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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English DTS-HD 2.0 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Commentary by Jonathan Demme, stars Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, screenwriter Ted Tally, and FBI agent John Douglas
  • New interview with critic Maitland McDonagh
  • Thirty-five minutes of deleted scenes
  • Interview from 2005 with Jonathan Demme and Jodie Foster
  • Inside the Labyrinth, a 2001 documentary
  • Page to Screen, a 2002 program about the adaptation
  • Scoring ďThe Silence,Ē a 2004 interview program featuring composer Howard Shore
  • Understanding the Madness, a 2008 program featuring interviews with retired FBI special agents
  • Original behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Trailer
  • An essay by critic Amy Taubin along with, in the Blu-ray edition, a new introduction by Jodie Foster; an account of the origins of the character Hannibal Lecter by author Thomas Harris; and a 1991 interview with Jonathan Demme

The Silence of the Lambs

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Jonathan Demme
1991 | 118 Minutes | Licensor: MGM Home Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #13
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: February 13, 2018
Review Date: February 12, 2018

Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca

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SYNOPSIS

In this chilling adaptation of the best-selling novel by Thomas Harris, the astonishingly versatile director Jonathan Demme crafted a taut psychological thriller about an American obsession: serial murder. As Clarice Starling, an FBI trainee who enlists the help of the infamous Hannibal ďthe CannibalĒ Lecter to gain insight into the mind of another killer, Jodie Foster subverts classic gender dynamics and gives one of the most memorable performances of her career. As her foil, Anthony Hopkins is the archetypical antiheroócultured, quick-witted, and savagely murderousódelivering a harrowing portrait of humanity gone terribly wrong. A gripping police procedural and a disquieting immersion into a twisted psyche, The Silence of the Lambs swept the Academy Awards (best picture, best director, best screenplay, best actress, best actor) and remains a cultural touchstone.


PICTURE

Criterion adds Jonathan Demmeís The Silence of the Lambs back into the collection with a new 2-disc Blu-ray edition. The film is presented on the first dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The new 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a new 4K restoration conducted by MGM and scanned from the 35mm original camera negative.

Criterionís previous DVD was basically a port of their LaserDisc edition and used a non-anamorphic master. All-in-all it actually didnít look too bad on a standard 4:3 CRT but upscaled it was, well, not great. MGMís latter DVD and Blu-ray editions were improvements but looking at the Blu-ray again not too long ago it still has a fairly dated and somewhat processed look that could easily be improved upon.

Iím happy to report that this new presentation does improve over that and all previous editions and by a vast margin. The image has a far less processed look than MGMís old Blu-ray edition and looks far more like a film. Film grain is a little heavier/noticeable than I probably would have expected but it looks absolutely fantastic, rendered incredibly well with no signs of noise or pixilation. This lends the film a higher amount of detail as well, those close-ups of the actorsí faces presenting far more detail than ever before (at least on home video). Depth is wonderful (the long shot of traveling through the basement cell block looking especially good) and textures are rendered cleanly and naturally. Colours look a bit more natural here as well, with excellent black levels to match, which aid on those darker shots like the finale of the film. The smoky shots of the interior of Billís house are also cleanly rendered, no signs of banding or artifacting present.

One surprise Iíve always had with some of the older releases was damage that remained in the image. This one looks pretty flawless, all marks and bits of debris looking to have been removed; I donít recall a single blemish ever popping up. In all itís a remarkable looking picture, far exceeding any expectations I had going in. I was expecting a fairly decent upgrade over the MGM Blu-ray but the improvements here are surprisingly significant. This aspect of the release is probably worth the upgrade alone.

10/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

In Criterion fashion (as of late at least) you get two audio tracks: the original 2.0 stereo surround presentation and the remastered 5.1 surround presentation, both presented in DTS-HD MA. For both the mixes donít sound all that different from one another. Thereís some more obvious direction and some noticeable splits in the surrounds in the 5.1 track in relation to music and some sequences that have a bit more action in them but outside of that there isnít too big a difference in comparison to the 2.0 surround track. Sound quality is excellent for both, though, and the spread of the audio, between the front speakers and from back to front are good. Theyíre both very dynamic with great range and excellent clarity. In the end it will come down to personal preference, and maybe more astute audiophiles will be better at picking up differences, but for me both sounded really good.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

There have been a number of special editions for the film over the years, from both MGM and Criterion, and with their new edition here Criterion does manage to carry most of them over, though somewhat sadly not all, with a number of features from their own DVD edition not making it. Criterion spreads the features over the two discs.

Thankfully the one big feature exclusive to Criterionís edition has made it over: their jam-packed audio commentary featuring director Jonathan Demme, screenwriter Ted Tally, actors Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, and, as Criterion likes to do, an actual expert on the subject the movie tackles, FBI profiler John Douglas, who also served as a consultant on the film. I've always liked these edited tracks as it usually keeps the pace going and (for a majority of the time) stops the participants from wandering off. Demme and Tally of course talk specifically about making the film and the source novel by Thomas Harris (it's a shame they couldn't get him, though heís apparently pretty reclusive), while Foster and Hopkins both talk about their characters and building their personalities. Douglas chimes in to talk about profiling and a bit about the reality behind the subject matter, even pointing out bits of pure fiction in the movie. Itís a really great track and Iím glad it is finally available again.

Disc one also presents a collection of Deleted Scenes and a handful of outtakes. Interestingly both Criterion and MGM included deleted scenes on their respective editions but they actually differed from one another. For the presentation on this edition, Criterion has edited the deleted sequences from each edition together here. By ďediting togetherĒ I mean they have literally done that to create the deleted sequences in their entirety, or as close to their entirety as possible. For example there is an extra scene involving Jack Crawford talking to a doctor about patients looking into sex reassignment surgery, which was on the MGM disc originally, while the Criterion edition presented the tail end of this scene where Crawford is on the phone with the FBI director. The full scene has been edited together here, but it appears the footage from the MGM disc comes from a film source while the footage from the original Criterion DVD comes from video, so the sequence jumps between the two sources. The extended/alternate version of the Your Self Storage sequence is also presented in a similar fashion.

As to the scenes themselves itís not hard to see why they were either excised or truncated though theyíre still interesting to watch in their own right. A scene where Clarice is suspended adds an interesting element to the tail end of the film but it was pointed out that cutting this sequence from the film upped the tension (and this was apparently done at the recommendation of screenwriter of William Goldman, who saw an early edit of the film). At any rate, it looks like all of the material is here from what I can see, even featuring the entirety of the evangelical program that Lecter is stuck watching along with a few outtakes/bloopers from the film at the tail end. Itís a fun extra to go through. Altogether the scenes run 38-minutes.

New to this edition is an 18-minute interview with Maitland McDonagh, here to talk about various aspects of the film and the Hollywood/public fascination with serial killers. During the feature she also talks about the character of Hannibal Lecter, author Thomas Harrisí original intent (he didnít want him likeable) and talks about how the character is portrayed by Anthony Hopkins and Mads Mikkelsen (Brian Cox really only gets a mention, but then thatís more than what Gaspard Ulliel gets). Itís a rather entertaining and enlightening discussion, though is admittedly a bit of a hodge-podge also going into behavioral science. I have a feeling its primary purpose for being here is to replace text features found on the original Criterion DVD, which went into detail about serial killers, behavioral science, and so forth, none of which has been ported over to this edition. All the same, itís a good feature, though sadly the only new interview to be found here.

The disc then closes with the filmís theatrical trailer.

The second dual-layer disc then presents the remaining features, most of which come from the previous MGM editions. The first group of features is presented as interviews with Jonathan Demme and Jodie Foster, though is really a compilation of three features from the old Blu-ray covering the making of the film and headlined by Demme and Foster. Running 52-minutes total (with no chapter stops and leaving in, for whatever reason, the opening and end titles for each part) this is ultimately a general making-of, the first part going over how the film came to be, the second part getting into more details about the shoot, and then third going over certain details of the production design, the editing, the release, and then its sweep of the Academy Awards. Though it is ultimately a pretty standard making-of it does still cover some intriguing topics, like the reasoning behind the design of Hannibalís cell, the planning that went into an escape sequence, and even the design of Hannibalís mask.

Again itís decent but apparently that wasnít enough as we then get another making-of, this time a 66-minute one (also comprised of three parts) from 2001, called Inside the Labyrinth and featuring interviews with a number of members of the cast and crew, including (but not limited to) Demme, Tally, actors Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Ted Levine, Anthony Heald and Brooke Smith, production designer Kristi Zea, editor Craig McKay, former Orion studio executive Mike Medavoy, producer Ron Bozman, costume designer Colleen Atwood, Roger Corman, critic Amy Taubin, and composer Howard Shore. Though it may seem like overkill to have yet another making-of after a fairly in-depth audio commentary and another full making-of like feature it, rather impressively, manages to add a bunch of new material, including details about the serial killers that influenced Buffalo Bill, original casting (and directing) choices, more details about the moths used in the film, the set of Buffalo Billís basement, and then some great miscellaneous items, like the friendships that formed (Ted Levine and Brooke Smith, who respectively played Buffalo Bill and his latest victim, became friends on set). This feature also addresses the controversies that arose over the film, specifically the accusations of transphobia because of the character of Buffalo Bill, adding to the numerous unflattering portrayals in Hollywood and the media in general at the time. Again, another making-of seems ridiculous but it has enough new material to make it worthwhile.

The next feature is two 2002 episodes from a Bravo program called Page to Screen, hosted by Peter Gallagher and apparently focused on film adaptations. The program does offer more behind the scenes material, some of it repeated from other features in one way or another, but itís still worth watching for a few additions. The big one (though unfortunately brief) is an interview with Gene Hackman. Itís mentioned throughout some of the other features that Hackman was all set to not only star in the film (as Hannibal Lecter no less) but to also direct the film. Here he explains how he got involved with the project and why his contribution (and funding) ultimately fell through. This program, running 41-minutes in total, does also spend a good amount of time on Thomas Harris and the long period it took for him to write Silence of the Lambs, going over his research and some of his other work. It also looks at Tallyís adaptation and covers some of the changes from book to film. All of this makes it yet another worthwhile addition.

There are then a couple of interviews recorded in 2004 and 2008 respectively, one with composer Howard Shore and then another with the title of Understanding the Madness, which features interviews with retired FBI agents Richard L. Ault, Jr., Roger L. Depue, James R. Fitzgerald, Robert R. Hazelwood, R. Stephen Mardigian, and Michael R. Napier. The Shore interview is a 16-minute discussion about the development of the score while the agentsí interview compilation, running under 20-minutes, goes into detail about the Behavioral Science Unit and the idea behind profiling. This latter one is interesting but admittedly a little clinical.

The disc then closes with an 8-minute featurette created around the filmís release, and then 4-minutesí worth of storyboards. The featurette is typical of the time while the storyboard feature offers an animated presentation of said storyboards for a few sequences: the Your Self Storage sequence, Billís basement, and the final confrontation. Audio from the film plays over these segments. Unfortunately this isnít as in-depth as what Criterion had on their original DVD. That release also included storyboards for the escape sequence and then storyboard comparisons. This release also drops some of the rather gruesome concept art for the escape sequence. And, as mentioned previously, this edition also drops the text features about serial killers and behavioral science found on the old Criterion DVD.

Criterion does include a rather packed booklet, though. The 56-page book first features a new introduction by Jodie Foster, who reflects on the film and character, which is followed by an updated essay by Amy Taubin, who wrote the essay for the original Criterion DVD (this one features some of the same information but is expanded upon a great detail). In another nice addition Criterion then reprints two new introductions author Thomas Harris had written for newer printings of the novels for Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs, from 2000 and 2013 respectively, with the author recalling some inspirations that sort of led to the creation of Dr. Lecter. The booklet then closes with a reprint of a great interview with Jonathan Demme conducted in 1991 by Gavin Smith for Film Comment. Itís a terrific, well rounded booklet beautifully closing this set.

Altogether I found this a really solid set of features, though do sort of miss the material not ported over from the Criterion DVD. The stuff on this disc about profiling and behavioral science is fine though I think I preferred the text information on the old Criterion DVD. It would have admittedly also been great to get new interviews with the cast members, but then this would have more than likely just repeated details already covered in other supplements. Still, even though most of the material comes from older releases, this is the most comprehensive special edition released for the film so far.

9/10

CLOSING

Complete with some strong supplements, a great looking DigiPak, and a stunner of a restoration, this is the best edition for the film Iíve come across yet. A really superb release.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

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