East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, Giant. That's what you call a Complete James Dean Collection, I guess. In each film, he performs a variation on the same outsider identity—perpetually tormented, John Donne style, by an internal good v. evil battle. Red jacket, white t-shirt, blue jeans—I watched Rebel for the first time seven years ago (I know, I know. What took me so long?) and I swear that's all I wanted to wear. You too? Awesome.
East of Eden and Rebel are the only films with new features; you can buy them as a two-disc set if you already own Giant, which came out a few years ago as its own special edition. East of Eden contains one of the collection's more captivating bonus features, Art in Search of Life, which includes interviews with the remaining Steinbecks, and an analysis of how the book translated to the screen. Great for the lit/film junkies. Eden's "director's" commentary by Richard Schikel (a sub for Elia Kazan, who died in 2003) isn't brilliant—we get some bits on Kazan's vision for his film and his discovery of Dean, who grew into his iconic tortured soul as a course of Kazan's direction. But there's also a lot of all-to-obvious philosophizing and random sidebars: "Oh, that's a nice shadow." Maybe if I'd paid more attention it would have been better. Anyways. The screen test between Dean and Richard Davalos is amusing: Dean, as Cal, stumbles home to his fretting brother, Aron, muttering half-sentences and generally not paying him any mind. One can clearly imagine their relationship outside of the set, Dean sweetening up the ladies with his brood; Davalos's 50s purity gradually slinking into a dark corner, a mimic of the gradual decline of Aron.
Two "vintage" docs show up on Eden and Rebel—there's no mention of from when—but there's a bad synth-pop intro on Forever James Dean, so take your own stab at the decade. Rebel's mini-doc, Defiant Innocents, is well done. We learn that director Nicholas Ray wrote up a treatment, Blind Run, which graphically demonstrated the ferocity he wanted to capture on film: 16-year olds whipping a girl; a boy burning a man alive. Watch the film after hearing that, and it becomes something more than "cool."
The set retails for about 50 bucks. And yes, I already own it.