Glengarry Glen Ross: Collector’s Edition

BLU-RAY REVIEW 

Street Date 6/2/20;
Shout! Factory;
Drama;
$22.97 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for language including sexual references.
Stars Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, Jonathan Pryce, Jude Ciccolella, Bruce Altman.

Some movies just have a way of getting in your head and wrapping themselves around your brain. Glengarry Glen Ross, based on David Mamet’s stage play, is such a film. With a powerhouse cast (including four Academy Award winners) delivering juicy dialogue, how could it not be? Don’t be surprised if you find yourself quoting the film with regularity after a viewing.

In the 1992 film, as with the play, we meet four real-estate salesmen who will do anything to sell worthless property to customers who don’t want it.

Mamet has found a way to cram so many worthwhile themes, from transition to desperation, into such a simple framework. Jack Lemmon plays Shelley “The Machine” Levine, an elderly salesman who has fallen on hard times. Al Pacino plays smooth-talker Ricky Roma, who is in the midst of a winning streak. Alec Baldwin plays a hotshot from downtown who shows up in a classic cameo written specifically for the actor for the screen version. All are pitch perfect.

Baldwin puts the fear of God into the salesmen by telling them to close a deal or they’re fired. The next day, the office has been ransacked. Sensitive documents have been stolen. The subsequent investigation quickly gives way to one of the classic verbal beatdowns in cinema history, when Pacino berates the inept office manager, played by Kevin Spacey, after he costs Roma a big sale.

These are scenes you could watch again and again with continued fascination at the skill with which these performers give life to the words on the page. Mamet’s screenplay, which he adapted himself, is often hailed as being better than the stage version due to the inclusion of the Baldwin scene, which crystalizes the stakes of the story in a way the stage production only hints at.

Surprisingly, despite its legacy and acclaim, the film earned just one Academy Award nomination, Pacino for Best Supporting Actor. Pacino would lose that race to Gene Hackman in Unforgiven, but got the last laugh the same year when he took home Best Actor for Scent of a Woman. For some people it’s just in the cards. (When the movie came out, Lemmon had been the only Oscar winner in the cast. After Pacino, Spacey and Alan Arkin would later win Oscars, with Baldwin, Ed Harris and Jonathan Pryce earning Oscar nominations).

The new Shout Select Blu-ray presents the film with a gorgeous new 4K digital transfer from the original camera negative that offers a crisp, vivid image. Being sourced from a loquacious stage play, the film’s visual splendors are secondary concerns, though director James Foley and cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchía do their best to enhance the dreary ambiance of the piece with moody shadows and reflections of rain while bathing the characters in various shades of neon.

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In terms of bonus material, the new Blu-ray offers a healthy mix of old and new extras.

The first of the new additions is a 30-minute interview with Foley as he reflects on the development of the film version and the relative ease of the production since he was working with such a talented cast and a tight screenplay. The other is “God Bless Ricky Roma,” a 24-minute interview with actor Joe Mantegna, who won a Tony playing Roma on Broadway in the 1980s.

The Shout Blu-ray also includes two half-hour documentaries from the old 10th anniversary DVD from 1992 that were subsequently included on Lionsgate’s 2016 Blu-ray edition: the “ABC: Always Be Closing” documentary about the psychological intersection of fictional and real-life salesmen, and the “Magic Time: A Tribute to Jack Lemmon” documentary.

The disc also includes two commentary tracks. One comes from Foley that originated on the 10th anniversary DVD and was included on the Blu-ray as well. He offers some good stories about the production, some of which he also recounts in the new interview, but there are lengthy gaps where he just lets the film run without saying a word.

The other commentary is by Jack Lemmon, originally recorded for the 1992 Laserdisc of the film but missing from subsequent disc releases, so it makes a welcome return here. Lemmon is effusive in his praise for his fellow cast members, whom he calls the most talented bunch he ever worked with. His commentary is a fantastic intermingling of stories from the set with tales of old Hollywood from the 1950s and ’60s.

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As to what didn’t make it from previous releases, the new Blu-ray jettisons a 10-minute clip of Lemmon on the Charlie Rose show talking about the movie in 1992, and a two-minute bit of Kevin Spacey reciting his “Go to lunch” scene with an audience member on “Inside the Actors Studio.” Both were featured on both the previous DVD and Blu-ray releases, but their absence here is understandable given the problematic revelations regarding both Rose and Spacey that have popped up in recent years. It’s a shame to lose the reflections from Lemmon in the Rose piece, though.

In addition, a couple of extras from the old DVD that didn’t carry over to the 2016 Blu-ray also aren’t resurrected here. These include a scene-specific commentary from the cast and crew, and filmmaker Tony Buba’s short documentary “J. Roy: New and Used Furniture.” So completist collectors who have that 10th anniversary DVD might want to pair this new Blu-ray with the second disc from that set (which offers the pan-and-scan version of the movie along with the extras missing from the later Blu-rays).

Shout Select Presents ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ Collector’s Edition Blu-ray June 2

Shout! Factory’s premium home video label, Shout Select, June 2 will release a collector’s edition Blu-ray of the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross.

Adapted from the play by David Mamet, the film tracks a group of down-on-their luck Chicago real-estate salesman as they try to meet the month’s sale’s goals in order to avoid being fired.

The cast includes Al Pacino in an Oscar-nominated performance, plus Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Pryce and Alec Baldwin as the motivational speaker whose cameo was written into the film version.

The Shout! Blu-ray edition includes a new 4K transfer from the original camera negative; a new conversation with director James Foley; a new “God Bless Ricky Roma” featurette in which actor Joe Mantegna remembers working with Mamet on a stage production of the story; an “A.B.C. ‘Always Be Closing’ featurette; a “Magic Time: A Tribute To Jack Lemmon” featurette; and separate commentaries with Foley and Lemmon.

Shout Select Releasing ‘Deer Hunter’ 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray May 26

Shout Select, the premium imprint of indie distributor Shout! Factory, will release The Deer Hunter on 4K Ultra HD disc for the first time May 26.

The Deer Hunter: Collector’s Edition two-disc combo pack will present the 1978 Best Picture Oscar winner on both a 4K disc and a regular Blu-ray Disc loaded with bonus features including new interviews with the cast and filmmakers.

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The film follows a group of Pennsylvania steelworkers from their blue-collar lives, hunting in the woods of the Alleghenies, to the hell of the Vietnam War. The cast includes Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Cazale, John Savage and Meryl Streep.

In addition to Best Picture, the film won Academy Awards for director Michael Cimino, Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Walken, Best Sound and Best Film Editing.

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Both the 4K and Blu-ray discs will include audio commentary by cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and journalist Bob Fisher.

The Blu-ray will also include new interviews with Savage, actress Rutanya Alda, producer Michael Deeley, post-production supervisor Katy Haber and Universal Marketing executive Willette Klausner. Other extras include an interview with film critic David Thomson, deleted and extended scenes, a theatrical trailer, radio spots and a still gallery.

Fans who preorder the combo pack from ShoutFactory.com will also receive an exclusive 18x 24-inch poster, while supplies last.

30th Anniversary Blu-ray of ‘The Wizard’ Due March 24

Shout! Factory will release The Wizard: Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray Disc through the Shout Select premium imprint March 24, 2020.

The 1989 film tells the story of young Jimmy Woods (Luke Edwards), who runs away to California with his brother, Corey (Fred Savage), while being pursued by their father (Beau Bridges) and older brother (Christian Slater). Along the way they encounter street-smart teen Haley (Jenny Lewis), and discover Jimmy’s hidden talent for video games, leading them to enroll in a tournament at Universal Studios.

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The two-disc collector’s edition includes a new 4K scan of the film and new bonus features, including an audio commentary from director Todd Holland and never-before-released deleted scenes.

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Featurettes include “The Road to Cali-forn-ia,” a retrospective with new interviews from Holland Savage and Edwards, writer-producer David Chisholm, producer Ken Topolsky and more; “How Can I Help You? Confessions of a Game Play Counselor”; “A Clinical Analysis of The Wizard”; and a post-screening Q&A from the Let’s Play Gaming Expo 2019 with Edwards, Chisholm and Topolsky.

The set also includes trailers and a photo gallery.

 

This Gun for Hire

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Shout! Factory;
Drama;
$29.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Veronica Lake, Robert Preston, Laird Cregar, Alan Ladd.

The best of the Alan Ladd-Veronica Lake quartet was also the duo’s first teaming, and 1942’s This Gun for Hire came so early in that brainstorm’s six-year run that Ladd was only billed fourth in the ads despite playing the central character. Audiences then rectified this situation in a flash when Gun made Ladd an overnight superstar who quickly became Paramount’s top non-comedic male lead until the early 1950s, though “overnight” is a stretch. Ladd had knocked around in bit parts for an age, and you can even recognize his superb radio voice on the soundtrack Citizen Kane if you’re tipped off going in.

The heights of these two fair-hairs were compatible (Lake was only 4-foot-11 —all of it va-voom-ness until she quickly self-destructed). And the team’s somnambulant acting styles somehow managed to mesh when one might logically assume that the opposite might be true. In this adaptation of a Graham Greene novel with wartime subtext quickly shoehorned in (production apparently wrapped on Dec 8, 1941), Ladd plays a twisted hired killer who got that way due to a sadistic aunt who beat him so badly that he has a deformed wrist to show for it, a first-rate clue for authorities who are trying to track him down. He likes the defenseless (cats and a little girl with braces on her legs) and people who are nice to him if given the chance, though there aren’t many of those. But Lake is.

As a sniveling mid-level lackey to a doddering Mr. Big, the gargantuan character actor Laird Cregar (a personal favorite) hires Ladd to knock off an intermediary in the theft of a McGuffin-ish chemical formula about to be treasonously sold to a foreign power for big bucks. Cregar’s “front” is to be the owner/promoter of a nightclub where Lake and her magic act are hired to perform. The movie is so beautifully put together that despite a wired-tight running time of just 81 minutes, the studio found a way to give singing magician Lake a pair of numbers, without interrupting or jarring the narrative and, in fact, enhancing it.

Cregar, who died at 30 when he looked 50, was another Hollywood casualty who was forced into the closet (a crash diet he launched, which altered his look in swan song Hangover Square, was the catalyst for his death). His demeanor here is certainly gay — yet he’s really convincing as one who looks as if he’d like to make a little of his own magic with Lake. Well, that’s out — as if it would ever happen, anyway — because she has a cop boyfriend played by the young Robert Preston in the kind of thankless role that eventually instigated his bolting from Hollywood until Broadway’s The Music Man gave him a second chance. Thankless or not, Preston is another personal favorite, so we’re looking at quite the potent cast here.

And even though he lacked the same name recognition, this virtue extends to longtime veteran Tully Marshall as the chief heavy and chemical magnate willing to sell out his country. Marshall, who died in real life about a year later, is sociopathically doddering enough here to suggest Sam Jaffe’s High Lama in Lost Horizon but with a pronounced sadistic streak — one that extends to his treatment of subordinates in his employ. The production design for his office is just as memorable, something out of a sci-fi or James Bond movie, though located in downtown Los Angeles.

Ladd and Lake meet by chance on a train and spend much of the movie’s final third together in a railroad yard, which brings up a point. Until the uprise of postwar independent filming, you didn’t see a whole lot of location shooting in L.A. because, for one thing, studios could create the great outdoors (or try to) on their backlots. Gun makes very effective use of some real-deal yards during an escape scheme in which Ladd is holding Lake captive, and like everything else here the sequence is handled with expertise by director Frank Tuttle, a subsequent Ladd favorite to whom the star remained loyal (as he did to the great cinematographer John Seitz). I don’t think there’d be too much debate over Gun being Tuttle’s best picture.

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As they did on the commentary track for Ladd-Lake follow-ups The Blue Dahlia and presumably The Glass Key (which I haven’t listened to yet), historian/biographer Alan Rode and producer/filmmaker Stephen Mitchell make a compatible team discussing Ladd’s insecurities and Lake’s temperamental personality/personal problems, which included alcohol and allegedly even worse on a surprisingly fast track to poverty. Mitchell is a kind of highly instinctive Everyviewer, while Rode can all but quote the results from Tully Marshall’s twilight prostate exams. Rode also brings up Lake’s career-damaging The Hour Before the Dawn, in which she played a Nazi agent in a, shall we say, shaky accent (I’ve always wondered what source novelist Somerset Maugham thought when he saw it).

Though no one mentions it here, the director of Dawn was Frank Tuttle, who not that much later had to deal with the Blacklist. But in this case, all cylinders were firing, and Ladd is unforgettable. I’ve always liked Gun back dating to my early adolescence, but aided by this excellent print, I have to say it’s even better than I thought. As noir-ish melodrama goes, it’s a tough movie to fault on any level.

Mike’s Picks: ‘The Heiress’ and ‘This Gun for Hire’

Shout Select Releasing ‘Born in East L.A.’ Collector’s Edition March 19

Shout! Factory will release Born in East L.A. as a collector’s edition Blu-ray with new bonus material March 19 through its Shout Select imprint.

Written by, directed by and starring Cheech Marin, the 1987 comedy follows the plight of an American of Hispanic descent who schemes to get back into the United States after he is accidentally deported to Mexico without money or ID.

The Blu-ray will include a new commentary from Marin; new interviews with Marin, actress Kamala Lopez and actor Paul Rodriguez; a standard-definition extended television cut of the movie; a photo gallery; production notes; and the film’s theatrical trailer.

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Shout! Factory Releasing ‘Legally Blonde’ Blu-ray Collection Feb. 26

Indie distributor Shout! Factory’s Shout Select imprint will release The Legally Blonde Collection on Blu-ray Feb. 26, featuring Reese Witherspoon in 2001’s Legally Blonde and its 2003 sequel, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde.

In the first film, sorority girl Elle Woods (Witherspoon) enrolls at Harvard Law School with her little dog Bruiser in tow in an attempt to win back her boyfriend after he dumps her. In the sequel, she takes on Washington, D.C., in support of a bill against animal testing.

The Blu-ray includes a new 4K scan on the first film from its original negative, plus a new interview with actress Jessica Caulfiel, who played Margot, one of Elle’s best friends.

The collection also includes audio commentaries, making-of featurettes, deleted scenes, a gag reel, music videos and the films’ trailers.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Forty Guns’ and ‘The Blue Dahlia’

Forty Guns

Criterion, Western, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan, Dean Jagger, Gene Barry.
1957. Director Samuel Fuller’s action-packed Western features Barbara Stanwyck doing her own stunts as a ruthless landowner seeking to keep her drunken brother out of trouble when lawmen ride into town in search of a gunman under her employ.
Extras: Also included is the 2013 documentary A Fuller Life that daughter Samantha Fuller put together, several essays, a hour-hour discussion with Imogen Sara Smith about Fuller and Western genre conventions in general, and alternate audio featuring a 1969 appearance at London’s National Film Theatre by Fuller himself.
Read the Full Review

The Blue Dahlia

Shout! Factory, Drama, $22.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, William Bendix, Howard da Silva.
1946.
Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake co-starring in Raymond Chandler’s only original screenplay sounds well nigh irresistible on paper, and The Blue Dahlia mostly satisfies the concept’s potential as well as intriguing additional considerations that go tangentially beyond sleuthing the murderer of boozy Mrs. Ladd (Doris Dowling).
Extras: Includes a commentary from film historian Alan Rode and filmmaker Steve Mitchell.
Read the Full Review

The Blue Dahlia

Raymond Chandler’s only original screenplay serves as the vehicle for one of the four times Alan Ladd paired on screen with Veronica Lake, this time in a murder mystery set against the backdrop of a postwar Los Angeles housing shortage.

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Shout! Factory;
Drama;
$22.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, William Bendix, Howard da Silva.

Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake co-starring in Raymond Chandler’s only original screenplay sounds well nigh irresistible on paper, and 1946’s The Blue Dahlia mostly satisfies the concept’s potential as well as intriguing additional considerations that go tangentially beyond sleuthing the murderer of boozy Mrs. Ladd (Doris Dowling). These last include portrayals of the postwar L.A. housing shortage — which is why the future Ward Cleaver (Hugh Beaumont) has to shack up with William Bendix here — and also the as yet un-termed PTSD, which is more serious in the latter’s case because he’s also wearing a metal plate in his head, which makes him susceptible to mentally incapacitating migraines.

As the leader of these three vets who all served together, Ladd comes home to discover that Dowling has spent their wartime marriage pouring booze and quite likely sexual favors as well during constant partying in their courtyard apartment while her husband was away being a busy Navy flier. Before long, someone bumps Dowling off, and we sense pretty soon that it may not have been her nightclub proprietor/adulterous squeeze (Howard da Silva) — a not unagreeable type with an understandable sad-sack dimension because he’s squandered the affections of his own wife (Lake — who at this point still had the allure that drove real-life servicemen wild and doesn’t do a bad job of it today). As a result, and as the two leads commence some detecting work in an attempt to exonerate eventual suspect Ladd, it’s a toss-up as to whether they’ll get together romantically. More than not, this is a movie about men, though Dowling does really give it her all in limited screen time.

Of all people, the director here is George Marshall, whose career spanned about 55 years of non-stop work without too many permanent wave-makers to show for it. For posterity’s sake, you do have to give him Destry Rides Again and also the insane cult-heavy farce Murder, He Says — atop, for pure entertainment, not infrequently pleasing vehicles starring the likes of Bob Hope, Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds. Plus, lest we forget, the singular Red Garters for your LSD trips. Even so, finding style points in his work over more than a half-century is at least as tough as finding Doris Dowling’s murderer — nor is Marshall’s the face you’d see if you looked up “hard-boiled” in a slang dictionary. At one point, Dahlia Blu-ray commentator Alan Rode (paired with filmmaker Steve Mitchell) concedes that perhaps Marshall didn’t get every last ounce out of this project that a more stylish director might have.

Even so, this is a good time at the movies, and whenever I’d program UCLA’s 35mm print of Dahlia at the AFI Theater many lifetimes ago, we always got good (also enthusiastic) houses. Bendix, Dowling, da Silva and (as da Silva’s crooked partner) Don Costello are all exceptional here, Ladd-Lake chemistry is again palpable, and as the sleazy house detective who snoops on everyone at Dowling’s apartment, the instantly recognizable character actor Will Wright may have had the best role of his career. The picture also has a Paramount luster that always made it my favorite studio when growing up — something very dispiriting to think about when you read the recent New York Times article chronicling the studio’s train-wreck fortunes over, by this time, many years. This said, it looks to me as if — in a cursory run through it — that the Arrow Region ‘B’ edition of Dahlia has a bit more visual snap.

But it doesn’t have Michael Curtiz’s recent biographer Rode, who (with good-foil Mitchell) is personable and in all ways compassionate talking about the personal problems of the two leads — dominated in both situations by alcoholism but, in Ladd’s case, further exacerbated by the added insecurity over his short physical stature that sparked a lot of cruelly stupid jokes. The commentary is also on target enough to note that actor Costello sports a broken toe (which, when it’s pointed out, we can see) after a late-movie fight scene that went awry. Matters obviously weren’t breaking Costello’s way because shortly thereafter, he accidentally killed himself with a pill overdose amid sleeping problems; Dahlia was his last film.

Having worn his miner’s cap into the studio files, Rode also casts a lot of doubt on producer John Houseman’s have-to-be spurious assertions about certain aspects of the shooting that were part of his biographical writings. For his part, co-commentator Mitchell wonders if Chandler’s script was originally intended to veer in another direction, given that Bendix’s character does seem to change marginally late in the game, which further clutters what is both the movie’s penultimate and worst scene (aside from a delicious “Columbo”-like capper at its very conclusion). It’s an Agatha Christie knock-off where all the suspects are gathered in one room and, of all things, we get a target-shooting exhibition right in the police precinct (uh, huh). The movie’s finale, though, is kind of cute, almost anticipating the wrap to Rio Bravo.

Thanks to Shout Select (which has just put out the Ladd-Lake-Bendix The Glass Key), Kino Classics and France’s Elephant Films, a whole bunch of Universal-owned Paramounts are finally hitting Blu-ray near-simultaneously — all from the old MCA package that first sold to TV in the late 1950s and remains the single greatest TV movie package ever. Rode notes that the final of four Ladd-Lake teamings remains very obscure (and going from its rep and my own memory, not very good). But with a title like Saigon, maybe even it will eventually show up in high-def; you can’t say its title lacks a promotional hook.

The Blue Dahlia

Mike’s Picks: ‘Forty Guns’ and ‘The Blue Dahlia’

Shout! Factory Releasing ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ 25th Anniversary Blu-ray Feb. 12

Shout! Factory will release Four Weddings and a Funeral: 25th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray Feb. 12 through its Shout Select premium imprint.

A new 4K scan and a new interview with the Director of Photography are among the many special features on the release.

The 1994 romantic comedy, which was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, focuses on the relationahip between Charlie (Hugh Grant), a charming bachelor and frequent best man at the string of weddings he attends with his friends, and Carrie (Andie MacDowell), an enchanting American who catches his eye just as she is about to marry the wrong man.

The cast also includes Kristin Scott Thomas and Rowan Atkinson.

The Blu-ray includes new 4K scan of the film from the original camera negative, and the “The Wedding Photographer,” a new interview with director of photography Michael Coulter.

Additional extras include an audio commentary with director Mike Newell, producer Duncan Kenworthy and writer/co-executive producer Richard Curtis; “The Wedding Planners” documentary; “Four Weddings and a Funeral … In the Making” featurette; “Two Actors and a Director” featurette; deleted scenes; promotional spots; and the theatrical trailer.