directed by David Mamet
USA 1987

 

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter David Mamet first sat in the director's chair for this sly, merciless thriller. Mamet's witty tale of a therapist and best-selling author (Lindsay Crouse) who must confront her own obsessions when she meets an attractive cardsharp (Joe Mantegna) is as psychologically acute as it is full of twists and turns, a rich character study told with the cold calculation of a career criminal.

****

HOUSE OF GAMES is a stylish cinematic puzzle. Dr. Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse), a psychologist and best-selling author of a book on obsessive behavior, ventures into the world of confidence games to try to help out a patient whose gambling has gotten him in over his head. Her excursion brings her in contact with Mike (Joe Mantegna), a con man who engineers a back-room hustle that almost leaves Margaret $6,000 poorer. Instead of being angry, she is attracted to this streetwise philosopher and his world and returns to get to know him and it better. In the process she becomes involved in an elaborate con game revolving around a suitcase full of cash supposedly borrowed from the mob. The plot grows increasingly convoluted until Margaret--and the audience--no longer knows who is conning whom--that is, until the shocking climax.
Mamet has created a suspenseful, psychologically complex film that constantly plays tricks on the viewer as it draws him into its milieu of insightful deceit. Crouse and Mantegna are outstanding, and the supporting performances are all first rate. In the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock, Mamet worked from his own storyboards, and he and cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchia have created a visually stunning film that is the equal of his airtight screenplay.

Excerpt from TV Guide located HERE

 

Posters

 

Theatrical Release: August 29th, 1987 - Venice Film Festival

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DVD Comparison: 

MGM - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC

(MGM - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT)

DVD Box Cover

Distribution

MGM

Region 1 - NTSC

Criterion Collection Spine # 399

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:41:16 1:41:45

Video

1.83:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.91 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.45 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate : MGM

Bitrate: Criterion

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Subtitles French, Spanish, None English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: MGM

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen letterboxed - 1.83:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical Trailer (2:06 / 4:3)

• Pan and scan on opposite side

DVD Release Date: December 19th, 2000
Keep case

Chapters 24

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion
 

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary by director David Mamet and consultant and actor Ricky Jay
• Video interviews with actors Lindsay Crouse and Joe Mantegna
• David Mamet on "House of Games," a short documentary shot on location during the film's preparation and production storyboard detail
• Theatrical trailer
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Kent Jones and excerpts from Mametīs introduction to the published screenplay
 

DVD Release Date: August 21st, 2007
Transparent Keep Case

Chapters 23

 

 

Comments:

Not much in the way of a comparison hence I have limited the 'versus' frame matches. The stingy, single-layered MGM DVD is non-anamorphic, cropped, has boosted colors and is interlaced.  It sports optional French or Spanish subtitles and only a trailer as a supplement. Let's just forget the MGM shall we?

The progressive Criterion is anamorphic on a dual-layered DVD. It is not pristine sharp but without high end production dollars and with the transfer supervised by director of photography Juan Ruiz Anchia - I expect this is the best we will se it look for a long while. Audio is unremarkable but close, I'll wager, to the way it was produced. Criterion has optional English subtitles. 

The Criterion has some great extras - the Mamet/Ricky Jay commentary is a lot of fun. Not very serious and I suspect Jay was chosen as he is a sharp cookie and, even gently, sparring with the giant intellect of Mamet was a joy to listen to. Ricky Jay reflects on much of his knowledge as a magician and scholar of unusual performance art (Ricky Jay from films like Magnolia (narrator) and The Spanish Prisoner (1997) is actually famous for his astounding ability to throw playing cards, and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for throwing a playing card a hundred and ninety feet at ninety miles an hour. From ten paces he can throw a playing card into the flesh of a watermelon). Mamet impresses us with his frequent references to films and directors gone by (quoting many) from Eisenstein to Poverty Row Pictures. There are also video interviews with actors Lindsay Crouse and Joe Mantegna and a short documentary shot on location during the film's preparation and production storyboard detail by David Mamet. Also included are a theatrical trailer and A 30-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by critic Kent Jones and excerpts from Mamet's introduction to the published screenplay.

Great film - I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed it till I watched this Criterion disc (and listened to the commentary). Lindsay Crouse, whom you may remember as the nurse in The Verdict (written by, at one time husband, Mamet) and a brief stint on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (among other things) is just excellent while darting around Mamet's stringent verbal cadence. This is really a special and unusual piece of work. Highly recommended!   

Gary W. Tooze

 



DVD Menus

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Screen Captures

 

(MGM - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)
Subtitle Sample: Not exact frame

 

 

 


 

(MGM - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 

 


 

(MGM - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 

 


 

(MGM - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 

 


 

(MGM - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

MGM is interlaced!

 

 

 


 

Criterion Screen Grabs

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

DVD Box Cover

Distribution

MGM

Region 1 - NTSC

Criterion Collection Spine # 399

Region 1 - NTSC

 


Report Card:

 

Image:

Criterion

Sound:

Criterion

Extras: Criterion
Menu: Criterion

 


 



 

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