Since the DVD format came out over five years ago, the one title I most coveted was Glengarry Glen Ross. My favorite David Mamet play turned movie however, has been unavailable on DVD until now. There was a special edition laserdisc many years ago, but seeing as how I never owned an LD player, I just had to wait. Not anymore.
This 2 disc set is very much worthy of the moniker "special edition." There are plenty of goodies to keep even the most ardent GGGR fan busy for hours. Disc One consists of the widescreen version of the movie in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The original film was shot using mattes and not anamorphic, so if you've previously seen the film on home video, you're actually seeing more than director James Foley intended, as the mattes are simply removed from the top and bottom to make the picture match the 1.33:1 aspect ratio of standard TV screens. Due to the simple process of removing the mattes, there is no "pan and scan," but I will always prefer the widescreen version of any film, because that's how it was projected theatrically and that how the director frames his shots. Not everybody (especially those with small television screens) prefers widescreen however, and this DVD doesn't disappoint, as BOTH versions are available to view.
How does the picture look? Well, considering I've actually never seen GGGR projected theatrically, and the only experience I have seeing it is on VHS, all I can say is it looks fantastic. The newly remastered picture is sharp and clean, free of digital artifacting with minimal grain, nor any visible film defects from the transfer to DVD. The widescreen version is also enhanced for widscreen TV's, so those of you on the bleeding edge of technology can benefit from even further visual enhancement. The menus are also enhanced for widscreen TV's, so that's a nice little bonus as well.
And the audio? The special edition has brand new 5.1 surround tracks, both in Dolby Digital and DTS. Let's face it, GGGR is not Armageddon, and thank God for that. In that I mean there are no big explosions and bombs bursting in air to help anger your neighbors when their dishes all break from the booming bass. That being said, the 5.1 tracks while being subtle, still help to envelope the viewer, and you can occasionally hear the passing subway trains in the rear speakers, and the jazz soundtrack and rainy night motif benefit greatly from the surround sound field. While the issue of DTS vs. Dolby Digital is a religious argument for some, I would think only those folks with top-notch home theater equipment will be able to tell the difference. I switched back and forth, and couldn't really tell any difference on my system. And For those of you without any surround sound equipment, there are 2 Dolby 2.0 stereo tracks as well, one in English and one in French. There are also English and Spanish subtitles for the hard of hearing, or for those who just like to read their movies.
Let's talk about extras. The bonus features on this DVD range from the ludicrous to the informative to the just plain awesome. The whole gamut. There's a commentary on selected scenes from director James Foley on the widescreen version. I'm aware that there is a commentary track on the old LD as well, but I don't know if this is the same one reedited or a newly recorded track. Foley offers lots of insight into the film as well as working with such a powerhouse cast. On the second disc, there are audio commentaries for selected scenes with cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchia, Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, and production designer Jane Musky. You can watch the film and the various commentaries for hours, and still not hear it all. Awesome if you're a filmmaker, actor, or anyone interested in the process of making a film.
Featurettes and documentaries are also a plenty in this set. On the first disc there is a tribute to Jack Lemmon, whom the world lost last year. It's a nice little piece containing interviews with Chris Lemmon, his son, and former star of the FOX TV show Duets (c'mon, I can't be the only one who remembers it!), actor Peter Gallagher, director John G. Avildsen, among others.
On the second disc, there are two main documentaries, ABC: Always Be Closing, which is an in depth look at the psychology behind being a salesman, and how GGGR plays a role in salesmanship today. It's somewhat informative, but very often it misses the mark, and seems very shoddily pieced together, and not really directly related to the film itself. The second documentary, J. Roy: New and Used Furniture, is an old doc from the 50's, I suppose, and is also a look at salesman and salesmanship. It's completely unrelated to the film itself, other than sharing the same subject matter, and really has no place on this DVD whatsoever. It's the only black eye on an otherwise sterling set. If you never watch it, believe me, you're not missing a thing.
There are also interview clips from The Charlie Rose Show with Jack Lemmon and Inside The Actor's Studio with Kevin Spacey, which are AWESOME, and well worth watching... over and over again. In addition to the featurettes, there are also the obligatory cast and crew bios, and production notes.
So all told, this is certainly a special edition worthy of its name. While the two main featurettes are uneven and almost unneccessary, the rest of the set is jam packed with fun stuff that will keep even the most ardent Mamet fan busy for hours. If it was just the film being released, that would be more than enough for those of us who have been waiting for so long, but the great folks at Artisan have shown that they respect this film so very much, and have taken the time and effort to get its release on DVD just right. It's about time.
Copyright © 2002 Jason Charnick.