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How to Get Ahead in Advertising [Import]

Richard E. Grant , Rachel Ward , Bruce Robinson    R (Restricted)   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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After the release of Withnail & I, British writer-director Bruce Robinson continued his satirical assault on British culture with this fiendishly funny rant, the title of which can be taken figuratively and literally as an object lesson in the art of consumer manipulation. Nobody dupes consumers better than Dennis Bagley (Richard E. Grant); his genius in crafting seductive ad campaigns has earned him a country estate, countless awards, an admiring boss, a loving wife (Rachel Ward), and, well, a gigantic boil on his shoulder that's like a throbbing zit from hell. Dennis is so tormented by a difficult campaign for pimple cream--and so filled with self-loathing after years of promoting dubious products--that his inner demon, the media-savvy and profiteering side of himself, has manifested itself as a talking pustule with a mind (and a face and a voice) of its own.

Robinson's scathing critique of mindless consumerism begins with one of the funniest monologues ever written, and Grant instantly claims his role with manic perfection. A time bomb of repressed anxiety, Dennis blossoms in righteous protest against his profession, only to find his evil boil growing dominant, worrying his wife (Ward's performance is charmingly sympathetic), and inevitably seizing control. The movie's message is obvious and heavy-handed, and Robinson's blazing wit grows increasingly bilious and urgent, but you can't blame him for sniping at easy targets. As corporate synergy and rampant commercialism reach insane proportions, How to Get Ahead in Advertising grows more relevant than ever, holding a mirror to the grotesqueries of capitalism in extremis. --Jeff Shannon

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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
If dark comedy is your forte, do not miss this witty and outrageously funny offering from Hand Made Films! Richard E. Grant portrays Dennis Bagley, a brilliant young advertising executive whose downfall is caused by his latest glamorous account: pimple cream. He desperately needs a clever new ad campaign, but his mind is one big blank. Despite support from his lovely wife (Rachel Ward), Dennis cracks. His unblemished career is about to break out in chaos, just like the annoying pimple that has broken out on the side of his neck. To save his sanity, Dennis quits his job. But his neuroses, like his strange pimple, keep growing. Soon, what ensues is a hilarious chain of events that has the viewer wondering who's really in charge of Dennis' life! This movie is one of many by this-then relatively obscure English film company, that is as well made and it is well cast, as it is outrageously funny! Not to be missed by fans of dark comedy, this film is sure to find it's way into your private library. An excellent comedy, you can enjoy over and over again! Don't miss it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Insanely fun, with the emphasis on insane Aug. 21 2001
HOW TO GET AHEAD IN ADVERTISING is a wonderfully over-the-top piece of hilarious satire. The always entertaining Richard E. Grant plays a stressed-out advertising executive who finally snaps and begins arguing with a head that conveniently grows out of his shoulder. As this was written and directed by Bruce Robinson (the same man behind WITHNAIL & I) you can be sure that every line of dialogue sounds like obscene poetry and Grant delivers each of these with exactly the right amount of pure manic energy.
The humor present here is very dark, and at times could be described as disturbing, so this may not be for everyone's tastes. Obviously, a comedy that centers around an ordinary man accidentally growing a second head isn't going to be something that's geared towards everyone's liking, but if you enjoy off-beat humour and outrageous satire, then this is probably something that will delight you. There's certainly a lot to recommend: the acting is wonderful, the direction is very assured and the writing sparkles. This is one of the few films in which it is almost impossible to predict what will be happening next. Sharply critical of advertising, capitalism, industry, commerce, and half a dozen other subjects, this is something that will make you think in the few moments when it isn't making you laugh.
DVD notes: The film is presented in wide-screen. It looks great and sounds just as good. There isn't much of anything in the way of extras, though it does contain the original theatrical trailer.
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3.0 out of 5 stars DEAD RINGERS July 28 2001
Nothing exciting about this Criterion release : english subtitles, liner notes and a theatrical trailer, that's all. It seems that the HOW TO GET AHEAD IN ADVERTISING DVD release was Criterion price to pay to Handmade Films in order to be allowed to release Bruce Robinson's first movie, the cult classic WITHNAIL AND I. Holy Mysteries of the movie deals !
HOW TO GET AHEAD IN ADVERTISING is not a bad movie, it has even great moments principally due to the terrific performance of Richard E. Grant as Bagley, a young talented executive in the advertising business. Suffering from a nervous breakdown turning soon into schizophreny, Bagley develops a strange boil hiding an alter ego willing to take his place. This horror movie cliché, with the usual special effects involved, gives director Bruce Robinson the opportunity to develop certain ideas about the world we live in. Television, advertised products, show-business have little by little killed our critical sense. We don't know anymore the difference between reality and the lies we have to absorb all day long from our TV sets. These are interesting themes but the satire, in my opinion, often falls short and doesn't have the acuity required by this peculiar genre.
A DVD zone manipulation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hilariously bitter comedy May 21 2004
Bruce Robinson, made a hit with with this movie. A pimple will be more than a simple headache of an important executive who falls on disgrace. Slowly this pimple will grow and grow till...
With this film England goes ahead once more with the black comedy, a genre not so cultivated as past decades.
The situations obviously are not under control of this authoritative and methodic manager. The chaos and neuroses will be his fellow friends in this funny tale.
Please, don't miss by any circunstance of watching this film.
To be true, the meaning of life of Monty Phyton, and Brazil of Gilliam were too, another unforgettable films in that decade, but due its own originality, how to get ... deserves a worthy place in the story of the great english black films in any time.
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3.0 out of 5 stars HEADS UP Aug. 2 2001
Writer-directer Bruce Robinson and Richard E. Grant team up again in this decidedly dark and farcical look at TV advertising. This time Grant is brilliant, driven, young ad-exec Dennis Bagley who is brought down when his mind goes blank while trying to think up a clever campaign for a pimple cream. Rachel Ward is his supportive wife. But her love is not enough to stave off his breakdown. Grant snaps, quits his job and finally, slowly loses his sanity when a small pimple on his neck becomes another head that eventually takes over his life. A head that only he -- and we -- can see. This is a ferocious film of extremes that skewers our narcissistic, media-driven culture. Recommended.
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