The Silence Of The Lambs

The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, Featurettes, Video Commentary, Phone Message, Trailers, TV Spots

Based on the best-selling novel by Thomas Harris, "The Silence of the Lambs" took home five Oscars (Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Picture, and Best Writing for a Screenplay Based on Another Medium) in 1992. What made this movie so memorable? Was it Jodie Foster's stellar performance as the FBI agent-in-training? Was it Jonathan Demme's superb direction? Or was it Anthony Hopkins's brilliant portrayal of the psychotic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter? The answer is all three – and more. This movie captured the hearts and minds of America for a reason: It is a startling exploration of the underside of the American psyche and its fascination with serial killers and their motivations.

Jodie Foster plays Clarice Starling, a young woman driven to the FBI by her love of justice , the desire to honor her law-keeping father, and a horror that lies in her past. Fresh from college, she is eager to devote her time to the psychology of criminals and their capture. She earns her chance just before she finishes her training.

Summoned by her boss, Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) to research the case of the serial killer dubbed Buffalo Bill – due to his penchant for skinning his victims – she attempts to enlist the aid of another imprisoned serial killer: Hannibal Lecter, an eminent psychiatrist noted for his penchant of killing and eating people. Starling finds herself as a pawn used in a game between Crawford and Lecter – and quickly learns that she must earn Lecter's grudging respect before the killer will help her with her case. Thus begins a brilliant study of psychology and a game of cat-and-mouse between Lecter and Starling – a convoluted game with rules that are clearly understood only by the incarcerated psychiatrist. They trade her personal information with his clues; he bases his answers on her psychology, forcing her to exercise her own mental prowess in order to understand the hints he's giving her.

In the meantime, Buffalo Bill has kidnapped the daughter of a Senator, preparing her for his own ghoulish rituals. However, this seems almost a side-plot when compared to the excellent chemistry between Hopkins and Foster – while Buffalo Bill might be the focus of the case, the focus of the movie is clearly on the interaction between Starling and Lecter. Still, the movie manages to tie these two threads together brilliantly, resulting a pair of climaxes for the two storylines that is nothing short of masterful. Be warned, however, that the movie does not spare the viewer. There are scenes of exceedingly grisly content that may cause discomfort for some individuals. Though these scenes are not as blatant as some you might find in other movies, they're twice as effective because of their delivery. It provides the gory details where necessary for the story, without gratuitous bloodshed. While it's not a full-on gross-out movie, neither is it a movie for the squeamish.

"Silence Of The Lambs" has been released on home video countless times before and every time the results were all over the place. At one time the film was overly grainy, the next time it had a shifted color palette, then it was cropped incorrectly – the list seemed endless. Therefore, the inevitable question arises, how the Blu-Ray version has turned out. Did they finally get it right?

Considering that it is by now impossible to tell what the director's real, undiluted vision for this film was, it is hard to make any educated judgment as to how this version compares to it. However, it is safe to say that "Silence of the Lambs" looks better than ever. The film boasts a high contrast image with a somewhat muted palette that is typically devoid of color highlights. In this version however, there is a notable naturalness to the palette that suits the film very well, replacing the sometimes overly artificial look in previous releases of the movie. In addition, the improved level of detail and increased definition add to the presentation significantly. However, "Silence of the Lambs" has always been a film with a slightly grainy image to enhance the story's edginess. The grain is perfectly reproduced here, maintaining the gritty look the director intended. You will quickly find however that it is never excessive and truly serves as a tool in the director's visual vocabulary, adding to the subtle unease the movie creates. Black levels are rock solid, rendering incredibly deep shadows and blacks, giving the image good visual depth, especially during the movie's final scenes where the brooding darkness becomes essential.

On this Blu-Ray disc, the movie boasts a DTS 5.1 HD Master Lossless Audio track that truly delivers the goods. Whether it is Howard Shore's unsettling score that will give you goose bumps, the wailing sobs of Bill's captive echoing through the cellar, or the dynamic moments of action. The new remix adds spatial dimension to the mix but also atmospheric ambiance and an incredible frequency response.

The release contains a number of bonus materials, all taken from previous MGM releases of the film. For understandable reasons the Criterion materials have not made it onto this release, as Criterion does not relinquish the rights to the extras they produce. Among those extras you will find a number of deleted scenes as well as the original 8-minute making-of promo featurette from 1991. But also look for the featurettes "Inside The Labyrinth" and "Scoring The Silence," as well as the "From Page To Screen" documentary that takes a very close look at the authenticity of the novel and film. An outtake reel is also included which is really funny. Given the nature of the film, flubs like "Put your hands on your hips" are simply twice as funny as they would be otherwise,so make sure to check them out.

For something a little more sinister, listen to Anthony Hopkins' Phone Message that is also included on the disc.

This Blu-Ray version also contains some new materials, though, such as the video commentary track "Breaking The Silence." This picture-in-picture track offers valuable insight into the production by offering up behind-the-scenes footage, interview snippets, pop-up facts and other gems as you watch the movie.

Also new on this release is the high definition featurette "Inside The Madness," discussing how the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit began taking a look at perpetrators of violent crimes and eventually developed the profiling techniques that are in use today. Very interesting stuff.

With its exploration of the psychology of serial killers and the demonstration of this mindset in practice, with the interaction between Hopkins and Foster, with the excellent direction of Demme, and with the brilliant conversion of the novel into a screenplay by Ted Tally, it spawned a tide of similar movies, some of which were masterful, some of which were truly horrid. Few, if any, reach the goal set by "Silence of the Lambs." It's that good. This movie is a must-see, especially now that it has arrived in high definition.