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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 22 February 2001
George Steven's epic 198 minute treatment of Edna Ferber's bestselling novel inspired the television serial Dallas. It's stars, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean (playing the malignant Jett Rink - JR geddit!) were required to age 30 years during this blockbuster telling of domestic drama and state history. The cast (including the marvellous Mercedes McCambridge) were excellent but the real star of the film is Texas itself, from the opening shot of cattle round a waterhole you know you are in for a film of blockbuster proportions. The story centralises around the cattle rich Benedict family, whose son Bick (Rock Hudson) travels north to buy a horse. He returns with a wife, Lesley (Elizabeth Taylor) after a whirlwind romance and it is her influence on the Benedict clan that permeates the film. Bick's sister (Mercedes McCambridge) resents her, the native Americans adore her for her help in setting up a clinic and the corrosive Jett Rink (James Dean) worships her from afar. The discovery of oil on his land only adds more power to his hatred of Bick and their rivalry spans 30 years, culminating in a dramatic finale. The main stars all turn in great performances and the film is all the more poignant in that James Dean was tragically killed in a car crash at the end of filming. Giant reminds you what a talent we all lost.
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GEORGE STEVENS has devised a subtle nuanced epic which is unique and the most relevant and contemporary art piece to come out of Hollywood in its golden age . The melting pot that is Texas and America is shown in all its vices and virtues and this milieu is integrated in the story with definitive characters who bring the social insouciance of racial hatred and class divide with typical male dominated social hedonism to light in a very cerebral script .

The movie spans two generations of a Texan rancher's family who own half a million acres with Rock Hudson playing the shy laconic owner who falls for the New Englad beauty Liz Taylor and brings her as a rather intimidated bride to a world which is initially alien to her sensibilities .

Then enters James Dean as a farm hand who is entranced by the beauty of Taylor and there are some extremely complex, fascinating and thoroughly well acted sequences between the two where he is trying to mask his admiration by his defensive taciturn character while she is playing a patron to his poor white man ,who she considers is trying to improve himself . The charade ends as jeff [James Dean ]strikes oil and becomes a millionaire in his own right while Rock and Liz Taylor manage to have and raise three kids, who are all rather individually apposite to each other .

The second part of the movie sees them deal with the rather fascinating conflicts created by changing politics and social attitudes as racial bigotry softens and things become more amenable to debate in a more open political arena .

The world war is shown to bring an implacable change and the character of a Hispanic war hero in a cameo is astoundingly good and worthy of a whole movie in its short denouement .
The movie is on a huge lavish scale with exquisite frames and the best work by Dean ,Hudson and Liz taylor ever with perfect performances which are supported by the most adequate wardrobe and make up i have ever seen .

It is also the best American love story and social drama cum epic i have ever seen ,which has both a heart and mind and is neither sentimentally crass nor emotionally expolitative of the audience with a subtle intellect .

The sequences of conflict between the three main characters are absolutely unforgettable as is the finale and the dialogues have a biting insight which uncovers the subconcious emotions of the characters .

Rock Hudson is the best character and he shines here like a true star and actor . The musical score by Dmitri Tiomkin makes every scene even more sensitive and powerful then in any other musical score ever .
Giant descibes the everchanging humanity with a realistic tenderness and optimism yet never foregoes of the harsh reality of life and that makes it unique in American cinema . This is actually better then the Edna Forbes book which was not even true for ''Gone with the wind'' as the book surpassed the movie even though it is a classic .

Stevens has built a rambling ,meticulously observed and ebullient story and then mixed it with the ugly stigma of arrogance and racial condescension while never letting go of the humanity of any of his characters who are all flawed human beings like us but totally convincing in every trivial detail .

This is the best work of James Dean of all his three movies and Liz Taylor only looked better in Cleopatra but that was a different genre all together , as for Hudson, he has played an introverted ,quiet but determined man with stubborn principles and a sense of family honour, which he oozes with grace in every frame .

George Stevens has given a true gift to American cinema and every detail from the older wizened , makeup worn by the 3 main leads to the ranch life in Texas are mesmerizing in every minute detail , but what makes this even more vital is that it is more relevant today in describing the paradox that is America and i speculate it is only going to go on getting better with time .
A giant leap for American cinema which makes others look like dwarves .

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on 10 April 2009
Giant is not just a film about a wealthy rancher who marries an East Coast beauty, raises a family in Texas and has an annoying low-life irritate the heck out of him by setting up an oil field in his back yard. It is a film that shows the changing times when tradition, habit and expectations are turned on their heads. Rock Hudson plays a man for whom life is a set pattern, his father ran the vast family ranch, he took over and his son will take over from him, and his son will take over from him. But times are changing, War has altered people's expectations, the young want to do their own thing. Hudson shows the anger, the bewilderment and vulnerability of a man having to re-think his own expectations of others. Coached, soothed and encouraged by his wife, Liz Taylor, he finally accepts the inevitable and with that a peace of mind. The dangers of having too little then far too much on a character are brilliantly and tragically portrayed by James Dean. Giant is a classic film with a timeless, very human message.
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on 26 May 2004
I remember seeing this film at the cinema when I was 12?? I was totally enthralled, and have since watched it many times on Video. In my opinion this is the best performance that Taylor ever gave, and Rock Hudson was given a chance to do something other than look beautiful. The storyline encompassed many changes in the topographical and sociological make up of the State of Texas (and therefore the USA) and was way ahead of it's time. Hudson's character goes through a sea change before the end of the film. Nowadays it may look naive and a little too "pat" but it was brave for its time. Beautiful photography puts it on a par with The Big Country and James Dean does a lovely job of passing from youthful rebel to the ageing tycoon complete with powdered grey hair. It had a profound effect on me as a kid, and it hasn't dated. You can't say that about many films. The theme is universal- troublesome children, social change, tradition versus money, it's all there. I think this film isd underrated, and will emerge later with a little more kudos than it is given at present.
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on 12 June 2008
George Stevens' 3 hour epic of Texan life strives so hard for serious statements that it ends up as a 3 hour episode of Dallas. Dealing with the two men who love Liz Taylor - stud rock Hudson, and the loner rancher who strikes it rich with oil (James Dean) - the film attempts to conduct some sort of attack on rampant materialism, as well as offering an elegy for the olden times.....

But the pace is plodding as the story tries to cover too many characters. The best character is the fine landscape photography; and Dean's surprisingly convincing portrayal of a middle-aged man- Jett Rink. Unlike Rebel Without a Cause and to a lesser extent East of Eden, Giant is not so much a James Dean film, rather than one in which he plays a leading role rather than being centre stage. And as such, it does give us some insight into how his career might have progressed if he hadn't died during production. (He'd finished shooting all his scenes and was going to make Somebody Up There Likes Me next, when he had his fatal car accident. Nick Adams, uncredited, looped some of his dialogue.)

This dvd is loaded with extras. On Side B of Disc One is a documentary made in 2001, George Stevens: Filmmakers Who Knew Him, a set of interviews with directors old and new who had worked with Stevens. The interviewees, each of whom has a separate chapter to himself, are Warren Beatty, Frank Capra, Rouben Mamoulian, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Alan J. Pakula, Antonio Vellani (associate producer of The Greatest Story Ever Told), Robert Wise and Fred Zinnemann. Although it's a tribute to a famous late director, as quite a few of these men have since passed on themselves, or in Wise's case still alive but very elderly, this is a valuable record of them as well. This featurette is superb.
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on 30 April 2011
I first watched this film whilst on holiday in America in 1980 and it has stayed with me. The recent death of Elizabeth Taylor prompted me to buy it on DVD and watch it again. What an amazing film! It is hugely long so don't try and watch it in one sitting - take your time and enjoy. I loved the story and the cast is brilliant - Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Dennis Hopper. The chemistry between Hudson and Taylor was wonderful and their characters had real passion and humour. This classic is rarely if ever shown on TV and I just don't know why when there are so many rubbish films shown - perhaps it is the length. I will save it to watch again and again.
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on 24 March 2012
This is of course a classic. All films with James Dean are. But this is a social classic about the emergence of the USA as a first rank industrial power.

The Benedicts are one of these super big families in Texas who bought Mexican land for a pittance, mind you something like a dime or a quarter per acre and bunches like half a million, one million or more acres. In other words they were the few rich people who had that kind of cash under their hands and who were able to buy a kingdom for the price of a pigsty.

The last male heir of the family marries a wealthy girl from Washington DC or that vicinity, a girl with an education and a life style who has learned how to be genteel and at the same time empathetic to other people. When she arrives in Texas she is at once shocked by the way Mexican servants are treated and later by the way Mexican servants and workers are living in misery and squalor with absolutely no care from the rich white people from the super enormously big ranch. She is shocked by a baby who is sick and bound to die just because the doctor of the white people is not supposed to take care of the Mexican servants of the estate. She will bring a Mexican doctor later on for them.

Equal but separate and with the means each group has. The poor are equal but poor, so they die young and they are looked down upon as if they were some kind of rattle snakes.

She is also surprised by the fact that the husband goes along with the Texan tradition that women are not in any way taking part in politics, business and the managing of the ranch. She runs into the sister who defends her house and kitchen prerogatives, and she does so well that she will exhaust, mistreat and maim the wife's horse who will of course get rid of her in the good old bronco style and she will die by diving head first onto a piece of rock. The husband will shoot his wife's horse because it is maimed but also out of pure spite.

She will be shocked from the very start how everyone in the family treats the white jack of all trades on the house and ranch, the one who takes care of machines, cars and other practical matters. He is young and purely trodden upon every single time they can do it. The sister in her will gives him a piece of land that is worth nothing. They try to buy him out but he refuses and keeps the piece of land. They do not shoot him on the spot because that happens with a hundred people around for the funeral. And afterwards they just look over him and do not see him at all. He becomes transparent, invisible. Only the wife keeps some distant contact with him.

The husband is a bad father who has decided that his son, out of three children will have to be a rider and a cowboy of some kind. He frightens the boy out of his wits by forcing him to ride a horse at the sweet age of four or so. The wife decides to go back home for a little while with the children.

There we have another image of genteel life: Thanksgiving. The three children feed Pedro, the turkey, and they are seized with unquenchable sadness when they discover the beautiful turkey that is served roasted and all for Thanksgiving dinner is Pedro.

The wife's sister gets married in that period and the wife is the lady of honor or something like that when her husband arrives unannounced. That's a good moment and the two and their children can go home to Texas

The last moment of social hatred comes when the jack of all trades of old who has become the owner of a piece of valueless land gets oil out of his water well and is then rich and that will devastate the old ranch life and their 40,000 or so heads of cattle. But when he comes to announce the good news to the Benedicts, all covered with oil, they don't seem to understand, at least they don't acknowledge the situation and Mr Benedict only finds the occasion amusing enough, or disturbing enough, to punch the man in the face. He gets away though before going he brings the Benedict feudal lord down with three punches.

The moral is given by some member of that rich band: "You should have shot him a long time ago before he got rich." Texas the beautiful in all its splendid imbecility.

Remember the Indians and their starving reservations that now are the zones where rare earths, silver, uranium and a few other natural resources are concentrated giving the Indians today the economic power that makes them great and powerful, and yet without paying one cent of federal or state taxes since Indian reservations are beyond federal and state law.

That's typical of how the whites shot a bullet in their own feet when they had the power to exterminate those they did not like, and now find out that the survivors and descendants of these pariahs are able to turn the course of history around to their own benefit and profit. Never did the whites think that maybe some good equal negotiation and collaboration could have guaranteed a better future. They did not even think of the future. The word "future" was not even in their redneck-bigot dictionary.

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on 22 April 2014
Having owned a visually disappointing DVD of this film for some time I was pleased to be able to finally buy a Blu-ray. The photography of the great, wide plains of Texas was always one of 'Giant's' strengths.

So my disappointment was all the greater when I projected this onto a 96" screen and found that much of the movie is cursed with a soft, often rather blocky image. In several scenes, notably a close-up of Liz Taylor near the start of the story, the image is so out of focus that one is presented with almost double-vision. And no, it's not my home-theatre set-up; I've played other Blu-rays and DVDs and they are fine. Maybe it would be better on a small TV screen.

I have since read that the restorers found many of the elements were badly damaged and they did the best they could so I suppose we should be grateful for what we've got. Certainly the package itself is attractive - there are a number of extras plus a book. So I'm sort of pleased that I upgraded from the even-worse DVD but this is probably the poorest Blu-ray visually in my collection. No one to blame, I guess, except for those long-ago studio executives who allowed a major production like this to rot.
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Orson Welles famously derided the Swiss as the character Harry Lime in Carol Reed's brilliant "The Third Man", by commenting that their long history of peace had only produced the cuckoo clock. A rather good analogy for the Hollywood career of the director George Stevens who made one magnificently ornate cuckoo clock with that fairy tale western "Shane". Alas he made nothing else of note and that sadly includes "Giant".

"Giant" is certainly epic in scope, that cannot be denied. It covers the history of the Benedict's, a Texas cattle ranching family with a mere half a million acres. We follow their lives and loves and those of the Mexican workers on the land. The patriarch of the family is played by Rock Hudson, who was not an inspired choice. He was an actor of limited ability who often appeared stilted. His wife is played by the beautiful Elizabeth Taylor who is much more spirited in her role. Mercedes McCambridge appears all to briefly as Hudson's tom boy sister. James Dean appears memorably as Jet Rink the nemesis of the Benedict's. The old way of life is threatened by the oil boom. Those old Texans Rink and Benedict, who have more in common than they realise, head to a showdown.

Lets look at the good points first. It won't take long. By his mere presence Dean is a breath of fresh air to a very ordinary film. His mumbling Texan with a big chip on his shoulder is a big performance. His body postures in the film have become iconic images to the younger generation that continue to this day. Watching the film today you begin to understand the aura that surrounded him. Who can forget the scene when Jet's first gusher comes in. I also enjoyed the fist fight in the diner to the strains of "The Yellow Rose of Texas". As screen fights go, it was a good one. Well thats the end of the good points. Another reviewer has likened the film to many episodes of Dallas cobbled together and that just about sums it up. It has nothing of substance to say. It does clumsily try to cover the racial prejudice by whites towards Mexicans, and uses the not very original device of marrying off Hudson's son played Dennis Hopper to a Mexican girl. The issue of the divide between the rich and the poor is also covered, but not in any great depth.

Special mention should be made of the very fine cast that was assembled for the film. James Dean and Sal Mineo both from "Rebel without a Cause". A very young Rod Taylor as an Eastern suitor to Liz Taylor. Carroll Baker as the apple pie pretty daughter of Taylor and Hudson. Dennis Hopper early in his long and illustrious career. Earl Holliman playing a "not the sharpest tool in the box" cowboy. The wonderful deep voice of Chill Wills as the ranch sage. Paul Fix that luminary of countless westerns playing one of his biggest later roles as the Eastern doctor father of Liz Taylor.

At the end of the day the film is pure soap opera that has its moments. Unless you are a real fan of the film then the extras are not that interesting. It is certainly easy watching and does not ask any thought provoking questions. It is a bit like eating my favourite culinary delight fish and chips without the salt and vinegar. It fills you up but takes away the enjoyment of the eating. A rather hollow experience that I cannot recommend.
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on 25 June 2003
The picture quality on the DVD is outstanding, but the extras on the second disk make this worth the purchase price. Outstanding documentary, "Return To Giant" that goes back to the location site in Marfa, Texas, and talks with locals who worked on the set. Home movies and candid photos of the stars make this something special. If you want to know just how deeply rooted this film was in the REAL Texas of 1955, check out this documentary. It will help you appreciate the actual film that much more.
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