Glengarry Glen Ross is one of the best films about salesmen ever made. As a story and a work of art, it ranks right up with Death of a Salesman and the Maysles Brothers’ 1969 documentary Salesman.
All-Star Cast and Screenplay
- audio commentaries
- both widescreen and full-frame versions of the film
- documentaries with interviews
- Jack Lemmon on Charlie Rose
John Williamson (Spacey) manages a shady real estate sales office. He gives each salesman two leads, two names of prospective buyers, each day. Lately the leads have been cold. The salesmen blame management for giving them lousy leads, but management places the blame on the salesmen themselves.
An inspirational speaker (Alec Baldwin) is brought in from HQ to whip the slagging salesmen into shape. He introduces a new sales contest for the office. First prize is a new car. Second prize is a chintzy set of knives. Third prize is “you’re fired.” The two surviving salesmen will be allowed to work the “Glengarry” leads, the new leads, the names of people who are ready to buy.
The next day everyone arrives at the office to find that there has been a burglary. The Glengarry leads were stolen, and each of the salesmen is a suspect.
The screenplay by David Mamet is brutal and snappy, and the all-star cast is an acting connoisseur’s dream. Academy Award winners Kevin Spacey, Jack Lemmon, and Al Pacino; and nominees Ed Harris (nominated 3 times) and Alan Arkin (nominated twice), have all had brilliant careers, some leading up to, some beginning with, Glengarry Glen Ross.
Picture and Sound
The new “10 Year Anniversary Special Edition” DVD has two discs. Disc one has the widescreen version of the movie; disc two has the full frame version.
Unfortunately, my copy of disc one was scratched and/or smudged during shipping. An hour in, the disc wouldn’t play at all. I was able to loosen disc one from its holder, partway, with the case closed. Add a little jostling during shipping and it’s not surprising that the disc might have come loose. DVD makers need to find a better way to include two discs into a single keep case.
The right and left sides of the picture are cropped in the full-frame version, however, it has a little bit of vertical information on the top and bottom that are not seen in the widescreen version, indicating the film was shot with both formats in mind. On a small screen, the full frame version will probably have more emotional impact.
The cinematography, by Juan Ruiz Anchia, makes use of unnatural, primary-color lighting. This look gives the movie an exaggerated, brighter-than-life look. One can easily imagine this look fading or burning out on VHS, but on DVD, it looks great.
Both DVDs are encoded with Dolby Digital and DTS sound. Except for the elevated subway train and the rainstorms, which sound great in surround, most of the sound is dialogue from the front speakers.
There are many DVD extras that were created specifically for this 10-year anniversary edition. The trouble is, each of these little documentaries lacks focus.
The interviews in these documentaries are visually inconsistent. One subject is darker, another is lighter, another looks blue. Even if they were visually consistent, the interviews themselves are all over the place — bundled, rather than woven together. Although some of the information ends up being interesting, the documentaries are poorly organized.
“Tribute to Jack Lemmon” is the more coherent of the two. It features interviews with the likes of Jack’s son Chris Lemmon; actor Peter Gallagher; and John Avildsen, who directed Lemmon to his Oscar in Save the Tiger. James Lipton, who hosts “Inside the Actors Studio,” recalls Jack confessing to his own alcoholism on his show, one of the most moving moments in this documentary. Chris recalls his father’s dying breath, a moment that was perhaps too personal and that would have been better kept private.
The bonus features also include a segment with Jack Lemmon on the Charlie Rose show, in which he talks about getting better, richer roles with age, even if the parts become more scarce.
There are two audio commentaries. On disc one is a commentary with director James Foley. On disc two are commentaries by Baldwin, Anchia, Arkin, and production designer Jane Musky. The commentaries are nice because they are short. They are not artificially drawn out to the full length of the film, and they are organized into thematic segments if you access them from the menu.
Although there are some rambling comments, most are interesting to audiences. Anchia describes the primary color scheme as also being “primal.” Director James Foley unabashedly says that Mamet’s film script is better than his Pulitzer-winning play. Alec Baldwin recalls almost making Jack Lemmon cry during one take. Alan Arkin almost turned down the part because he “didn’t feel like Mamet liked my character.” And several people mentioned the importance of set design, in particular the arrangement of the desks in the office.
Glengarry Glen Ross is a very good movie, and except for the packaging, the DVD presentation is excellent. There are lots of extras, although not all of them are completely worth viewing. In any event, after ten years, Artisan’s 2-DVD set is worth a look, even if you only rent it.