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House of Games (The Criterion Collection)


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Editorial Reviews

Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright and screenwriter David Mamet first sat in the director’s chair for this sly, merciless thriller, one of the most original and acclaimed films of the eighties. 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.

Special Features

  • New, restored, high-definition digital transfer
  • Commentary by director David Mamet and actor Ricky Jay
  • New video interviews with Joe Mantegna and Lindsay Crouse
  • Short documentary: "David Mamet on House of Games"
  • Storyboard detail
  • Trailer
  • An essay by critic Kent Jones and excerpts from Mamet's introduction to the published screenplay

Product Details

  • Actors: Joe Mantegna, Lindsay Crouse, Mike Nussbaum, Lilia Skala, J.T. Walsh
  • Directors: David Mamet
  • Writers: David Mamet
  • Producers: Michael Hausman
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (PCM Mono)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: August 21, 2007
  • Run Time: 102 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000QXDFRG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,794 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "House of Games (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Good movie great plot twist.
Merritt A. Smith
We really do want to know which one of these smart, amoral, predatory people is going to win in the end.
RootlessAgrarian
There are many twists and turns in this most unusual film, which deftly manipulates the viewer.
Lawyeraau

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Cubist on August 20, 2007
Format: DVD
If you've suffered through the bare-bones, full-screen MGM release that came out a few years ago, this new edition will come as a fantastic upgrade.

Easily, the highlight for David Mamet fans is the audio commentary with the man and actor Ricky Jay. These two old friends engage in lively philosophical discussions on a variety of topics, including why President Bush is such a terrible liar, the art of the con game and why psychiatry is a scam. Ricky Jay talks about the nature of the con and some of the lingo involved while keeping Mamet talking by prodding him with questions. Mamet is his usual blunt self as he constantly talks about how Orion messed up distributing the film in this engaging and thought-provoking commentary.

There is an interview with actress Lindsay Crouse who mentions that Mamet wrote the role of Dr. Ford for her (They were married at the time) and says that he spent five years trying to get the film made because the studios found the material too dark.

Also included is an interview with Joe Mantegna. He talks about his history with Mamet that goes back to Chicago theatre in the 1970s. He eventually appeared in the stage version of Glengarry Glen Ross when Al Pacino turned it down and went on to win a Tony for it. He talks about how he related to the character of Mike and recounts some amusing anecdotes about filming.

"David Mamet on House of Games" is 25-minute making of featurette that the film's producer and his wife shot in Vermont while Mamet was preparing the film and in Seattle while he was shooting it. There is some great footage of Mamet and his buddies playing poker in Vermont. The same guys also appear in the film in the poker scene.

"The Tap" features the original storyboards to the short con that Mike and his group demonstrate to Dr. Ford but in order to protect the working con man, Ricky Jay changed it to another con called the Flue.

Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 25, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
This is an absolutely mesmerizing film. A wonderful addition to that genre known as "film noir", the movie is superlative in every way. In his directorial debut, David Mamet shows a keen understanding of the concept "less is more".
The two main characters in the film are a well known psychiatrist with a best selling book, Dr. Margaret Ford, played with chilly determinism by Lindsay Crouse, and a slick con man, known only as Mike, brilliantly played by Joe Mantegna with a sinister, charismatic charm. She is stiff and formal. He is casual and seemingly easygoing. Each is involved in a field of endeavor that requires a keen understanding of human nature.
They meet by virtue of what each of them does for a living. Dr. Ford is treating a young patient, who claims to be despondent over getting in over his head financially, while gambling at a disreputable and seedy locale known as the House of Games. She is worried about her patient's potential for suicide, so she decides to go to the House of Games to see if she can straighten out the whole mess.
There, she meets Mike, the person to whom the debt is owed. From the moment they meet, there is a latent, sexual tension between them and an aura of danger and seduction that permeates the air. Intrigued by him, she is drawn into his world, where things are not always what they seem. There are many twists and turns in this most unusual film, which deftly manipulates the viewer.
The film is tautly crafted, and the dialogue itself is highly stylized with its own peculiar cadence. This serves to add to the air of mystery and suspense which infuses this film. There is an excellent supporting cast whose strong performances contribute to the overall quality of this multi-layered film.
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Bertin Ramirez on July 10, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
Whenever you watch a Mamet film, you're in for the most subtle mind manipulation you're likely to get at the movies. Mamet is so skillful at his craft it's scary. 'House Of Games' is the quintessential Mamet film, not because it's the best, but because it has all his elements; a twisting and involving plot, perversely attractive characters and a big wallop of an ending, as expected by the master of manipulation. The film is admirable because of it's subtlety, it has no big noisy scenes, no real action scenes and no steamy romantic scenes, Mamet could of easily added one of each but that would of marred the effect of this expertly crafted film. The dialogue is right on the money, Mantegna talks just as a small-time grifter would talk, no one-liners or really smart conversation, just a low-key dose of reality. Lindsay Crouse if quietly effective as the thrill-seeking pyschiatrist who gets the experience of a lifetime. And Mantegna is perfection as the alluring con-man who does his job fatally well. An extremely well mounted film that leaves the intelligent viewer gasping. Extras: spot William H. Macy in a cameo. From a scale of 1-10 I give this film a 9!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By marcvdp on April 13, 2002
Format: DVD
The script of "House of Games" probably has some of the most brazen plot twists and wicked undercurrents that I've seen in all of film. You'd almost think the director, David Mamet - who won a Pulitzer for a 1984 play - holds the audience in contempt, since the main character in the movie, a psychiatrist with a best-selling motivational book, experiences every deception and con with as little perspicacity as the viewer (unless you know what to expect).
The movie is basically a study on ruses and truth. It's funny to see Dr. Ford being strung along by Byzantine plots throughout the film; but kind of disturbing to see how the experience has affected her in the end. The ploys perpetrated by the confidence men in the film should inspire some slack-jawed admiration and awe, even if there success in real life would be questionable. I think in certain works it is OK to accept these kinds of slightly dubious happenings if they further the thematic purpose of the film. I mean, how many people out there would really fall for Chance's unwitting façade in "Being There."
I hold the opinion that "House of Games" would have been an even greater achievement as a book. It might be one of those films where reading its screenplay is superior to actually watching the final product. The direction is good from a layman's perspective, but there's a strange forced, muted quality to the actor's interactions. They talk to each other like, well, con men and ultra-professionals. The actors are told to perform in a way that doesn't appeal to me much, but maybe I'm missing the point.
The doctor is a strong character - tough, competent, yet still with that hidden, unexplored crevice that cries out for genuine human affection and attachment.
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