of George Stevens. We can play all of the “star” comments in one shot or individually. A compelling feature that gives us more meat as to whom the man behind the film was.

DISC 2:

Memories of Giant (~ 50 minutes): This highly enjoyable documentary acts as a memory lane where cast and crew attached to the production come in to reminisce about the shoot while archived footage is played sporadically to complement what’s being said. This feature covers everything from casting to Jimmy Dean stories to how it was to be on location. Although light, this is the type of info I like to hear; great stories and personal insights.

Return to Giant (~ 55 minutes): Narrated by musician Don Henley, this feature chronicles the making of GIANT while displaying movie clips, current footage of the locations and archived on set/behind the scenes footage. George Stevens Jr, Rock Hudson, Dennis Hopper and more come in to comment on the production. Everything you ever wanted to know about the GIANT shoot is found here. This feature is filled with info and I loved every second of it.

New York Premiere Telecast (~ 28 minutes): You gotta love those archived shows. Chill Wills and Jane Meadows host a reel of the GIANT stars showing up at the red carpet New York premiere (minus Dean of course, he was drunk somewhere). Although nothing substantial really happens here, this feature was interesting from an “old Hollywood” historical point of view.

Hollywood Premiere (~ 4 minutes): This short feature shows clips of the New York premiere as well as some snippets of the Hollywood premiere with narration in tow. This is harmless archived footage that doesn’t bring much to the plate, but is still appreciated.

Giant Stars are off to Texas (~ 1 minute): This newsreel clip shows the cast at some kind of promotional dinner and that’s that. Anything that shows me seconds of James Dean kicking it...is all good in my book.

Stills and Documents: “Stills” delivers about 50 behind the scenes photos while “Documents” puts out all kinds of paperwork that was attached to the production (letters, budget notes, what-not). An okay feature (although not being able to skip from one pic to the next annoyed me, you have to go with the montages). The Stills gallery rocked!

Behind the Cameras: On location in Marfa, Texas (~ 6 minutes) Hosted by Gig Young (who?) this feature gives us some info on the city of Marfa, addresses the arrival of the cast and crew of GIANT and how the production affected the town. A decent feature.

Behind the Cameras: A visit with Dimitri Tiomkin (~ 7 minutes): This wandering feature goes all over the map to give us some info on composer Dimitri Tiomkin who comes in to be interviewed and play some piano. Straight up...the interview felt scripted and I was bored. Not my bag!

We also get Trailers (“book” trailer/ 1956 Trailer/ 1963 and 1970 reissue trailers), A Giant undertaking (Bio on Stevens and quotes from him on the film), George Stevens filmography, Awards and a standard Cast and Crew option.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Fans of epic dramas, the Texan life and the legend that is James Dean should hawk their car and get this superior disc set. Warner Brothers have outdone themselves here. Not only is the movie itself quite satisfying on so many levels, but the stellar DVD and the array of extras it sports makes the package a major treat. Watching this flick, I kept thinking “Man, I would have loved to have lived in those times”-- life was so much simpler back then. 2003 sucks to high heavens. Watch it, live it, breathe it and be GIANT.
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