Glengarry Glen Ross appeared in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen version on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Though not quite flawless, the movie presented a largely terrific image.
Sharpness mostly seemed fine. A few wide shots appeared slightly soft, but those examples occurred infrequently. The majority of the film came across as crisp and detailed. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, but I did notice a little edge enhancement at times. As for print flaws, Glengarry demonstrated virtually none. The film looked nicely clean and fresh from start to finish.
Glengarry demonstrated a rather stylized palette, and the DVD showed nice replication of those colors. The tones appeared lively and vivid and showed no noticeable concerns. Even during some shots with colored lighting, the hues stayed tight and distinct. Black levels seemed deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not overly thick. In the end, Glengarry Glen Ross provided a very satisfying image.
Glengarry Glen Ross offered both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Both seemed decent, but the DTS mix provided a moderately stronger experience. I’ll go over that one first and then detail the differences I discerned.
Given the heavy emphasis on dialogue heard during Glengarry, I didn’t anticipate a tremendous amount of activity, and for the most part, the mix matched my expectations. The audio remained generally oriented toward the front speakers, which offered good stereo imaging for music and also presented a reasonably engaging sense of environment. The surrounds contributed a fairly good sense of place, though they actually seemed a little too active at times. Ambient office and weather sounds appeared somewhat unnatural and distracting on occasion. However, overall the soundfield offered a pretty convincing setting. Trains provided especially vivid audio from the rear speakers.
Audio quality appeared positive. I noticed some vocal bleeding to the side speakers, but speech usually seemed well located and also came across as natural and distinct. I noticed no issues related to intelligibility or edginess. Music sounded clear and vibrant and showed nice dynamic range across the board. Effects also seemed clean and accurate, and they demonstrated solid low-end response when appropriate. For example, trains rocked the house surprisingly deeply.
So how did the DTS track differ from the Dolby Digital mix? The latter seemed less smooth and distinctive. Though both soundfields appeared fairly similar, the Dolby one lacked the same level of integration and liveliness. It also came across as somewhat thinner and tinnier. The differences didn’t appear tremendous, but the DTS mix was noticeably stronger.
This special edition of Glengarry Glen Ross spreads its extras across its two DVDs. On Disc One, we start with an audio commentary from director James Foley. Though it seemed to have been recorded as a running, screen-specific piece, the track got edited into three sections: “On Directing”, “About the Screenplay”, and “Rehearsal”. You can watch each of these separately or use the “Play All” to have them run as one long program; if you choose that option, it’ll last 60 minutes and 38 seconds.
The format seemed odd. I’d guess that Foley recorded a full commentary but he spoke too little to fill the whole 100 minutes, so the DVD’s producers then edited it to keep us from having to sit through 40 minutes of dead air. If that’s the case, I appreciate their decision, for I loathe empty spaces in commentaries, and 40 percent of the movie would be far too much time without information.
Interestingly, the scenes didn’t come in strictly chronological order. They jumped around moderately, so his remarks toward the end might discuss a much earlier scene than the one we watched previously. This method didn’t seem distracting, though, since Foley’s statements were organized around the general themes already mentioned.
Despite the moderate brevity of Foley’s commentary, he managed to offer a reasonably engaging and informative piece. He covered a number of useful topics related to his initial involvement in Glengarry, changes made from the original play, and working with the all-star cast. The latter element dominated the program and offered some terrific material. Foley seemed nicely frank with his thoughts and even discussed some potential controversies, such as a run-in between Lemmon and Pacino. While it’s too bad Foley didn’t provide a full commentary, this one worked well and gave us a lot of good information.
Also on DVD One we find Magic Time: A Tribute to Jack Lemmon. This 30-minute and three-second program includes comments from James Foley, son Chris Lemmon, actor Peter Gallagher, Save the Tiger director John Avildsen, manager David Seltzer, and Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton. The piece concludes with a few minutes of Lemmon’s 1998 appearance on that show. Instead of a career retrospective, the participants simply relate their memories of Lemmon. Not surprisingly, these reminiscences stay heavily on the positive side of the coin, but that doesn’t cause a problem. The stories include topics like Lemmon’s obsession with golf and his relationship with Walter Matthau. Lipton offers the most memorable story, however, as he relates the way that Lemmon acknowledged his alcoholism. While I’d prefer a documentary about Lemmon’s life and work, “Magic Time” offers a fairly interesting program.
In addition to the fullscreen version of the film, DVD Two packs some supplements. The fullscreen rendition offers some bonus commentaries. In that domain, we can hear from cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchia, production designer Jane Musky, and actors Alec Baldwin and Alan Arkin. Each appears separately, and you can listen to their remarks individually or connected via a “Play All” option. The different segments last between 14 minutes, 34 seconds and 21 minutes, 35 seconds for a total of 76 minutes, 16 seconds of commentary.
All in all, the different participants provide some solid information. Anchia probably seems like the least interesting of the four. He goes over his involvement with director Foley and some theories of filmmaking as well as some specifics about Glengarry. Anchia delves into some useful notes, but he appears somewhat dry at times.
Musky also gets into nuts and bolts issues, but her statements shed more effective light on the processes. She discusses topics related to sets, locations, and making sure these all worked for the movie. Musky proves compelling and informative.
Though I often criticize actor commentaries as fool’s gold, the remarks from Baldwin and Arkin offer exceptions to that rule. Arkin covers his early career and some of his approaches to acting, and he also gives us some great insight into his take on George; he even reveals the backstory he created for the character. Baldwin tells us some details of his own work on Glengarry and he provides great notes about acting and movies in general. Both actors seem engaging and very compelling. In the end, the quality may vary, but all four of the “bonus commentaries” merit your attention.
After these commentaries, we find a collection of different video programs. A.B.C.: Always Be Closing purports to examine “the psychological intersection of fictional and real-life salesmen”. This means that we hear about productions such as Death of a Salesman and Salesman and also get comments about their work from actual salesmen. The 29-minute and 55-second show offers a very stark presentation. For the most part, we simply watch the speakers as they chat in front of a blank background.
Normally I don’t mind “talking head” pieces but this visual motif does harm the program. This show consists of almost nothing but these images, which makes “Closing” rather slow going. A few movie clips appear, but they don’t do much to break up the piece. The content does little to make me forget the blandness. It offers some decent information about the lives of salesmen and the background of the different productions, but it doesn’t delve into the topics with any great depth or insight. Toward the end, it explores some topics related to the movie, and those provide the most interesting moments, though some of them repeat information we heard elsewhere. Normally I like this kind of program, but “Always Be Closing” comes across as somewhat dull and lifeless. (By the way, “Magic Time” uses the same format as “Always Be Closing”, but the presentation seems less problematic there because the material appears more interesting. It’s still a lame way to run this sort of program, though.)
Next we find J. Roy: New and Used Furniture, a nine-minute and 53-second documentary piece by filmmaker Tony Buba. It focuses on some inhabitants of Braddock, Pennsylvania, and shows the folks at the store. Buba’s text at the start describes “Diamond” Jimmy Roy as a “character”, but he doesn’t seem like a very interesting one. Frankly, the short seems somewhat pointless and bland, and it doesn’t offer a lot of insight into its subjects.
After this we get two “clip archive” entries. The Charlie Rose Show offers on October 1993 chat between Rose and Jack Lemmon. It lasts 10 minutes and five seconds and touches on topics related to Glengarry. Lemmon briefly discusses his desire to play the part, his approach to the role, and his definition of success. The brief piece provides some interesting material, though I wish we could see more of the interview.
Inside the Actors Studio runs a mere 129 seconds as it gives us a short glimpse of an appearance by Kevin Spacey. Some wannabe actor in the audience wants to perform a scene from Glengarry with Spacey. It’s cute but inconsequential. The guy in the crowd needs a lot of work, by the way.
A few text extras round out the DVD. Production Notes provide a good look at the path the play took to the screen as well as some thoughts about its content from the participants. The Cast Biographies area features entries for Pacino, Lemmon, Baldwin, Harris, Arkin, Spacey, and Pryce, while Crew Biographies includes listings for director Foley, screenwriter Mamet, producers Jerry Tokofsky and Stanley R. Zupnik, executive producer Joseph Caracciolo, Jr., co-producers Morris Ruskin and Nava Levin, cinematographer Anchia, production designer Musky, editor Howard Smith, and composer James Newton Howard. Some of the actors provide quick discussions about their characters, and we get a little background on all of the participants, but for the most part, these biographies offer annotated filmographies. Oddly, none of the actual filmographies list any projects completed since 2000, which makes me think Artisan prepared these pieces years ago.
It took me a long time to see Glengarry Glen Ross. For the most part, it was worth the wait. While I can’t say the movie bowled me over, it provided a crisp and crackling piece of work buoyed by a slew of excellent performances. The DVD offered terrific picture with generally positive audio. As for the supplements, the roster of materials looked more impressive than the quality earned, but the variety of audio commentaries gave us some good information. Ultimately, Glengarry Glen Ross provided a good movie that was well presented on DVD, so it deserves my recommendation.