Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

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Released 14-Jul-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Rediscovering A Rebel
Theatrical Trailer
Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1955
Running Time 106:24
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Nicholas Ray

Warner Home Video
Starring James Dean
Natalie Wood
Sal Mineo
Jim Backus
Ann Doran
Corey Allen
William Hopper
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Leonard Rosenman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.55:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Well, it's a seminal teen film, it's got James Dean doing his best bloodhound looks (and graciously providing Luke Perry with a short-lived career), and several people wear jackets. You want more? Christ, you're demanding.

    It's entertaining enough, but Rebel Without A Cause didn't ring true to me as a treatise of delinquent youth because the dialogue reads like what it is: the concoction of a team of Hollywood staff writers. The story goes that Warner optioned the rights to a criminal analysis written by a doctor purely for the title, then had no idea what to do with it. They later adapted a short story from the same doctor.

    Unlike MGM's West Side Story, the no-good youth depicted by this film aren't poor, uneducated jailbait, but kids from well-off middle class homes. Apparently this had quite some impact back in the 50s. When I look at a 24-year-old James Dean shouting, "YOU'RE TEARING ME APART", I can't help but compare it to the two 12-year-old boys with zombified expressions that stood next to me on a train inhaling gas from a plastic bag a couple of weeks ago. When our modern society is so rotten and decayed, I have trouble finding the rebel aspect satisfying in this film. I don't know - maybe I'm jaded, maybe I was expecting too much, but I was more interested in deciding whether Sal Mineo's character was intended to be gay in the script, whether it was a choice made during shooting by Mineo or director Nicholas Ray, or whether we just make assumptions based on modern clichés. Don't get me wrong - it's a decent enough film. Certain scenes still have a lot of power - the classic 'Chickie Run' scene immediately gets the blood pumping. I just question whether it still has the social relevance people ascribe to it.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    Given the age of the film, this restoration looks excellent. It appears to be taken from the same source print as the NTSC laserdisc.

    The disc maintains the theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness is surprisingly good, considering the film is approaching its 50th birthday. The shadow detail is also better than expected, and blacks are good and deep. Grain is quite unobtrusive. In these aspects, the image is similar to MGM's West Side Story, which also looks far better than you'd imagine it could.

    The colour is generally pleasingly well-saturated, although the primitive optical compositing of the era broadcasts imminent fades between scenes with a reasonably subtle colour and luminance shift. The film was originally intended to be shot in black and white, until Fox insisted that all films using their CinemaScope technology must use colour stock.

    I noticed no glaring MPEG artefacts despite the moderate bitrate, although the transfer displays a fair amount of aliasing when viewed on a 4:3 set. Much of this problem is eliminated in 16x9 mode and those with progressive displays will probably just look confused and ask; 'What's aliasing?'. Film artefacts were generally few and far between, although the print used has lost some frames to damage (e.g. 17:35 and 43:53). These jumps are noticeable but not overly distracting, and quite acceptable given the age of the film and the otherwise excellent video quality.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Warner again remix the soundtrack into 5.1 without giving the option of hearing the original theatrical mix. The only way to hear an approximation of the original mono is to listen to the two foreign language soundtracks.

    The disc contains three audio tracks; English Dolby Digital 5.1, and French and Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. I listened exclusively to the English track.

    The 5.1 mix is essentially mono in focus. Dialogue is always clear and easy to understand, although obviously dated in fidelity. However, the soundtrack was never harsh or edgy because of this. I noticed no problems with audio sync.

    The music is surprisingly warm and rich, and certainly far better than I would have hoped, spreading widely across the front soundstage and even reaching into the surrounds. The score itself is fairly typical of 50s Hollywood movies, and I have no comments on it good or otherwise.

    The surround channels are barely used except for the score. Occasionally, I noted crickets and other ambient sound effects around me, but by and large the focus is on the centre channel.

    I noticed the LFE channel being used only once, and then it really made its presence known. Those who've seen the film can probably guess where.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is static, but accompanied by the title score from the film. You'll notice the pitch rise when you start the film - proof that PAL titles still raise the pitch 4% over the theatrical release.

Theatrical Trailer

    The usual overly-dramatic, cheesy 50s trailer that we know and love, in excellent quality and 16x9 enhanced to boot!

Documentary - Rediscovering A Rebel (9:31)

    This is a fairly recent documentary, and it proves valuable, showing an alternate start, alternate end and rare screen tests, amongst other interesting tidbits.


    Or to be more correct, cheesy 50s studio promo reels. Quite funny, when you're not cringing at the blatant sexism of the time and getting a bit freaked out as Dean's interview focuses on road safety.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    All regions have the same extras, but we get more resolution. We win.


    A classic film, surely. I think I'm just in a bad mood today.

    The video quality is fantastic for a film of this vintage.

    The audio quality is very acceptable, though I wish Warner would start including the original soundtrack as well as their modified versions.

    The extras are decent, but not extraordinary.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Paul Dossett (read my bio here or check out my music at
Sunday, July 16, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer 103S DVD-ROM with Hollywood Plus decoder card, using S-Video output
DisplayMitsubishi DiVA (78cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationYamaha DSP-A1
SpeakersFront L/R: Richter Excalibur SE, Centre: Richter Unicorn Mk 2, Surrounds: Richter Hydras

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