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Special 'Rebel' a Fascinating Look at Dean

June 28, 1996|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's a big month for James Dean fans. This past Monday, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 32-cent stamp in honor of the actor. And Warner Home Video's new Warner Bros. Classics line has reissued his 1955 landmark drama, "Rebel Without a Cause," ($20) with some terrific additional footage.

Included in this special edition is the letterbox trailer of the Nicholas Ray-directed classic, which was released a month after the 24-year-old Dean was killed in a car crash on Sept. 30, 1955.

The video also features two installments of "Behind the Cameras," hosted by Gig Young, which was a segment of a short-lived 1955-56 ABC series, "Warner Brothers Presents."

In the first sequence, Young shows behind-the-scenes footage of the knife fight between Jim Stark (Dean) and Buzz (Corey Allen), plus staged "spontaneous" interviews with co-star Natalie Wood and producer David Weisbart.

The second sequence features Young's infamous and eerie interview with Dean, dressed in western garb for his role in "Giant," who talks about the dangers of driving fast on the highway. After Dean's death, this interview was replaced with one with Jim Backus, who played Dean's ineffectual father in the movie. The video contains both interviews.

The really juicy stuff, recently discovered in the Warner Bros. vaults, follows the "Behind the Cameras" featurettes. "Rebel" was originally planned to be shot in black-and-white, but studio head Jack Warner changed his mind after seeing dailies from the first three days of filming. The video features scenes from this early footage in which Dean appears for the only time on screen in glasses.

Next is a black-and-white test where Dean and Allen meet the rest of the cast.

A real find is Sal Mineo's black-and-white test with Dean and Wood on the set that had originally been built for "A Streetcar Named Desire." Also included is the alternative, artsy ending to the movie and bits from the original opening in which viewers will discover the reason behind the toy monkey. Fascinating stuff.

Making its debut on Warner Bros. Classics is 1958's "The Old Man and the Sea" ($20), starring Spencer Tracy in a fine, Oscar-nominated performance as an old Cuban fisherman who catches a gigantic marlin.

There's a lot to admire in this adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's award-winning novel, including James Wong Howe's shimmering cinematography and Dimitri Tiomkin's Oscar-winning score. But the John Sturges-directed drama moves at a snail's pace.

This edition also includes the trailer and a short documentary containing recently discovered footage of Hemingway fishing for marlin while location scouting for the picture.

Also new on Warners is the restored 1955 costume drama "Helen of Troy" ($20), which includes three "Behind the Cameras" clips and the 5 1/2-minute overture. Unfortunately, the acting by the leads--Rosanna Podesta and Jack Sernas--is slightly more wooden than the horse. Directed by the usually wonderful Robert Wise, this lavish epic should have been titled "Helen of Tedium."

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Oldies but Goodies: Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk! This Tuesday, Columbia TriStar releases six volumes of vintage "The Three Stooges" shorts ($15 each) starring knuckleheads Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp.

FoxVideo's Studio Classics' July release is the 1957 satire "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" ($20), starring Tony Randall and Jayne Mansfield.

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Documentary: "That High Lonesome Sound" (Shanachie Entertainment, $20) contains filmmaker John Cohen's three inspired documentaries, circa 1960s, on traditional American music. "The High Lonesome Sound" looks at Kentucky singer-guitarist Roscoe Lee Holcomb. "The End of an Old Song" focuses on Dillard Chandler, one of the last unaccompanied ballad singers. And "Sara and Maybelle" reunites two members of the legendary Carter family.

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Television Fare: A&E presents six comedies from the popular "Jeeves & Wooster" series ($20 each, $100 for the set), which aired on PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre." Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry star in the funny adaptations of P.G. Wodehouse's stories.

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Coming Next Week: Richard Dreyfuss received an Oscar nomination for his performance as a music teacher in "Mr. Holland's Opus" (Hollywood).

John Travolta and Christian Slater star in John Woo's action-thriller "Broken Arrow" (FoxVideo).

"Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam" (BMG) is British director Nick Bromfield's fascinating, fun and sleazy look at the woman behind the infamous scandal that rocked Tinseltown.

A listless Whoopi Goldberg can't salvage "Theodore Rex" (New Line), a $35-million straight-to-video turkey, about a hard-core detective (Goldberg) forced to become partners with a cookie-loving Tyrannosaurus rex (voiced by George Newburn). It's a major dino-snore. Also new: "For Better or Worse" (Turner Home Video); "Exit" (Republic); "Undertow" (Republic); "Texas Payback" (Cabin Fever).

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