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on 17 June 2005
What can I say about this film that hasn't already been said? Nothing. But I just wanted to say that this is without doubt Jimmy Dean's greatest film and this is a great DVD package. The picture and sound are great and well done to Warners for finding any new extras after 50 years. "Rebel" may be more iconic, "Giant" more epic - but this is the film where Dean reminds us that it takes more than poster boy looks to last 50 years - he was a great actor and still, in my opinion, ranks amongst the handfull of really great movie actors. Buy and enjoy.
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Note: The review that follows was written more than two years ago and featured by Amazon US. At that time, it was available only in a VHS format. Fortunately, this superb film is now available in a DVD format. Thank you to those resposible for an overdue but nonethrless most appreciated provision. That said, as for the review itsdelf, I still have the same opinions it expresses.

It has been (hard to believe) 52 years since this film first appeared, in the same year during which Rebel Without a Cause was also released. Both feature James Dean. I have often wondered to what extent his unique and abundant talents as an actor would have developed, had he not perished in a car accident immediately after the filming of Giant had been completed. Of course, we will never know. His was a compelling presence in each of only three films and especially so in East of Eden in the role of Cal Trask.

The basic story is derived from the Biblical account of Cain and Abel. Adam Trask (Raymond Massey) has two sons, both of whom he presumably loves. However, he favors Aron (Dick Davalos) because he (unlike Cal) never says or does anything to irritate him. Aron is "the good son," complete with a girlfriend Abra (Julie Harris) whom his father obviously adores. Of course, Cal feels resentment toward both his father and brother. He desperately wants his father's love. (Later in the film, he even tries to buy it with profits he earns from investments enriched by World War One.) Under Elia Kazan's brilliant direction, tensions build relentlessly to what seems certain to be a tragic conclusion. Feeling rejected by his father, Cal seeks out his mother who left her husband and sons years ago. Kate Trask (Jo Van Fleet) now owns and manages a brothel in another town nearby and has become wealthy. Cal climbs aboard a freight train so that he can visit her frequently. Over time, they develop mutual respect and affection. Finally the climatic moment occurs and then....

The acting throughout the cast (with one exception) is outstanding. Van Fleet received an Academy Award for best actress in a supporting role and Dean was also nominated for the award as best actor in a leading role. Burl Ives and Albert Dekker are noteworthy in their supporting roles. However, Julie Harris (age 30 at that time) seems to me miscast as the teenage Abra. As for Massey, he does the best he can with the role of Adam Trask, recycling elements of his earlier portrayal of John Brown in Sante Fe Trail. Most of Steinbeck's fiction is set in the Monterey area, as is East of Eden. Kazan and his cinematographer, Ted D. McCord, took full advantage of that uncommonly lovely area when shooting various exteriors.

I welcome the DVD version of East of Eden.
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on 25 February 2001
In his short life James Dean made only three movies of any real note - two of them are here together on one video tape and at this price there can be no excuse for not having them in your collection !
Of the two, 'Eden' is the more conventional, with Dean as the mixed-up son of straight-laced Raymond Massey but it is of course 'Rebel' that confirmed Dean's status as teenage icon (even though he was already 24 years old). With this movie he became a symbol of teenage rebellion that millions could identify with in the mid-fifties - the decade which virtually 'invented' the teenager.
At the time, Dean was dismissed as 'another dirty shirt tail actor from New York' by Hedda Hopper - as so often, completely out of touch with what young moviegoers wanted - and it is difficult to know what would have become of the actor had he lived. His final movie, 'Giant' was a sprawling, Hollywood-heavy epic far away from the youthful, dynamic energy of 'Rebel Without a Cause'.
Nevertheless, watching these performances almost fifty years later, James Dean may not have been the greatest movie actor there ever was, but these two movies remind us exactly why he remains a legend bigger than many 'better' actors.
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on 16 February 2015
Elia Kazan on fine form, with James Dean delivering a natural and haunting performance. Easily a contender for best American colour film ever made.

The blu-ray is stellar. The picture quality is grade A, as is the audio. And here are the exras:

Commentary with Richard Schickel.

Forever James Dean: Documentary.

East of Eden: Art in Search of Life: Documentary.

Screen Tests.

Wardrobe Tests.

Deleted Scenes.

3/9/55 NYC Premiere.

Theatrical Trailer.
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on 28 March 2005
East of Eden is one of these films that has been unfairly lost in the space of time, with the myth of one of the stars being bigger than the film. This therefore means that many people have missed out on actually sitting down and witnessing some of the best acting from the 50s 'golden era'. James Dean gives one of the most striking performances I have ever seen-truly inspiring. The story centres around Cal, played by Dean, who is forever in his brother's shadow, and who desperately wants the approval of his father. When he finds out he has been lied to all his life, and that his mother isn't dead but in fact runs a brothel in a nearby town, he causes havoc for the whole family. His intriguing relationship with his brother's girlfriend (played by Julie Harris) is sensitive and innocent, and both actors portray this excellently. All the supporting characters give great performances, all bouncing off each other, and it is in scenes between cal and his brother, and cal and his mother that this is clear. The most striking piece of acting is when (not to give too much of the plot away) Cal finds out that something he had been working on for a long time as a gift for his father was not wanted and his father once again shuns him. Dean crumbles visibly in front of the audiences eyes and clings to his father in a desperate plea to be loved. It is marvellous, and literally had me crying hysterically. The film can be a bit slow moving at times (as to be expected when a lot of the film centres around the farming profession) but Kazan directs his cast brilliantly, making for some stunning scenes, visually.
I urge you to see this film, but try to put to the back of your mind Dean's fate and the myth that surrounds him-it is enjoyable as a piece of A-star quality acting that could teach actors around today a lot.
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on 24 December 2007
Most film buffs probably know that "East of Eden" was one of James Dean's three big movies (along with "Rebel without a Cause" and "Giant") before his untimely death. This one casts him as Cal Trask, an outcast teenager in 1917 Salinas vying with his brother Aron (Richard Davalos) for his father Adam's (Raymond Massey) love. A previous reviewer identified it as a modern (well, early 1900s) version of Cain and Abel.

There are two things in the movie that really catch my eye. One is the onset of World War I. Aside from the fact that the United States enters the war and people start attacking the German person in Salinas, we see how things in the town start changing once Cal learns the reality about something that he had long accepted as true. Overall, it's clear that nothing will ever be the same in this small, seemingly idealistic town.

Another aspect is Cal himself. Cast out from his family, he has a special penchant for making trouble - or at least unsettling people. You might say that Cal is a precursor to Dean's "Rebel without a Cause" character.

But the main point is that this is a true classic. With top-notch acting, magnificent cinematography, and an incredible score, it's one movie that you can't afford to miss. Also starring Julie Harris, Burl Ives and Jo Van Fleet.
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on 8 December 2003
I was 14 when i looked at a saturday matinee film and became struck by a scene on a ferris wheel in which a handsome man showed his pent up feelings for his brother's girlfriend. After that i became hooked on James Dean who seemed the most beautiful,sensitive man ever. I sought out his films (sadly only three), books about him and his television work. While looking over his career i saw his talent was always outstanding. However, it was this role as Cal Trask (the Cain character in a modern update of the Cain and Able story) that was him at his best. It was a crime he did not get an oscar for it and his premature death meant he was unable to see the sucess of 'Rebel without a cause' and 'Giant'. What makes this film more meaningful is how the director, Elia Kazan, described the role of John Steinbeck's Cal being made for Dean. Jimmy being a man who had a troubled relationship with his dad as well as the actor who played his father in the film. It is an amazing film that shows how having quality actors can make a film.
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As other reviewers have commented, this is just a small part of the actual book - and that part is tweaked and utterly altered to its detriment.
James Dean (Cal) absolutely carries the movie; but from the very opening we are well aware he's going to get it together with his brother's girl, Abra. In the book the idea doesn't really crop up till the end. And no viewer could have any feeling for goody-goody brother Aron nor the irritating Abra - Steinbeck gives a depth and understanding to his characters.
The boys' mother Kate, who abandoned them to be a brothel mistress, is a hugely darker person than is shown here. I appreciate that 50s censorship meant mention couldn't be made of what went on in her house of ill repute; but neither do we hear anything of her past - she was 'just a drifter' whom Adam Trask fell for. What about her setting the parental home on fire; her poisoning the former madame ?

Of course it's a long book and I understand it needed 'pruning'. Perhaps Lee, the faithful Chinese retainer, who features massively in the book, wouldn't translate to well to film. But when the actual events and personalities are so re-written, I can't really say it bears much relation to the book. On its own merits alone, I found it a rather stilted effort - with the exception of the excellent James Dean.
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on 30 October 2002
East of Eden is the story of love, misunderstanding, and overwhelming emotional power. It exceedes beyond the lines of brilliance. It was also the lonely rebels first movie. Elia Kazan is at his best! James Dean is remarkable and electrifying! Stienbeck has written this novel briantly! I have never seen anything like this film in all my life, it definetly go's on my top ten list! East of Eden shows all emotions of life such as love, hate, lonesumness, respect, and Jelousy. East of Eden shows what we all feel in life, and why you can't live without love. East of Eden is dynomight!
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on 25 February 2013
I was pleased with my purchase of East Of Eden (1955), the sound and colour where superb. Most importantly the film was shown in its original widescreen Cinemascope presentation, which in my humble opinion gives (on my large widescreen television) a greater cinematic experience. Even the Warnercolor (Eastmancolor) looked far better than usual.

In my rather humble opinion James Dean's performance is without doubt his best, with regard to the trio of movies which also includes Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant, made and produced by Warner Bros in the mid 1950s.
RMM.
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