Silence Of The Lambs (The) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - MGM Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Peter Syme & Noor Razzak (14th April 2009).
The Film

Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is an agent in training for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She is an intelligent and attractive woman in an environment dominated by men. She is recruited by one of her seniors - Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) - to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a psychopathic psychiatrist who is a serial killer with a taste for human flesh. He is unapologetic about this, “A census taker tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti,” he says. Starling initially labours under the belief that she is interviewing Lecter in order to build up a general profile of serial killers, but Crawford later reveals to her that she is interviewing Lecter in order to track down one particular serial killer at large – Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb (Ted Levine). There is all the more urgency because a senator’s daughter has been kidnapped and time is running out.

So you would think that "The Silence of the Lambs" would be about tracking down Buffalo Bill - that certainly is the goal of Starling and the rest of the FBI in the movie - but the film really is a character portrait of Lecter. He is a smart, resourceful villain. Think about how rare that is in most movies. In most movies with a villain, he (usually it’s a he, but sometimes there’s a femme fatale) is never as smart as he thinks he is, he lets something slip or makes a mistake. Not so with Lecter. Since he knows who Buffalo Bill is, he has all the cards. He is in total control, even when he is behind a thick plexiglass wall in his maximum security cell. The best parts of the film are the four or five conversations between Starling and Lecter. He gets Starling to reveal deeply personal details (as a quid pro quo for his help) and we witness a sort of respect, if not a bond, develop between the two. This is quite a contrast to the obvious distaste (sorry about the pun) that Lecter has for Dr Frederick Chilton (Anthony Heald) the leering head of the facility Lecter is housed in.

The film is more tense than action-packed – it is a thriller, but it doesn’t really keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the film. That is not a bad thing, because it allows for ample character development. Jonathan Demme, the director, is not afraid of toying with the audience in the final minutes leading up to the climax, either.

The thing is; "The Silence of the Lambs" is all about the villain – or rather a villain, and it’s not Buffalo Bill. Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter is what the punters are paying to see (in fact, the sequel is called "Hannibal" (2001)). I wouldn’t say he alone carries the film – Foster nails her character and Anthony Hopkins turns in an understated, yet bang-on performance as Jack Crawford, but Hopkins’ smooth voice full of menace will remain with me for a very long time.

Buffalo Bill is the only detracting feature of the entire movie. He is meant to be a monster capable of the most disgusting crimes, but he is more of a joke than anything else – doting on his poodle, Precious. Maybe he is there to be a contrast to Lecter – he doesn’t appear to be particularly bright and when he talks he is forgetful and self-contradictory. He doesn’t have the wit and assuredness that Lecter has.

Though it is not within the ethos of DVDcompare to pander to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, I am prepared to concede that in this case, they got it right. Hopkins richly deserved the Oscar he was awarded for his role, as did Foster. "The Silence of the Lambs" deserves its accolades and for me it remains the benchmark for all thrillers.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 this image is presented in high-definition for the first time, the 1080p 24/fps transfer has been created using MPEG-2 compression in favor of the more modern AVC MPEG-4 codec that most films seem to be using. Before I get into the meat of this transfer it's prudent to state that this film looks the best it ever has on any format, each release of "Silence of the Lambs" improves upon the previous transfer. However, despite this the image still has flaws that prevent it from entering the same league as new films or one in which have seen big-budget restorations. The first thing you'll notice is that the image is very grainy, in fact it's heavy at times and this tends to smear out the black levels. The noise can be distracting at times but it's natural for the film stock to retain so much grain and I'm glad that MGM did not put this image through any digital noise reduction. The problem that I had with this image is that it's soft at times, detail and texture tends to lack and the overall picture seems flat. Close-ups look better, skin tones appear natural and there aren't any compression problems or edge-enhancement that I could spot. There were occasional specks and spots or dirt popped up here and there, overall it's an ok transfer that would have benefited from a totally new restoration and clean up.

Audio

Audio is presented in either English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mixed at 48kHz/24-bit, French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround or Thai Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD audio track. The film feels front heavy a lot of the time, unless music is in play then the surrounds kick in. Dialogue is clear and distortion free, directional sounds feel natural and never out of place. I was underwhelmed by the lack of range and depth but for a film that's 18 years-old now that's expected the audio to feel dated and lacking in punch.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Thai.

Extras

MGM has released this film with a decent collection of extras that includes 2 documentaries, 3 featurettes, 22 deleted scenes, outtakes, a phone message, the film's theatrical trailer, teaser and TV spots as well as a picture-in-picture commentary. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up we've got "Breaking the Silence" a picture-in-picture video commentary that runs a total of 118 minutes 38 seconds, this is a feature that plays as you view the film, the feature includes pop-up videos with interviews from the cast and crew as we get a deeper understanding of the making of the film from their perspectives. This is one of the best features on the disc and also includes pop-up trivia and facts regarding the film as well as real world elements such as the FBI, serial killer profiling etc. This feature is definitely worth exploring if you're a fan of the film.

"Understanding the Madness" featurette is next and runs for 19 minutes 35 seconds, this clip takes a closer look at the real FBI's behavioral science unit, the unit profiles killers to help investigate serial killers or psychopaths etc. This is a fascinating clip on how the FBI determines the profile of a killer, on investigating the victims and trying to answer the unanswered questions of a crime scene among other things.

"Inside the Labyrinth: Making of The Silence of the Lambs" is a feature-length documentary that runs for 66 minutes 29 seconds and is a vast chronicle on the making of the film from a retrospective point of view. The feature includes both vintage interviews from 1991 and also a collection of new interviews from key cast and crew involved in the film. The feature does an incredible job of looking at the culture at the time and on creating a serial killer story that's never been seen before, the obsession with killers and those that were inspiration for the serial killers in the film. The clip takes a look at the books of Thomas Harris, the themes and characters, as well as the early development of the film. Bringing on director Jonathan Demme, who dismissed it originally, as well as taking us through the casting, research, production, the sets created primarily Lecter's cell, the protest against the film and the awards in which it won among other things. This is an excellent feature that covers just about everything you'd want to know about the film.

"The Silence of the Lambs: Page to Screen" documentary is next and runs for 41 minutes 17 seconds, this feature is hosted by actor Peter Gallagher takes us through the creation of the character from Harris' books, the story, as well as covers the careers of the cast and the controversy generated by the film. It's a made-for-TV special that looks back at the film and it's themes starting with Harris' chilling novel first published in 1988. The clip delves into the research the author undertook to complete the book and on his writing style, as well as on the making of the film among other topics.

"Scoring the Silence" featurette runs for 15 minutes 59 seconds, this clip focuses on the creation of the film's musical score from composer Howard Shore. The clip features a great interview with the composer and on his interest in doing film scores, on perspective and point of view when it comes to creating music for a film.

"Original 1991 Making-of" featurette is your typical promotional EPK clip that runs for 8 minutes 7 seconds, this clip includes the usual interviews and behind-the-scenes footage and was used to promote the film during it's original theatrical run back in 1991.

Next up are a series of 22 deleted scenes, these scenes can only be viewed as a reel that runs for a total of 20 minutes 29 seconds, these scenes include a series of extended scenes as well as cut scenes that were omitted for various reason (sadly the director does not provide a commentary, this would have been a welcomed addition to provide further context to these scenes).

Next up is an outtakes reel which feature the usual footage of actors flubbing lines and missing cues, the total run time is a brief 1 minute 45 seconds.

Following that is the Anthony Hopkins phone message that runs for 33 seconds, this is an eerie answering machine message that you can use.

The disc also features the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 1 minute 50 seconds, the film's original teaser trailer which runs for 1 minute 5 seconds.

6 TV spots are also featured and can be viewed individually or with a 'Play all' option, they include:

- "Mind Against Mind" runs for 32 seconds.
- "Clue For Clue" runs for 31 seconds.
- "Only Hope" runs for 31 seconds.
- "Hangs In The Balance" runs for 32 seconds.
- "Teacher" runs for 31 seconds.
- "FBI" runs for 31 seconds.

Finally there's a start-up bonus trailer for:

- "Fox Digital Copy" spot which runs for 1 minute 3 seconds.

Overall

The Film: A Video: B- Audio: B- Extras: A Overall: B-

 


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