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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
East of Eden: Special Edition (1955)

East of Eden: Special Edition (1955)

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Released 6-Sep-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Richard Schickel
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Forever James Dean
Featurette-East Of Eden: Art In Search Of Life
Featurette-Screen Tests
Featurette-Wardrobe Tests
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-3/9/1955 New York Premiere
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1955
Running Time 112:50
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Elia Kazan

Warner Home Video
Starring Julie Harris
James Dean
Raymond Massey
Burl Ives
Richard Davalos
Jo Van Fleet
Albert Dekker
Lois Smith
Harold Gordon
Nick Dennis
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Leonard Rosenman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 3.0 L-C-R (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 3.0 L-C-R (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.55:1
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

    "Someday, he'll realise who his real son is" - Cal Trask

    Set in rural California in 1917, and based on John Steinbeck's novel of the same name, East Of Eden takes its title from the biblical story of Cain and Abel. After killing his brother, Abel, the Bible says that Cain fled and lived in the land of Nod, to the east of Eden. This is the film that propelled James Dean to superstardom. His performance in this, his first starring role, enthralled moviegoers and the movie industry alike.

    Like the biblical Cain, Cal (James Dean) finds he is less favoured than his brother. Desperate to win the affections of his strict father, who can only see the bad in his youngest son, Cal finds his efforts to please seem to drive his father further away. His brother is the apple of his father's eye, although it is Cal who truly loves his father more. Unable to fit in, Cal's actions slowly tear the family apart.

    This is not a movie that relies on action sequences or stunts, rather the drama is played out in the emotions and interactions of the characters. An intelligent adaptation of the last third of Steinbeck's novel, the characters are complex and interesting, a far cry from the two dimensional "good guys" and "bad guys" that are often portrayed on the screen. Although Cal is the "bad boy" we soon see his inherent good side struggling to surface, and we are drawn to him. Likewise his father, seen as a pillar of the local community, has his weaknesses. Although he has isolated Cal, we feel sorrow, rather than anger at his actions. Cal's older brother, Aron, while good, duty-bound and the pride of his father, is somewhat self-centred and proud beneath. No-one is truly good or truly bad, rather there is good and bad in all the characters.

    The entire cast give good performances, but it is Dean that stands out, breathing real life into his character and taking the viewer on an emotional journey that builds empathy and compassion for the tragic Cal.

    While not a movie to relax in front of, it does provide a rewarding movie experience for those who are willing to immerse themselves in the film while leaving their minds in gear.

    Finally available on DVD, this is a two disc collector's edition with plenty of extras covering both James Dean's career and this movie in particular. It is available separately or as part of the Complete James Dean Collection boxed set.

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Transfer Quality


    For a movie originally released in 1955, this is an excellent transfer. There has obviously been a lot of work done to ensure a clean DVD transfer, but that doesn't mean it's perfect.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.55:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    Like most movies from this era, the colours are somewhat flat and muted, not vibrant like today's blockbusters. This is, of course, a result of the film technology available at the time and not a fault in the restoration or transfer. The transfer is clean with no major film artefacts to spoil your viewing pleasure. The only thing I could find was a strange lightening of the image during some scene changes. These always occurred during a cross fade and I initially thought they may be splice marks. A frame-by-frame check proved this theory wrong, and it was apparent that for few frames after the cut there was a distinct colour shift in the new scene. I'm not sure what caused it, but it showed as a brief flash just after the cut. Not a major distraction, but noticeable.

    These aside, there were no noticeable problems with the transfer. Shadow detail and sharpness were fine given the limitations of the original film.

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


    English Dolby Digital 5.1 was indicated, but most of the work is done by the centre speaker in this film. The left and right fronts are used for some effect, but I failed to hear any real use of the rears. The subwoofer was also left without any real work. It seems almost as if Dolby Digital 5.1 was used so it could be promoted on the slick, rather than as an attempt to provide a true surround sound mix.

    The audio is clean and clear. Dialogue is always understandable and in sync. There was no hiss. In short, a good soundtrack for a movie of this era, even if the Dolby Digital 5.1 encoding is a little superfluous.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    There is an animated menu, but a nagging ad against video piracy is displayed first. Fortunately pressing your menu button skips this.

Audio Commentary - Richard Schickel

    A pretty standard commentary by film historian and author Richard Schickel. The production of the movie is discussed as well as comments on the significance of certain scenes and events. Not the best commentary I've listened to, but there is some interesting information passed, even if some of the discussions on the movie's meaning are somewhat obvious.

Featurette - Forever James Dean (59:48)

    A 1988 documentary on James Dean. Dean's life is traced from his childhood through to his untimely death in an automobile accident. Colleagues, friends and his son share insights into the real James Dean and provide a glimpse into his life and motivations.

Featurette - East Of Eden: Art In Search Of Life (19:29)

    A short documentary on the book and movie. Academics and John Steinbeck's daughter discuss both the book and the movie, the differences between them, and John Steinbeck's motivations and reasons for writing the novel.

Screen Tests (6:18)

    Pre-production screen test footage in Black and White, featuring James Dean and Richard Davalos performing a scene which never made it into the movie. The scene is shown a number of times from various camera angles and is unedited.

Wardrobe Tests (22:14)

    A series of short film clips without audio of James Dean, alone and with other cast members, modelling proposed costumes. I found this became very tedious very quickly, but I guess for the die-hard James Dean fans every frame is golden.

Deleted Scenes (19:12)

    Two scenes, both shown a number of times from various camera angles, that were eventually cut from the film. Although there is no commentary with them, it becomes quickly apparent why the decision to cut them was made.

Featurette - 3/9/1955 New York Premier (14:40)

    An archival TV broadcast of the New York premiere of the film. Cast members, director Elia Kazan and author John Steinbeck are interviewed along with various celebrities of the time. It is, as you would expect, black and white and there are large scratches down the right hand side of the entire piece. It must have been quite an event in 1955 as it was simulcast on TV and Radio.

Trailer (2:44)

    The original theatrical trailer for the film.

R4 vs R1

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

    Region 1 misses out on an Italian Dolby Digital 3.0 soundtrack and Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Bulgarian, Romanian, Russian, English for the Hearing Impaired and Italian for the Hearing Impaired subtitles.

    Region 4 misses out on Spanish subtitles.

    Other than these soundtrack and subtitle differences, and the NTSC vs PAL difference, the Region 1 and Region 4 releases are the same, so I'd call this one a tie.


    A film everyone interested in movies should see at least once. James Dean's inspired performance is worth the effort, but the film is so much more than this. If your movie taste is purely action or you don't like movies that challenge you to think about their message, then you will probably find this film a little slow and uninteresting. On the other hand, if you like intelligent, thoughtful movies you'll love this film.

    The video is good given the age of the movie.

    The audio is nice and clean.

    The extras are good.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Glen Randall (If you're really bored, you can read my bio)
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-1200Y, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TH-42PV500A 42" HD Plasma. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596
SpeakersRichter Wizard fronts, Richter Lynx centre, Richter Hydra rears, Velodyne CT-100 sub-woofer

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