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Rebel Without a Cause (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements

SUMMARY

A troubled teen runs afoul with a gang at his new school and tragedy ensues.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

One of the three starring roles for the brief and tragic career of James Dean, Rebel Without a Cause is arguably his strongest and most memorable performance.

Dean plays troubled teenager Jimmy Stark, whom we first meet getting dragged into a precinct and arrested on drunken disorderly charge. His troubles have been so ongoing that his overwhelmed parents (Jim Backus and Ann Doran) have been moving around from town-to-town to help their son and to run from the social shame caused by their son’s issues. Newly arrived at a new high school where he makes friends with troubled Plato (Sal Mineo), a delicate boy who has begun killing puppies to get attention from his absentee parents, and tries to get the attention of his pretty neighbor Judy (Natalie Wood), a good girl gone wrong  who is acting out due to issues communicating with her father (William Hopper).

Jimmy at once runs afoul of a gang of tuffs led by Judy’s boyfriend Buzz (Corey Allen). A knife fight ensues, it ends in things unsettled, but then a “chicken run” race towards a cliff is decided upon to prove their “manhood,” so to speak. Inevitable this leads to tragic results, with Jimmy, first trying to seek help from his parents, notably his feckless father, has a violent blow-up with his dad and runs off into the windy night. He finds sanctuary with fellow misfits Plato and Judy in an abandoned mansion in the hills.

Rebel Without a Cause hit at a time when films about troubled teenagers were trendy, coming after Marlon Brando’s The Wild Ones (1953), who was originally slated to play the role of Jimmy. Nicholas Ray (Johnny Guitar) took the material and managed it with superb delicacy, unlike many of the B-quality films that would eventually flood the genre. The gay subtext of the relationship between Sal Mineo’s Plato and Jimmy is hinted at, the incestuous relationship causing problems between Judy and her father is known without being stated, and Ray draws out a believably tortured performance from an already 24-year-old Dean as an angsty teen.

The cherry red jacket that Dean dons would become iconic and the idea of death by car crash is chillingly prophetic. The film would go on to garner several Academy Award and BAFTA nominations and would get Natalie Wood a Most Promising Newcomer – Female Golden Globe Award.

  • Natalie Wood and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
  • Sal Mineo and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
  • James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
  • Rebel Without a Cause 4K Ultra HD Combo (Warner Bros.)
  • Rebel Without a Cause 4K Ultra HD Combo (Warner Bros.)

The Video

Rebel Without a Cause appears in a 2.55:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) HDR10 encodement. This is a generally strong looking restoration and transfer that yields sharp detail and only softens in some areas where the production causes it due to visual effects dupes. There are some instances of ringing around the edges of characters but that is again due to the production. Very slight film softness creeps in here and there, but this looks particularly strong, organic, and clean especially given the film’s age. Colors ‘pop’ thanks to the wide color gamut. Comparing Dean’s red jacket on the 4K versus the Blu-ray, one can see on the 4K how it looks so much more vivid and cherry red where on the Blu-ray it is much flatter, almost a ‘matte’ looking red.

The Audio

Rebel Without a Cause surprisingly comes to 4K Ultra HD with a Dolby Atmos remix. The 2013 Blu-ray (included here) has a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. I cannot say for sure, but I would speculate that both of these mixes take as their jumping off point the original 4-track stereo mix the film was available with in addition to the monaural mix. The Atmos mix opens up the soundscape with atmospherics and provides fuller sounding dialogue and space for the score to breathe, but there is not much difference between this and the 5.1 mix. The mono mix by necessity collapses but still supplies plenty of clarity.

The Supplements

The previously released supplements are included mainly on the Blu-ray other than the audio commentary included on both discs.

  • Movies Anywhere Digital Code
  • Commentary by Douglas L. Rathgeb
  • Blu-ray with Feature Film and Special Features

Rebel Without a Cause Special Features on Blu-ray:

  • Commentary by Douglas L. Rathgeb
  • Behind the Scenes: James Dean Remembered (SD; 01:06:22)
  • Behind the Scenes: Rebel Without a Cause: Defiant Innocents (SD; 00:36:30)
  • Behind the Scenes: Dennis Hopper: Memories from the Warner Lot (1080i; 00:10:31)
  • Screen Tests (SD; 00:06:27)
  • Wardrobe Tests (SD; 00:05:05)
  • Black & White Deleted Scenes Without Sound:
    • Kids Exit the Planetarium (SD; 00:02:42)
    • Gang Outside the Planetarium (SD; 00:01:12)
    • Gang Outside the Planetarium (Alternate Angle) (SD; 00:02:41)
    • Plato Gets on the Bus (SD; 00:03:01)
    • Kids Run Down the Ramp (SD: 00:00:55)
  • Color Deleted Scenes Without Sound:
    • Kids Drive Up to School (SD; 00:01:36)
    • Kids Walk Up to School (SD; 00:00:57)
    • Kids Leave School (SD; 00:00:31)
    • Jim Sees Judy (SD; 00:00:55)
    • Kids Leave the Planetarium Auditorium (SD; 00:03:04)
    • Jim Hustled into Precinct (SD; 00:00:51)
    • Gang Attacks Plato (SD; 00:00:49)
    • Gang Attacks Man (SD; 00:01:43)
    • Cops Arrive at the Planetarium (SD; 00:00:58)
    • Parents Arrive at the Planetarium (SD; 00:01:20)
    • Plato Falls from the Planetarium Dome (Alternate Ending) (SD; 00:00:36)
    • Behind the Cameras:
      • Natalie Wood (SD; 00:07:57)
      • Jim Backus (SD; 00:05:47)
      • James Dean (SD; 00:07:44)
    • Theatrical Trailer (SD; 00:02:25)

The Final Assessment

This classic film about teen angst and one of James Dean’s only three starring roles still holds up nearly 70-years later. Warner Bros. delivers the film on a sumptuous 4K release that is worthy of its place in film history.


Rebel Without a Cause is out on 4K Ultra HD Combo April 18, 2023 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.


  • Rating Certificate: PG-13 (2005)
  • Studios & Distributors: Warner Bros. | Studio Distribution Services (SDS) | Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
  • Director: Nicholas Ray
  • Written By: Stewart Stern | Irving Shulman | Nicholas Ray
  • Run Time: 111 Mins.
  • Street Date: 18 April 2023
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: HDR10
  • HDR10 Metadate:
    • MaxLL: 2105 nits
    • MaxFALL: 147 nits
  • Primary Audio: English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible)
  • Secondary Audio: Original Theatrical English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono | French DD 1.0 | German DD 1.0 | Italian DD 1.0 | Spanish (Castilian) DD 1.0 | Spanish (Latino) DD 1.0
  • Subtitles: English SDH | French | German SDH |Italian SDH | Spanish (Castilian) | Dutch | Chinese | Korean | Spanish (Latino)
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A troubled teen runs afoul with a gang at his new school and tragedy ensues. Rebel Without a Cause (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)