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Salesman (The Criterion Collection) (1968)

Paul Brennan , Charles McDevitt , Albert Maysles , Charlotte Zwerin  |  NR |  DVD
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Paul Brennan, Charles McDevitt, James Baker, Raymond Martos, Melbourne I. Feltman
  • Directors: Albert Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin, David Maysles
  • Producers: Albert Maysles, David Maysles
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: September 4, 2001
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005KHJY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,088 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Salesman (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • 1968 Jack Kroll television interview with David and Albert Maysles about Salesman
  • "The Rabbit" on NPR's Weekend Edition (2000)
  • Behind-the-scenes photographs

Editorial Reviews

A landmark documentary, "Salesman" captures in vivid detail the bygone era of the door-to-door salesman. While laboring to sell a gold-embossed version of the Holy Word, Paul Brennan and his colleagues target the beleaguered masses--then face the demand

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "EVERYTHING BUT THE CHINESE FENCE". September 15, 2001
A few months ago I rented the Criterion edition of Gimme Shelter. The DVD included a fascinating preview for another film by the Maysles brothers called SALESMAN. I had never heard of the film but after seeing the preview I had to see it. Much to my dismay SALESMAN was not available, nor does it appear to have ever had an official release on video. Thankfully, Criterion has seen fit to release this long lost American masterpiece. I was completely won over by this tragic but hysterical documentary about door-to-door Bible salesmen. The Maysles brothers focus most of the film on Paul Brennan aka The Badger. Brennan appears to be the the main inspiration for Gil, the unlucky salesman on The Simpsons. Brennan rarely scores a sale and when he doesn't his fellow (and more successful) salesmen have to endure his bizarre Irish rants and mumbled complaints. SALESMAN is full of strange lingo, strong Irish accents, and tons of smoking. I don't smoke but by the end of the film I felt in need of a light. Most of the banter between the Bible sellers and their prospective buyers is very funny. One woman declared that she was the "literal" person of the household. Criterion's presentation is excellent. The disc includes an interview with the two brothers by Jack Kroll. Kroll's interviewing skills are terrible at best. More than once he cuts off the two filmmakers to plunge the shallow depths of his scary thoughts. Even worse he goes on to tell them what they mean to say. The commentary track by Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin is interesting and informative. Highly Recommended.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad/beautiful? April 7, 2002
The Maysles Bros. did a wonderful job with this film. The b/w photography is sharp and smartly orchestrated making _Salesman_ a must see in my book. Shot with a custom made handheld camera and portable boom mic, _Salesman_ is the story of four door-to-door bible salesmen in the late sixties. The film falls in to the documentary category, though the Maysles have coined their own term for their style of filming: direct cinema.
The "salesmen" themselves are unforgetable; their performances in the homes of anyone who will let them get a foot in the door are fascinating and nerve wracking as you find yourself sympathizing both with the salesmen and the prospective buyers at the same time. It's this dynamic tension that gives the film some real drama. Better than what could have been scripted.
I never saw this film on video so I can't comment on any improvements in quality. But I will say this: the film looks and sounds beautiful on DVD. Also, with the DVD is an interview (mostly pretentious banter revolving around the distinction of "direct cinema"), commentary with the Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin (editor) and film trailers.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
This is fascinating, harrowing stuff -- I remain haunted by these men, these door-to-door Bible salesmen, peddling their wares, themselves, their humanity. It's after "Death of a Salesman," but plenty of Willy Loman stuff going on here, and obviously a wellspring of material for David Mamet, for Barry Levinson's "Tin Men," for so many other tales of salesmen.
This is written pre-release, but I'm sure that the folks at Criterion will do an extraordinary job with this.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Some will recognize the words in quote marks as Linda's plea to her sons in "Death of a Salesman" to have compassion for their father, Willie, whose dream of greatness has been tarnished to the point of incurable, suicidal depression. Paul Brennan, the main character in this groundbreaking American documentary film about four door-to-door Bible salesmen, has never suffered from Willie's dreams of grandiosity and is only nibbling at the edges of depression at the film's end. Moreover, the movie documents a period and a practice that, even at the time of the film's release, must have seemed curiously dated. It may strike some viewers as tedious and irrelevant, yet for those willing to live some of the desperate hours with Paul and his three companions--not simply in the living rooms of potential customers but on the road, in motel rooms, at the rallies--it's a sharply observed little film that delineates its characters with telling precision, producing not merely sympathy but a certain amusement and amazement over our present-day illusions about a supposedly better America in the "good old days." It's still a film that deserves the viewer's attention: ultimately Paul Brennan provokes not only sympathy but takes on some recognizable features of the man in the mirror.

What's surprising is what the film is not. Given the merging of big business and religion, the huge corporate industries that run giant pyramid schemes fueled by arena pep rallies centered on corporate heads who act like evangelical stars whiplashing and inspiring the myriad troops to action, the viewer of this film might expect a similar emphasis.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't have been any better April 28, 2006
I saw this movie a few years ago and need to rent it again soon because I have nothing but fond memories of it. Anyone who has ever had any dealings at all with a salesman will love it - I promise. Watch as one salesman asks a woman who can't afford a bible for $50 if she could afford $2.50 a week for twenty weeks. Watch as he asks her if she thinks her home would be better if she had this bible in her house. These are the same kind of questions you are asked when looking for a car but the way it is shot in the "you are almost there" style makes many of the scenes heartbreakingly real. There is sadness all around in the faces of the salesman and there potential customers. One cannot help but feel moved by the plight of the salesman and the customers. It is amazing how the sales pitches of the salesman have not changed much in the past 40 years! Anyone who likes Errol Morris or John Cassavettes needs to see this film as soon as possible if not sooner.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a masterpiece!
Fascinating time capsule of a film. I'd even go so far as to call it an art film.

The personalities in this documentary are out of this world -total characters! Read more
Published 1 day ago by Sunny California
5.0 out of 5 stars I like getting DVD's from Criterion
I like getting DVD's from Criterion. I knew about them years ago but they where very expensive. Their prices are now reasonable enough to buy them. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A true Classic
Salesman, the first film by the Mayles brothers, in 1968, created a genre, but their unique style has never, I feel, been surpassed. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Sagesmoke
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Great Docs of all times
This is an amazing documentary of mid-century America. It is considered one of the great "Cinema Verity" movies of all time. A must see.
Published 7 months ago by M. J. Indelicato
5.0 out of 5 stars A portrait of the human condition
After reading about this film for decades, I finally got to see it recently. I wasn't disappointed. It depicts an America 45 years ago that looks very different in some ways, but... Read more
Published 9 months ago by TLR
5.0 out of 5 stars Death of a Salesman Part Two
As shattering and insightful as Arthur Miller's drama,
this film takes you inside the soul of the salesman. Timeless
masterpiece by the masters of the genre.
Published 12 months ago by Roger Paradiso
5.0 out of 5 stars Great flick!
If you like Errol Morris, or if you've seen Grey Gardens, then you need to see this! Great flick by some true masters of the documentary genre - must see!
Published 14 months ago by Jason Sebastian
4.0 out of 5 stars Traveling Salesmen in a Bygone America
In 1966, filmmakers Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin hit the road with a group of traveling Bible salesmen. Read more
Published on October 16, 2010 by stoic
5.0 out of 5 stars I Lived It
I love this movie. First it is a time capsule that really takes me back to when I was a kid in the late 60's. Read more
Published on October 15, 2009 by Uncle Chino
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Film on Psychology of Selling and Sales Teams
This movie was listed as an inspiration for Glengarry Glen Ross (according to the plays author, Mamet). Read more
Published on March 14, 2009 by Philip J. Rizzo
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