Originally envisioned by Warner Brothers as a B-movie project, Rebel Without A Cause director Nicholas Ray began shooting the movie in black-and-white film stock. That is, until studio head Jack Warner realized that James Dean was a star in the making. The film was reshot in color and Cinemascope and the rest is history. Released in the United States on October 27, 1955, James Dean would die in a car accident less than a month later. Just twenty-four years old, Rebel Without A Cause turned Dean into an icon.

At a Los Angeles police station, the lives of three troubled teenagers intersect. It’s Jim Stark’s (Dean) first day at yet another high school. His parents have been forced to move because he got in trouble at his last school. Last night, he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly. Making matters worse, Jim’s had to endure his parents, Frank (Jim Backus) and Carol (Ann Doran) bickering between themselves, as they pick him up from the station. A “good girl going bad,” Judy (Natalie Wood) has been brought in on a curfew violation. Her father (William Hopper) is cold and distant around Judy, despite her desperation for his attention. Rich boy John “Plato” Crawford (Sal Mineo), brought in for killing a litter of puppies, has been largely abandoned by his traveling mother; his father is long gone. In their place is the family’s caring maid (Marietta Canty).

On the way to school the next day, Jim tries to befriend Judy (she happens to live nearby), but she’s unimpressed. Judy is already part of a group of delinquents led by Buzz Gunderson (Corey Allen), who immediately targets Jim. Shunned by the rest of the kids in school, Jim finds a friend in Plato who sees him as a father figure. After an unfinished knife fight outside the Griffith Observatory, Jim and Buzz agree to face each other in a chicken race…

The plot isn’t much, but James Dean’s performance is a revelation. From his smile to his anguished cries of desperation, Dean embodied a troubled teen. You feel for him and he’s relatable Yet, almost seventy years later, he remains the epitome of cool. The rest of the cast is fine, but attention drifts whenever Dean isn’t onscreen. Natalie Wood pouts and cries a lot as Judy. Sal Mineo’s Plato is the saddest character of the bunch. Mineo has his own chemistry and relatability. I’ve always believed he should have become a bigger star than he did. Jim Backus of Gilligan’s Island fame is effective as Dean’s father who can’t relate to his son.

As an aside, Dennis Hopper makes a brief appearance as one of the delinquents.

Presented in the 2:55.1aspect ratio, Warner Brothers 4K transfer is strong throughout. Sharpness is fine, though there are a few instances of slight softness. Nonetheless, delineation is strong. A consistent level of grain lends to a filmic look. No shimmering or other print flaws are evident. Heavy DNR use isn’t apparent. Colors are strong. Blues and reds are particularly vivid. HDR adds real pop to the proceedings. Viewers should be very pleased with this transfer.

The film’s remixed Dolby Atmos track sounds impressive for a film of its age. The films score benefits from the additional channels. I’ve never noticed it as much as I did here. Effects also show some mild panning. Dialogue sounds slightly thin at times, but remains clear and concise, nonetheless. There are no signs of distortion or other issues.

English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are included.

Aside from the audio commentary on the 4K disc, all extras are on the included Blu-ray. The extras are the same ones that appeared on the 2013 Blu-ray disc. A digital copy of the film is also available.

4K UHD Disc:

  • Audio Commentary by “The Making of Rebel Without a Cause” author Douglas L. Rathgeb

Blu-ray Disc:

  • Audio Commentary by “The Making of Rebel Without a Cause” author Douglas L. Rathgeb
  • James Dean Remembered (106:22)
  • Rebel Without a Cause: Defiant Innocents (36:30)
  • Dennis Hopper: Memories from the Warner Lot (10:31)
  • Screen Tests (3 clips, 6:27 total)
  • Wardrobe Tests (5:05 total)
  • Black & White Deleted Scenes Without Sound (5 clips)
  • Color Deleted Scenes Without Sound (11 clips)
  • Behind the Cameras (3 clips)
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:25)