A grand, visually remarkable adaptation of John Steinbeck's novel, East of Eden was one of the films responsible for the cult that grew up around James Dean. Released in 1955, the same year as Dean's Rebel Without a Cause, Eden featured the actor in his sullen, troubled prime, rolling his eyes, mumbling his words, and stuffing his hands into his pockets as only he knew how. At once angry and vulnerable, Dean's performances in both movies established him as an icon of youthful discontent for decades to come. Aside from its place in the Dean iconography, East of Eden remains remarkable for Elia Kazan's use of CinemaScope, capturing with harsh vibrancy the expanse and breathtaking desolation of the California farmlands. The landscape crackles with a moody intensity that mirrors the conflicts among the film's central characters. In this respect, East of Eden earned its place in Hollywood legend: it featured great performances from its human principals, while the scenery gave a spellbinding performance in its own right.
by Rebecca Flint Marx review