As we approach the 54th anniversary of James Dean’s tragic death behind the wheel of his Porsche Spyder on a California highway, it’s harder than ever to separate the legend from the artist. One way to do it, though, is to go back to his art, particularly his contributions to three iconic films of the mid-1950s: East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant. Less familiar are his stage and television appearances. Unfortunately, we can only read about the stage work, but 10 of his television appearances are collected in a new two-disc set, James Dean: The Fast Lane.
You’ll need a certain amount of patience, or perhaps obsessive interest, to sit through some of these rather moldy-looking antiques, but if you’re a true Dean fan, it’s worth it. The set doesn’t include the three Dean film classics, but it does contain a rather dreary (if still essential) 1957 documentary, The James Dean Story, directed by none other than Robert Altman. Infinity Entertainment Group (infinity-entertainmentgroup.com). —Review: Jack Varsi