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"Glengarry' set has strong selling points

New and noteworthy for digital players

Glengarry Glen Ross (10 Year Anniversary Special Edition)

"We're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired."

With those terse words, delivered by Alec Baldwin in the best performance of his career, Glengarry Glen Ross becomes a rat race among desperate men. The cheese is a stack of cold-call telephone leads that could make or break their careers. At least one of those rats is desperate enough to steal them.

David Mamet's incendiary drama of deception and dashed dreams, directed by James Foley, is one of the best films of the past decade, living on in sales training sessions and acting classes where people learn how their jobs should be handled. No self-respecting salesperson would imitate the unethical behavior on display, but actors are drawn to Mamet's profanely poetic tough talk and his dream cast, a convergence of storytelling ways and means that never fails to thrill.

Glengarry Glen Ross can't help it, with actors such as Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon and Alan Arkin, plus three promising new talents of the day: Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris and Jonathan Pryce. Watching these actors joust with Mamet's hyper-real dialogue is a master course in great acting's invisible mechanisms. As an ensemble, they, in sales parlance, close the deal.

Bonus features in the two-disc DVD set include "ABC: Always Be Closing," a 30-minute comparison of salesmen's real lives and how they're portrayed in films. Albert Maysles discusses his 1969 documentary Salesman and Barry Levinson talks about Tin Men (1987), but it's the relatively unknown salesmen interviewed who reveal such pride in their professions that you may be a bit more patient during sales pitches.

Tony Buba's grainy, black-and-white documentary J. Roy New and Used Furniture continues that theme, filmed in the 1960s yet timeless for its protagonist's determination to succeed. Jimmy Roy was a guy with big dreams in Buba's hometown of Braddock, Pa., always with the customer's satisfaction in mind. Watching him drill new salesmen on the honor of their profession, then shining on citizens in case they ever want to buy something, is a portrait of the American dream at its simplest, noblest level.

Another half-hour collection of interviews is dedicated to Lemmon, who plays Shelley "The Machine" Levine, the most pathetic of all Mamet's real estate dealers. Unlike in most posthumous tributes, Lemmon's face isn't shown until the end, except through his uncanny resemblance to his son Chris, who emotionally recalls his father's sole regret _ he never made the final-day cut at Bing Crosby's pro-am golf tournament _ and holding the actor as he drew his last breath.

Foley provides an audio commentary track that often sounds like someone who still can't believe his good fortune a decade later. His takes on Mamet's singular writing style are concise, and he explains how dealing with so many acting styles required a different creative language to get each performer ready. Brief commentaries by Baldwin, Arkin, production designer Jane Musky and cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchia are also offered.

Just for fun, the DVD set includes amusing excerpts of Lemmon interviewed by Charlie Rose in 1993 and Spacey indulging a student's Christmas wish on Inside the Actor's Studio last year. With such talent involved, even the Glengarry Glen Ross cast and crew biographies seem more interesting than usual. This DVD set may not be a Cadillac, but it's much better than a set of steak knives.