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Giant 4K UHD Review

James Dean wows in “Giant.”

Based on the novel of the same name by Edna Ferber, 1956’s “Giant” is an epic melodrama with western elements. The story spans several decades and largely focuses on the characters of Bick Benedict (a wealthy Texas rancher) and Leslie (an east coast socialite). The two are from completely different worlds and yet they wind up getting married to one another. Leslie moves to Texas and initially has trouble settling in and connecting with Bick as they often clash. As time passes, they begin to have children who grow up to have their own children. Amid the Benedict saga, the story of Jet plays an integral role. He starts off as a poor ranch hand who has a crush on Leslie. After Bick’s sister Luz passes away, she gives Jett a piece of land. Bick wants to buy it immediately, but Jett holds onto it. After discovering oil on his property, Jett becomes filthy rich and yet he remains a bitter bachelor who covets Leslie and later Leslie’s daughter Luz II.

Looking back on “Giant” in 2022 is a rather strange experience. It’s simultaneously groundbreaking and dated. Thematically, the script by Ivan Moffat and Fred Guiol is bold and progressive for its time. While the story deals with family (and family legacy), Texas life, land, and romance, it also bravely covers racism, class, and women’s role in society which was rare for the time. At the same time, “Giant” is basically one big Hollywood melodrama (seriously, it’s a very long 198 minutes) that also undercuts its progressive nature by being sexist and racist even as its attempts to address the subjects. Yes, it’s quite perplexing. 

Going back to the epic nature of the movie, Hollywood sure doesn’t make them like this anymore. Under the watchful eye of the always reliable director George Stevens, he manages to create a grand cinematic experience with detailed sets, lavish costumes, and gorgeous cinematography. It’s a true cinematic spectacle through and through.

An epic movie requires an epic cast and this movie also has that in spades with the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Dennis Hopper, Sal Mineo, Mercedes McCambridge and James Dean (in his final film performance). Hudson and Taylor share the majority of the scenes and both turn in some of their finest work. Let’s be real though, the reason to see this movie is James Dean. Not only does he go beyond traditional acting styles with his method acting, but he owns the screen every time he’s on. The way he carries himself, the way he plays Jett, the way he fiddles with rope in a scene- it’s all fascinating. He was so far ahead of his peers and the sky was truly the limit for the actor had it not been for his tragic untimely death. 

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.66:1 2160p. How does it look? The 4K transfer is largely pristine and colorful (although a few shots don’t look the best).

Audio Track: 2.0 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? This is about as clean of an audio track as you can get for a classic movie. 

Extras include a Digital copy and a commentary by George Stevens Jr., co-screenwriter Ivan Moffat and film critic Stephen Farber.

June 20, 2022 - Posted by | 4K UHD Review | , , , ,

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