Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 24th, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1975
Director: Ray Connolly
Narrator: Stacy Keach
Cast: James Dean, Carroll Baker, Leslie Caron, Adeline Nall, Vampira, Gene Owen, Christine White, Natalie Wood, Corey Allen, Sammy Davis Jr., Dennis Hopper, Kenneth Kendall, Jack Larson, Sal Mineo, Hal Owen, Nicholas Ray, Leonard Rosenman, Captain E. Tripke, Peter Witt, Marcus Winslow, Pier Angeli, Elizabeth Taylor
DVD released: September 29th, 2009
Approximate running time: 77 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Redemption Films
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
“To grasp the full significance of life is the actor’s duty; to interpret it his problem and to express it his dedication. Being an actor is the loneliest thing in the world. You are all alone with your concentration and imagination, and that’s all you have. Being a good actor isn’t easy. Being a man is even harder. I want to be both before I’m done.” – James Dean
James Dean had worked primary on television before getting his first big break, East of Eden his only role as a leading man to be released before his tragic death on September 30th, 1955. At the time of his death, he had two other major film roles that had yet to be released a Rebel without a Cause and Giant. He would receive posthumously Oscar nominations for his performances East of Eden and Giant. Even though his career only spanned a few years. His overall impact on cinema has never waned in the subsequent years following his death.
James Dean: The First American Teenager begins by retracing his life from his humble beginnings as a farm boy in from Marion, Indiana, his career as an actor and the events surrounding his tragic death. The documentary does a good job mixing photos of James Dean through the various stages of his life with interviews from those who knew him. The film’s use of narration helps fill in additional information not covered elsewhere in the documentary. The documentary also features many choice clips from his television and movie performances. While this documentary is not without its flaws the overall content is definitely worthwhile.
Trying to define the enigma of James Dean has proved to be an insurmountable task. There have been numerous documentaries the first one being the, The James Dean Story in 1957 and more recently James Dean: Forever Young in 2005. Content wise James Dean: The First American Teenager falls somewhere in-between the two aforementioned documentaries, the incredibly flawed The James Dean Story and more polished James Dean: Forever Young.
Redemption Films presents James Dean: The First American Teenager in a 1.33:1 (full frame) aspect ratio. This transfer has not been flagged for progressive playback. This documentary I made up of images, clips from movies and T.V. shows that James Dean appeared in and interviews with those who knew and worked with him. The quality varies throughout as some sources used for this documentary are not in as good of shape as other sources used. The overall quality of this transfer looks very good with edge enhancement kept to a minimum and the image remains stable throughout.
This release comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. There is some mild distortion (most noticeable when music is playing from the score) and I also noticed background noise that varies in degree throughout. All of the narration and comments from those interviewed fare well as they come off clear enough to follow.
Extras for this release include a stills gallery that has comments from those interviewed in the documentary playing in the background. Also included with this release are trailers for Girl on a Motorcycle, Prey, Fascination and Cold Eyes of Fear. Overall James Dean: The First American Teenager gets a serviceable audio / video presentation from Redemption Films.