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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Silence of The Lambs: SE
Silence of The Lambs: SE
MGM // R // August 21, 2001
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted August 14, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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The Movie:

Although director Ridley Scott chose to go a noticably different way in the recent "Hannibal", Jonathan Demme's subtle, gritty 1991 drama remains an ultimately more successful and interesting piece. The film went on to receive quite a few Academy awards as well as take a place in the national conciousness as one of the scariest thrillers of recent time, even though pieces of it are more exciting than others.

The film starts off by introducing us to Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), a young FBI trainee who is out for a run when she's called into the office of her superior. Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), the head of the Behavioral Science unit, wants Starling to interview the famed Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter, who might either know something about the killer that they are tracking, Buffalo Bill, or be able to study the profile enough to know where he might strike next.

The race to find the killer's latest possible victim takes up the majority of the picture, but the most fascinating moments are between Lecter and Clarice. Where the sequel "Hannibal" had Lecter out on his own and taunting Starling mostly by phone, the face-to-face pairing is much more intense. Highly intelligent and daring, the audience remains unsure if Lecter is genuinely trying to help or if he's just trying to work his way into the minds of those around him so that he can be freed.

Hopkins is electric, intense and stunning in the role. I'd be willing to bet that Hopkins received pile upon pile of similar screenplays after the success of "Lambs", but it's a credit to the actor that he allowed himself to not be typecast in the role. Although his physical appearance looked quite different in the sequel, the actor still remained threatening and intimidating, yet slightly less than the original, where his pale, thin features added a genuinely creepy quality. Although Jodie Foster's role was less intense and showy, it still remains one of her most remarkable dramatic roles.

"Silence" has its imperfections, but it still remains a suspenseful, gripping psychological horror film that is expertly directed by Jonathan Demme.


VIDEO: "Silence of the Lambs" has been presented twice before - once by Image Entertainment and once by the Criterion Collection, both in non-anamorphic widescreen. For MGM's release,a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation has been prepared from a high-definition master. Tak Fujimoto ("The 6th Sense")'s gloriously gritty and dark cinematography has been given fresh, crisp new life on this presentation, with only a few minor flaws. Sharpness and detail are superb, as every brick in the prison walls even seemed to be nicely defined and all of the dark and dimly lit scenes offered a fine amount of visual information.

Flaws are few and far between. Print flaws are the main problem: although infrequent, there are the occasional marks and speckles - for example, in the opening credits. Edge enhancement and pixelation are nowhere to be found, which makes for a natural, pleasant looking image. The presentation also seems to be only lightly grainy at times, but grain never even gets to mild levels.

Colors are intentionally muted for the majority of the movie, but become noticably more vibrant during several sequences throughout the picture. Colors appeared natural and accurate, with no instances of smearing or other flaws. Although not a hundred percent perfect, this new presentation from MGM does deserve praise and I doubt the occasional, minor flaws will cause concern.

SOUND: "Silence of the Lambs" is presented in this new release in Dolby Digital 5.1 for the first time; previous editions have only been Dolby 2.0. The new 5.1 presentation improves the listening experience only slightly, as the majority of the film's scenes revolve around dialogue, especially between Starling and Lecter. Yet, there are some instances of surround use, although mainly for ambient sounds. Audio quality seemed fine, as both Howard Shore's stellar score and dialogue both sounded clear and crisp.

MENUS:: Although the animated menus for "Hannibal" were basically interesting, the animated menus for "Silence" are much better. Genuinely evil looking animated menus with images of the characters, this is a terrific opening to the DVD.

EXTRAS:: The previous edition of the film on DVD from the Criterion Collection provided several extras, such as a commentary track from Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Demme and others. As with most Criterion editions, the supplements that have been produced by Criterion have not been licensed out to MGM for this new DVD, requiring the studio to produce supplements of their own. The Criterion edition as well as the basic Image Entertainment editions are now out of print.

Inside the Labyrinth: Making Of: This is a new 57 minute documentary that provides new interviews with many of the people involved with the film, including Anthony Hopkins, Mike Medavoy, Ted Tally, Howard Shore and many other members of the cast and crew, including some people who were not involved directly in the making of the picture, such as film critic Amy Taubin. Jodie Foster does not participate here, but there are some instances of footage of her interviews from around the time of release. The documentary goes through nearly every aspect of the production, focusing first on the casting and crew issues that were gone through - especially tidbits like the fact that Gene Hackman was originally going to direct. It then moves on to the production itself, such as providing locations and filming on a relatively minor budget and getting FBI cooperation for the picture. The documentary also covers reaction and other issues that revolved around the picture. An insightful, informative and interesting piece, it's certainly worth a look for "Silence" fans.

Deleted Scenes: 22 deleted scenes, which total about 20 minutes of footage, are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen. The footage is generally of decent and watchable quality, but some scenes have some very apparent wear. There is no audio commentary provided for these sequences, so the exact reasons why they ended up on the cutting room floor aren't known for sure. I'd wager a guess that most of them were simply cut for issues of pacing or repetition, though.

Outtake Reel: A never-before-seen reel of outtakes, some moments here are suprisingly funny for such a dark movie, but unfortunately, the reel is pretty short.

Original Featurette: This is the original 1991 promotional featurette. As expected, it's pretty much geared towards selling the movie and rather dated looking, but does provide some decent interview footage with Foster, Hopkins and other cast and crew members. 10 minutes.

Photo Gallery: This is an extensive photo gallery, offering production stills broken up into several catagories: Jodie/Clarice(20); Hopkins/Lecter(15); Jonathan Demme(17);Buffalo Bill/Catherine Martin(16); Portraits(5); FBI (7); Special Effects (18); Behind-The-Scenes(20).

Trailers/TV Spots: The "Hannibal" DVD trailer; "Silence" theatrical trailer, TV Spots (9)

Also: A very amusing phone message from Anthony Hopkins.

Final Thoughts: Although MGM unfortunately couldn't provide the Criterion supplemental features, they have succeeded in offering the film with better audio and video quality than previous editions and came up with some solid supplements of their own. Recommended.

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