David Mamet’s best play gets a fantastic cast on film

David Mamet’s best play gets a fantastic cast on film

Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs

GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (Odyssey). David Mamet’s best play was made into a film in 1992. Four Chicago salesmen in real estate are fighting to keep their jobs. It’s tough. The first prize is a Cadillac. The second prize is you’re fired. They have to prove they can close deals; but first they have to get the leads and the best leads are the prerogative of the young manager, a nasty piece of work. Mamet springs a number of first-rate surprises and the excellent cast, which includes Jack Lemmon (one of his finest performances), Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey and Jonathan Pryce, get the rhythm of Mamet’s distinctive fractured dialogue absolutely right.

POMPEII (Entertainment One). The ultimate disaster movie, 79AD style: most people watching it will be watching it for one thing and one thing only. But they will have to sit through an awful lot of rubbish before they get to the spectacle (earthquake, volcanic eruption, and tsunami); and even when they get to the spectacle, the nonsense continues. The script is absurd, verbally and physically. A mini-Celtic gladiator (Kit Harrington) falls in love with a noblewoman. LOL (Laugh out loud and loads of lava).

BRUTE FORCE (Arrow).Jules Dassin directs Burt Lancaster in one of his earliest films, a stark 1947 American prison drama, which turns out to be a violent fascist allegory. Nobody escapes. An informer is blow-torched and steam-pressed to death. Hume Cronyn is the sadistic guard, who plays Wagner on his gramophone whilst he beats up an inmate with his truncheon. There’s a memorable image of Lancaster lifting the puny Cronyn high above his head and hurling him to his death from a tower.

DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK (Odyssey). John Ford’s first film in colour is not one of his best. Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda play newlyweds who move to the country in the colonial era. The Indians are on the warpath, encouraged by the Brits to attack the settlers and burn their farms. Colbert is miscast. Fonda, looking very ill at ease, has little to do except outrun three Injuns in a sequence which look like they are participating in the Marathon in the Olympics rather than engaging in the War of American Independence.

MAKE-UP (Network). A clown (Nils Asther) has an affair with a society woman. His true love, however, is the circus and his ward (June Clyde). A murder mystery is suddenly added at the end to fill out the story. You will have no difficulty guessing who really did it. The chief reason for seeing this 1937 British film is for Asther, a once famous Swedish star of the silent era, and now long forgotten.

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (Soda). Eve (Tilda Swinton) and Adam (Tom Hiddleston) are long-time lovers, centuries-old bloodsuckers, roaming Tangiers and Detroit. Jim Jaramusch directs this vampire movie, which will flatter all those who get its endless literary, historical and musical references.  It’s not a film for zombies, then. I’m not sure who will want to see it, apart from Jaramusch fans. It’s so very boring. Even vampires will be bored.

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