Considered one of the best documentaries of all time, Salesman focuses on the lives of four Bible salesmen who will do almost anything to get the Good Book into the homes of people with cash to spare (or not). The Criterion Collection's DVD is superb and easily sells the film's greatness to any unbelievers out there.
The high-definition black-and-white transfer is excellent, though much of the film's original graininess is still apparent. The full-screen (1.33:1) picture is sharp, stable, and overall, looks fine. The mono soundtrack has also been upgraded and also sounds fine. Whatever audio noise detected is from the original recording and not due to the disc's remastering. In terms of extras, the disc offers up an excellent commentary track from filmmakers Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin. Both tracks were recorded separately, but their comments flow nicely and seem unified. Among other things, both filmmakers talk at length about some of the strange, peculiar things some of the people would do in front of the camera, as well as the film's subsequent critical praise and devoted following. They also talk frankly about some of the film's negative reviews, in particular Pauline Kael's belief that some of the scenes were staged and that one of the salesmen (known as the Badger) had to be an actor. Overall, it's a great and insightful commentary track. Also included on the disc is a brief audio segment from NPR's Weekend Edition program from 2000, which includes an interview with the Rabbit, one of the salesmen profiled in the film. But the highlight of the disc, besides the film itself and the commentary track, is a 1968 television interview with the Maysles brothers, conducted by film critic Jack Kroll. Production stills, filmographies, and the original theatrical trailer are also included. A really top-of-the-line disc in all ways.
Salesman One of the most well respected of the cinema verite documentaries of the 1960's, this non-fiction film follows a group of real-life Bible salesmen for the Mid-American Bible Company as they ply their wares. The central figure in the film is Irish-American Paul Brennan, a 56-year-old of great wit who traipses door to door in an effort to sell the good book to Catholic housewives who really can't afford to buy but don't want to appear rude to a Church-sanctioned representative. The documentary, a collaboration by the Maysles brothers, also follows Brennan as he shares war stories with fellow Bible peddlers and attends management and sales meetings. The Maysles' next film was their classic documentary of the Rolling Stones fateful 1969 tour, Gimme Shelter (1970). ~ Karl Williams, Rovi