House of Games

ISBN: 0802130283
ISBN 13: 9780802130280
By: David Mamet

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About this book

Playwright David Mamet’s brilliant debut as a film director, House of Games is a psychological thriller in which a young woman psychiatrist falls prey to an elaborate and ingenious con game by one of her patients, who entraps her—with her own subconscious connivance—in a series of criminal escapades. It is a breathless roller-coaster ride of a movie that keeps springing one bizarre surprise after another, sustaining suspense with dazzling audacity. The unsuspecting audience is lured into a psychological and moral thicket of troubling implications, which bear the unmistakable imprint of Mamet’s intensely personal vision.Here is the complete screenplay of House of Games, with many illustrations selected from the film and an introduction by the author recounting in candid detail his experience as a first-time director.

Reader's Thoughts


MUCH better to read than to watch the film (despite several really nice performances from the band of grifters). without lindsay crouse's stilted acting, the sense of the piece is clearer.


I saw the movie a long time ago. (I think I was about 15) This is a fascinating look at human psychology, and how con games work. David Mamet does an amazing job of taking the reader into a world that is dark, and yet fascinating. Having Ricky Jay in the movie was a total win for me as well!


I loved this movie; like David Mamet in general. Sometimes reading a script gives me new insight into the play or the film. Not so much in this case. I did like it, just not LOVE.

Nick Douglas

** spoiler alert ** The script feels predictable, but I'm sure it was harder to anticipate the twists in the film.

Christian Engler

As far as screenplays go, House of Games is a work of great cutting quality; written in Mamet's recognized concise style, House of Games permeates with a foreboding, volatile aura. When a too structured and career-driven yet refined and scholarly Dr. Margaret Ford, psychiatrist and author of the best-selling self-help book, Driven, is duped into helping Billy Hahn, a young man with a gambling addiction, she gets more than what is bargained for. She is led into the seedy underworld of the con man and all the baggage associated with him: drinking, unabashed gambling, lasciviousness, intricately woven lies, extremity upon extremity. But it is all cleaverly camouflaged by the many defrauders whom she encounters as exciting danger, rebellion against the smothering laws that only "good" citizens adhere to and being on the outer fringes of decency, good breeding and highbrowism. Ford, who gravely lacks any form of enjoyment in her life, is immediately drawn to the pulsating raw truth and "think quick" lifestyle of the brazen swindlers, for they gradually convince her-through a series of cons-that all humanity are imbued-one way or the other-with absolute cold indifference, for if you get bamboozled, it's your own fault and you probably deserved it. Dr. Margaret Ford exemplifies that for everybody. But she does not merely epitomize as a victim, she typifies it, through her own unsettling metamorphosis, as a kleptomaniac, murderess, and ultimately, a con woman. She evolves from good, introverted intellectual and respectable doctor to a cunning, manipulative, vindictive killer with a proclivity for thievery. So then the question is posed: Was Dr. Ford inherently a repressed criminal or was she the product of the sleezy environment and those in it? As Ford penetrates to what she genuinely believes is the psychological core of the sharpie personality, she is led by the leader, Mike, into a smoothly orchestrated plot that eventually bilks her out of $80,000; soon after, the scheme goes terribly awry when Mike holds a mirror to Dr. Ford's face, a mirror that she long avoided looking into.Mike: I "used" you. I did. I'm sorry. And you learned some things about yourself that you'd rather not know. I'm sorry for that, too. You say I acted atrociously. Yes. I did. I do it for a living. (He gives her a salute and starts for the door.)Ford: You sit down.Mike: I'd love to, but I've got some things to do.She cocks the gun.(Of gun:) You can't bluff someone who's not paying attention.Ford shoots him. He falls.Mike: Are you nuts? What are you...nuts...?Ford: I want you to beg me.A radical turnabout occurs whereby the aloof victimizer becomes the casuality of his own folly, only to be replaced by Ford, who progresses onward to hone and define his criminal teachings, meticulously making them more her own. Ford's criminality is even more severe, for she turns into one of the criminally addicted patients that she (by her medical practice) is designated to help; her overall presence is refined, classy, learned, delicate, vulnerable, unsuspecting. Those are the worst kinds of lawbreakers: A friendy face on the outside, and something entirely different on the inside.


I remember watching this film sometime in middle school. The importance of that? It forever shifted my preference from action/adventure flicks to dramas. Seriously, one film, and I was like, 'Man, fuck Lethal Weapon 3!! I'm gonna check out The Piano instead.'Thank you, David Mamet, for making me prefer to see Harvey Keitel's ass over Mel Gibson's.

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