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Giant (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

George Steven’s big Western epic, which happened to house the final performance of James Dean in a lead role (More of a supporting one honestly, but I’ll go with the tagline here), is coming to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray. Giant is legendary for that Dean finality, but its much more than that. It was a major player in the Academy Awards, being nominated nine times, though on taking home the director trophy for Stevens. This 4K Ultra-HD disc only comes with a commentary track previously released and carries over none of the other previous bonus feature. You’ll be able to order it when it releases on June 21st. And that can be done by using the paid Amazon Associates link that is all the way at the bottom of this review.

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Film

Wealthy Texas rancher Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) shakes things up at home when he returns from a trip to the East Coast with a love interest, the refined Leslie Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor). Bick and Leslie get married, but she clashes with his sister, Luz (Mercedes McCambridge), and wins the admiration of the ambitious young Jett Rink (James Dean). Bick and Jett form a tense rivalry that continues to surface as the years pass and fortunes change in this sweeping drama.

Giant is a sprawling epic following the trials and tribulations of a marriage, pondering your legacy, understanding progress and having an appreciation for youth. Its a movie that features rivalry, fault and points out built in societal issues with things that are considered “norms”. George Stevens’ film feels oddly still progressive and literally wants to fight for what’s right at almost any turn it can. But those with good heads also aren’t without fault, but they still find the desire to learn and better themselves.

There’s a joke you can make here about the title and the cinematography, but this movie looks and feels every bit as huge and cinematic as they come. Its shot on the under appreciated and mostly long gone 1.66:1 aspect ratio. There’s just a huge scale to everything and this is primarily a movie that is about a house in the desert. Said house feels like a monstrous castle the way Stevens has it shot. Everything here feels larger than life, big, grand and just breathtaking to look at. Its so well done, this 3 hour and 21 minute movie could seriously be just as effective and awe inducing when on mute.

But, you probably don’t want to go full mute as the performances in this are outstanding. Yes, James Dean was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor and is terrific and such a rare presence here capture on film. But also nominated in the same category was Rock Hudson and he’s equally terrific. However, the one who wasn’t nominated – Elizabeth Taylor, may just be the most impressive of them all. She carries a grace, power and evolution to her performance that really feels she is living and advancing with the times featured in the film as it passes.

In terms of films in the Western genre that take place after the invention of the automobile, Giant is of its finest hours. In fact, its one of the best Amerciana films you may find. Sure, its noted big time as the final film of James Dean, but seek it out for being a lot more than that. Its a film about everything America and in some themes that are both wonderfully and sadly timeless. The film is also marvelously shot to go with the stellar writing and acting to give you a grand punch for a full journey through this marriage.

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are not taken from the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc. The images are not mine and if you find they are yours and would like them removed or credit attached, please contact us and we will accommodate immediately.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail:  The new 4K restoration of Giant was completed sourcing both the original camera negatives and protection RGB separation master positives for the best possible image, and color corrected in high dynamic range for the latest picture display technology. And it looks marvelous. There are some shots where the style of editing choice back then looks to have zoomed in on an image and it loses some of the sheen. Ditto there are some shots that appear a hair blurrier, but its just the stock and technique of the time. But seriously, this image is crisp and full of great details that will impress the hell out of you while marveling at the glorious cinematography that comes off outstanding in this new transfer.

Depth: Depth of field is strong as ever in this transfer. As I’ve mentioned, this cinematography is humongous and this 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray disc has it feeling huge and really translates the scale here in a big way. Movements are smooth and cinematic with no issues regarding any blur or jitter distortions caused by rapid character motion or camera movement.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and natural and really help to bring the shadows and nighttime moments together while also providing great contrast to bring out extra details and help color pop. No crushing witnessed on this viewing.

Color Reproduction: Color are pretty lavish and beautiful here with such natural and an almost technicolor love to them. They are well saturated and definitely carry a pop, even to the more boring corners of the browns and grays. Reds come off probably the best and most exuberant of the bunch.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent for all almost three and half hours of the movie. Facial features and texture are quite detailed showcasing, wrinkles, freckles, blemishes and make-up strokes and lines.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA, French 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, German 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Italian 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin American) 2.0 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Spanish (Castilian), Dutch, Spanish (Latin American)

Dynamics: The mono track for Giant was sourced primarily from a 1995 protection copy of the Original Magnetic Mono soundtrack. It sounds quite delicious, very fresh and clear. There’s a nice crispness to the vocals as they lead the charge with the score bolstering in wonderfully on this mix. There’s a great balance between vocals, effects and score while having some nice layering and depth to it. This isn’t going to produce surround quality impact, but it does a good job with what is available to do.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras

Giant comes with a redeemable digital code. There were loads of extras for this film on a previous Blu-ray release but that disc isn’t included here and only the commentary is to be found. As of this writing, there are no extras available when the digital code is redeemed either.

Audio Commentary

  • By George Stevens Jr., Screenwriter Ivan Moffat and Film Critic Stephen Farber

Summary

Giant is a hell of a grand Western with equally big dramatics as it holds through a test of time. Warner Bros has brought it to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray for the first time with such a gorgeous presentation based on a newer restoration that folks will no doubt adore. Unfortunately, its wealth of extras are absolutely gone. There’s no standard Blu-ray to house them, they aren’t on the 4K disc and they do not appear with your digital copy redemption. Perhaps on the latter of that they can fix it. The movie is enough to warrant a purchase at whatever price, but it feels like we are being shorted content here.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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