The Grifters


Buena Vista Home Entertainment, $19.99

"THERE'S A SENSE of ominousness to the grifters, a sense of dark destiny," says Angelica Huston on the commentary track to this diamond-hard 1990 adaptation of the 1963 Jim Thompson crime novel. She, director Stephen Frears, screenwriter Donald E. Westlake, and co-star John Cusack all lend their voices to this single-disc DVD (Sept. 24). The first three were Oscar-nominated for their work; so, too, was Annette Bening, who's conspicuous here by her absence. (Now respectably married into the Hollywood elite, maybe she wants to disassociate herself from the days when she'd shamelessly romp around topless on-screen.)

Huston puts her finger on Thompson's pulpy fatalism and the tragic maternal feelings her tough-moll character harbors for her errant son (Cusack). "She cares," Huston says of the seemingly heartless Lily. Yet there isn't an ounce of superfluous feeling to The Grifters; a key word both she and Cusack use to describe it is "lean." Appropriately, Frears mentions how many extra scenes were shot but not used in the final cut. So where are they?!? This lack only makes the DVD seem a cheap, no-frills treatment of a movie that deserves the full-on Criterion Collection reissue.

Two extra featurettes are cursory and basically repetitive of the chat track—which feels suspiciously like it's been edited together, rather than gathering the four commentators in the same room. Sounding wistful about the success of his first American film (indie to its core), Frears sighs of his subsequent, less-smashing experiences in Hollywood, "If I try to make a whopper, a really big studio film, I just get lost." Well, do us a favor and go back to Thompson.

THE MONTH BEGINS with a bang with The Scorpion King (Oct. 1); yes, fans, The Rock does his own commentary! Promising to be only slightly more coherent, Don Knotts is still alive and provides an introduction to 1964's The Incredible Mr. Limpet. The same date greets Eric Rohmer's beautiful but rather inert The Lady and the Duke and William Wyler's 1965 The Collector, starring Terence Stamp. Still alive and a good interview when he visited Seattle a few years back, Stamp would seem a natural for the commentary track; sadly, there is none.

Brian Miller

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