House of Games


1h 42m 1987

Brief Synopsis

A psychological thriller about a successful and well known psychologist who falls under the spell of a mysterious con man. A romance ensues, as do innumerable plot twists.

Film Details

Also Known As
Casa de juegos, En bricka i spelet, Engrenages
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1987
Distribution Company
Orion Pictures
Location
Seattle, Washington, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m

Synopsis

A psychological thriller about a successful and well known psychologist who falls under the spell of a mysterious con man. A romance ensues, as do innumerable plot twists.

Crew

Alexa Albert

Production Assistant

Gregory W Anderson

Driver

Douglas Axtell

Boom Operator

Johann Sebastian Bach

Music

Jeff Balsmeyer

Storyboard Artist

Michael Barrow

Lighting

Michael Barrow

Gaffer

Michael Barrow

Grip

Warren Bernhardt

Other

Candace Blake

Wardrobe Assistant

Martin Bosworth

Grip

Susan Buchman

Sound Editor

Chris Centrella

Dolly Grip

Nan Cibula

Costume Designer

Anthony Ciccolini

Sound Editor

Henry Cline

Assistant Camera Operator

Rachel Cline

Assistant

Geoffrey Coburn

Electrician

Laurent Delouya

Hair

Pam Demetruis

Sound Editor

Robert Diehl

Electrician

Liz Dixon

Advisor

Liz Dixon

Consultant

Ned Dowd

Assistant Director

Peter B. Ellis

Apprentice

Bill Flick

Grip

Thomas A Gulino

Sound Editor

Cyrena Hausman

Casting

Michael Hausman

Assistant Director

Michael Hausman

Producer

Derek R. Hill

Set Decorator

Peter Hutcheson

Production Assistant

Kevin Hyman

Production Accountant

Jerry Jackson

Transportation Coordinator

Alaric Jans

Music

Rokko Jans

Song

Ricky Jay

Consultant

Dawn Johnson

Costumes

Jonathan Katz

From Story

Jonathan Katz

Story By

Kathy Killeen

Sound Editor

Lars Larson

Grip

K F Ligammari

Apprentice

Richard Lorenzana

Other

Mark Lorge

Electrician

Ron Lynch

Location Manager

Erin Lyons

Hair

Susan Macbrine

Caterer

David Mamet

Screenplay

David Mamet

Story By

David Mamet

From Story

Lee R Mayes

Unit Production Manager

Hugh Mccallum

Best Boy

Jon R Mccarthy

Driver

Robbie Mcclure

Electrician

John Merriman

Best Boy

Michael Merritt

Art Director

David Milchen

Driver

George Mooradian

Assistant Camera Operator

Ivan Passer

Production Assistant

Suzana Peric

Music Editor

P J Pettiette

Dailies

Deborah Pritchett

Production Coordinator

John Patrick Pritchett

Sound

Sally Roberts

Wardrobe Assistant

Valerie Ross

Property Master Assistant

Juan Ruiz-anchia

Other

Juan Ruiz-anchia

Director Of Photography

Cathy Sarkowsky

Production Coordinator

Samara Schaffer

Property Master

Colleen Sharp

Apprentice

Marc S Shaw

Adr Editor

June Shellene

Song Performer

Trudy Ship

Editor

Gail Showalter

Sound Editor

Jeffrey P Soderberg

On-Set Dresser

Jeff Stern

Sound Editor

Michael Sudmeier

Electrician

Jacqueline Tager

Sound Editor

Sheila Thompson

Craft Service

Barbara Tulliver

Assistant Editor

Gregory Villamil

Hair

Richard Vorisek

Sound

Lynn Wegenka

Production Assistant

Pamela Westmore

Makeup

Greg White-wiegand

Electrician

Robert Willard

Special Effects

Christine Wilson

Script Supervisor

Patricia Wolff

Production Assistant

Quintin Woo

Electrician

Scott Zigler

Production Assistant

Film Details

Also Known As
Casa de juegos, En bricka i spelet, Engrenages
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1987
Distribution Company
Orion Pictures
Location
Seattle, Washington, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m

Articles

House of Games - David Mamet's HOUSE OF GAMES on DVD


David Mamet's first directing effort House of Games is an intimate thriller written in the playwright's signature style: in-your-face character confrontations and almost ritualistically formatted dialogue. A medical professional yearns to break out of the rigid controls set on her life. To help a patient, she goes to a gambling club and inadvertently finds the adventure and danger missing in her life. Although House of Games can seem a cold intellectual puzzle, its dramatic architecture is admirable. There are no unessential pieces, and any thorough description of the plot would ruin surprises for new viewers.

Synopsis: Psychoanalyst and successful author Margaret Ford (Lindsay Cruise) feels stifled by the problems of her two troubled patients, a murderess in a prison ward (Karen Kohlhaas) and Billy Hahn (Steven Goldstein), a potentially violent gambler. Margaret doesn't feel she can really confide in her best friend, Dr. Littauer (Lilia Skala), and goes to a gambling club called The House of Games to talk a rude operator named Mike (Joe Mantegna) into forgiving Billy Hahn's gambling debt. Margaret becomes fascinated by Mike's dangerous life as a gambler, which fulfills her need for risk and thrills.

David Mamet's work may have its detractors but his style is entirely his own. His growing popularity among theater students and professionals relates to the fact that that the mechanisms energizing his plays are easy to identify and analyze. Theme and character are almost indistinguishable. Margaret Ford feels overwhelmed by her psychiatric duties and takes it to heart when her young patients accuse her of being clinically distant from their problems. Colleague Dr. Littauer recommends that Margaret seek her happiness separate from her work. Excited by the promise of adventure and bolstered by the illusion that she's the equal of any situation that might arise, Margaret walks into the House of Games and goes face-to-face with the intimidating Mike. Margaret wants Mike to forgive her patient's gambling debt. Mike proves that the debt is much smaller than her patient has claimed, and offers to relent if she'll do him a favor. He explains that a card player seeks to recognize little clues that betray when an opponent is not telling the truth, as when they bluff about the cards they hold. The clue is called "The Tell". Mike needs help in reading an opponent in a critical card game. Will Margaret play along with him?

House of Games is like the con game tales The Flim-Flam Man or The Sting, except that Mamet is running a much more sophisticated con game on the audience. Early in their relationship Mike tells Margaret that he's a criminal and that the first rule she needs to learn is not to trust anybody. It's a fine puzzle movie, one certainly sharp enough to snag most viewers with its sudden reversals. Mike's cohorts are an entertaining group of confidence tricksters.

House of Games is a beautiful display of Mamet's strengths. His theme is the relationship between trust and deception. Mamet makes us aware that working a con game is a lot like acting in a play, and that a play is very much like a con game. Making a movie that surprises an audience requires the skills of a con artist, because an audience is asking to be 'taken in.' Mike explains that every con requires the voluntary cooperation of the victim. We're fooled as easily as are Mike's victims, time and again. The puzzle has several layers and we are active participants. Mamet doesn't cheat by withholding essential information.

David Mamet's mannered dialogue continues to split the jury. His characters speak in exaggerated, overly explicit sentences and use convoluted syntax. In tight conversations, the characters mirror each other's phrases by repeating them with a different stress, as if externalizing their own mental processes. Most stage plays aren't this stylized; what plays as artificial or stilted for some is great writing for others. It's Mamet-speak, and it's instantly recognizable.

Viewers looking for sentimentality or a reassuring moral will be disappointed, as the illicit activity on Mamet's nighttime streets is strictly prey vs. predator. The characters are always asking one another what they want, and it is assumed that actions are always determined by selfish desires ... the story has little sense of human charity. Margaret has written a best seller about mental health but no longer believes that she's doing anything good for her patients. She instead seeks fulfillment through Mike's dark games. They sneak into someone else's hotel room to sleep together, and back each other up in deceptions with dangerous adversaries. Margaret's having a good time, until one of Mike's supposed patsies turns out to be a policeman laying a trap.

Director Mamet does show a few weaknesses. In the first card game Margaret watches for George to exhibit "The Tell" by playing with a ring on his finger. We can clearly see what George is doing but the editor can't resist cutting to a big close-up of the ring. Mamet could have allowed us to interpret the action on our own, and this sudden need to be explicit indicates a touch of storytelling insecurity. It's Mamet's own "Tell."

Elsewhere, the high caliber of acting cannot hide some fairly clunky details. When we realize that every character is a utility player, Lilia Skala's nurturing mother figure becomes an obvious structural tool to 'illuminate' Margaret's character. The con artists pull off perfect jobs and then give the game away by driving key vehicles at the wrong time and hanging out together where the victim can find them. The screen action is so concentrated that Margaret's character cannot even take out the trash without making three separate story points. Margaret smashes her framed diploma, ashamed that she's betrayed her professional oath. Although Lindsay Crouse handles the moment beautifully, it's really not all that different from the laughable scene in the old noir film Decoy, where a doctor shows his self-disgust by shattering a copy of the Hippocratic Oath.

Those are tiny details in a debut film that any director would be proud of. Linday Crouse and Joe Mantegna are a riveting pair of romantic grifters, and House of Games is a wickedly clever thriller that deserves its favorable reputation.

Criterion's DVD of House of Games is a flawless enhanced transfer with excellent mono sound. The slick, dark photography of Juan Luis Anchía provides a fine backdrop for Mamet's story. The extras package includes exactly what Mamet's fan base wants to see, good interviews with actors Lindsay Crouse and Joe Mantegna. David Mamet is featured on a vintage promo featurette and provides an entire commentary aided by actor Ricky Jay, who was also a consultant on the various con games used during the plot. Storyboards for an alternate, unused con game demonstration are present, as well as the film's trailer.

Disc producer Abbey Lustgarten packs an insert booklet with an essay by Kent Jones and reprints David Mamet's introduction to the film from the published screenplay.

For more information about House of Games, visit The Criterion Collection. To order House of Games, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson
House Of Games - David Mamet's House Of Games On Dvd

House of Games - David Mamet's HOUSE OF GAMES on DVD

David Mamet's first directing effort House of Games is an intimate thriller written in the playwright's signature style: in-your-face character confrontations and almost ritualistically formatted dialogue. A medical professional yearns to break out of the rigid controls set on her life. To help a patient, she goes to a gambling club and inadvertently finds the adventure and danger missing in her life. Although House of Games can seem a cold intellectual puzzle, its dramatic architecture is admirable. There are no unessential pieces, and any thorough description of the plot would ruin surprises for new viewers. Synopsis: Psychoanalyst and successful author Margaret Ford (Lindsay Cruise) feels stifled by the problems of her two troubled patients, a murderess in a prison ward (Karen Kohlhaas) and Billy Hahn (Steven Goldstein), a potentially violent gambler. Margaret doesn't feel she can really confide in her best friend, Dr. Littauer (Lilia Skala), and goes to a gambling club called The House of Games to talk a rude operator named Mike (Joe Mantegna) into forgiving Billy Hahn's gambling debt. Margaret becomes fascinated by Mike's dangerous life as a gambler, which fulfills her need for risk and thrills. David Mamet's work may have its detractors but his style is entirely his own. His growing popularity among theater students and professionals relates to the fact that that the mechanisms energizing his plays are easy to identify and analyze. Theme and character are almost indistinguishable. Margaret Ford feels overwhelmed by her psychiatric duties and takes it to heart when her young patients accuse her of being clinically distant from their problems. Colleague Dr. Littauer recommends that Margaret seek her happiness separate from her work. Excited by the promise of adventure and bolstered by the illusion that she's the equal of any situation that might arise, Margaret walks into the House of Games and goes face-to-face with the intimidating Mike. Margaret wants Mike to forgive her patient's gambling debt. Mike proves that the debt is much smaller than her patient has claimed, and offers to relent if she'll do him a favor. He explains that a card player seeks to recognize little clues that betray when an opponent is not telling the truth, as when they bluff about the cards they hold. The clue is called "The Tell". Mike needs help in reading an opponent in a critical card game. Will Margaret play along with him? House of Games is like the con game tales The Flim-Flam Man or The Sting, except that Mamet is running a much more sophisticated con game on the audience. Early in their relationship Mike tells Margaret that he's a criminal and that the first rule she needs to learn is not to trust anybody. It's a fine puzzle movie, one certainly sharp enough to snag most viewers with its sudden reversals. Mike's cohorts are an entertaining group of confidence tricksters. House of Games is a beautiful display of Mamet's strengths. His theme is the relationship between trust and deception. Mamet makes us aware that working a con game is a lot like acting in a play, and that a play is very much like a con game. Making a movie that surprises an audience requires the skills of a con artist, because an audience is asking to be 'taken in.' Mike explains that every con requires the voluntary cooperation of the victim. We're fooled as easily as are Mike's victims, time and again. The puzzle has several layers and we are active participants. Mamet doesn't cheat by withholding essential information. David Mamet's mannered dialogue continues to split the jury. His characters speak in exaggerated, overly explicit sentences and use convoluted syntax. In tight conversations, the characters mirror each other's phrases by repeating them with a different stress, as if externalizing their own mental processes. Most stage plays aren't this stylized; what plays as artificial or stilted for some is great writing for others. It's Mamet-speak, and it's instantly recognizable. Viewers looking for sentimentality or a reassuring moral will be disappointed, as the illicit activity on Mamet's nighttime streets is strictly prey vs. predator. The characters are always asking one another what they want, and it is assumed that actions are always determined by selfish desires ... the story has little sense of human charity. Margaret has written a best seller about mental health but no longer believes that she's doing anything good for her patients. She instead seeks fulfillment through Mike's dark games. They sneak into someone else's hotel room to sleep together, and back each other up in deceptions with dangerous adversaries. Margaret's having a good time, until one of Mike's supposed patsies turns out to be a policeman laying a trap. Director Mamet does show a few weaknesses. In the first card game Margaret watches for George to exhibit "The Tell" by playing with a ring on his finger. We can clearly see what George is doing but the editor can't resist cutting to a big close-up of the ring. Mamet could have allowed us to interpret the action on our own, and this sudden need to be explicit indicates a touch of storytelling insecurity. It's Mamet's own "Tell." Elsewhere, the high caliber of acting cannot hide some fairly clunky details. When we realize that every character is a utility player, Lilia Skala's nurturing mother figure becomes an obvious structural tool to 'illuminate' Margaret's character. The con artists pull off perfect jobs and then give the game away by driving key vehicles at the wrong time and hanging out together where the victim can find them. The screen action is so concentrated that Margaret's character cannot even take out the trash without making three separate story points. Margaret smashes her framed diploma, ashamed that she's betrayed her professional oath. Although Lindsay Crouse handles the moment beautifully, it's really not all that different from the laughable scene in the old noir film Decoy, where a doctor shows his self-disgust by shattering a copy of the Hippocratic Oath. Those are tiny details in a debut film that any director would be proud of. Linday Crouse and Joe Mantegna are a riveting pair of romantic grifters, and House of Games is a wickedly clever thriller that deserves its favorable reputation. Criterion's DVD of House of Games is a flawless enhanced transfer with excellent mono sound. The slick, dark photography of Juan Luis Anchía provides a fine backdrop for Mamet's story. The extras package includes exactly what Mamet's fan base wants to see, good interviews with actors Lindsay Crouse and Joe Mantegna. David Mamet is featured on a vintage promo featurette and provides an entire commentary aided by actor Ricky Jay, who was also a consultant on the various con games used during the plot. Storyboards for an alternate, unused con game demonstration are present, as well as the film's trailer. Disc producer Abbey Lustgarten packs an insert booklet with an essay by Kent Jones and reprints David Mamet's introduction to the film from the published screenplay. For more information about House of Games, visit The Criterion Collection. To order House of Games, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall October 16, 1987

Released in United States November 1987

Released in United States October 11, 1987

Released in United States on Video May 18, 1988

Released in United States September 3, 1987

Shown at London Film Festival November 1987.

Shown at New York Film Festival October 11, 1987.

Shown at Venice Film Festival September 3, 1987.

Directorial debut for playwright David Mamet.

Began shooting June 9, 1986.

Released in United States on Video May 18, 1988

Released in United States September 3, 1987 (Shown at Venice Film Festival September 3, 1987.)

Released in United States October 11, 1987 (Shown at New York Film Festival October 11, 1987.)

Released in United States Fall October 16, 1987

Released in United States November 1987 (Shown at London Film Festival November 1987.)