Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

Directed by Jonathan Demme

Produced by Ron Bozman, Edward Saxon & Kenneth Utt

Starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Ted Levine, Kasi Lemmons, Scott Glenn, Anthony Heald, Brooke Smith, Frankie Faison, Diane Baker, Roger Corman, Charles Napier, Brett Hinkley

Silence Of The Lambs

You know what makes me proud? The fact that the majority of principal cast and crew interviewed during the "Inside The Labyrinth" documentary on this Special Edition's second disc constantly refer to the film as a "horror film". Not a thriller, not a psychological thriller, not even a police thriller, but a HORROR film. I hope every idiotic marketing executive and his dog in the video industry watch this and learn that no matter how hard they try and pigeon-hole genre fare as something other than what it is (to please Joe Average video punter), they cannot disguise what it really is, nor deny it its roots. Lest we all forget, this particular "horror film" took out EVERY major category at the 1992 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Actor, Actress AND Director. That's no small feat. A decade later it still stands the test of time, holding its power to shock, disturb, horrify and enthrall in equal measures. It is an era-free cinematic classic that simply has not dated.

Like "Se7en" after it, everyone should know the plot of this one inside out, but for those that lived under a rock for the last decade, here goes nothing. A string of murders committed by a serial killer nick-named Buffalo Bill have been elevated to the attention of the FBI. FBI agent Jack Crawford (Glenn) assigns bright young hopeful trainee Clarice Starling (Foster) the task of a series of interviews with imprisoned madman Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins) in the hope of gaining insight into the motivations of the bureau's elusive target. As the clock ticks Lecter begins a tense game of cat and mouse from his prison cell with Starling, drawing on her inexperience to wangle his way to freedom. Meanwhile, time is running close to the bone for the daughter of Senator Ruth Martin (Baker), Catherine (Smith), who has become Bill's latest captive.

And that's as much as I'm prepared to divulge, as fans of the film will understand to say anymore will spoil the film's many surprises for the novice viewer. Former Roger Corman prot�g� Jonathan Demme ("Caged Heat") switched gear quite deftly with this film, following on from the lighter comedies "Something Wild" and "Married To The Mob". Believe it or not, he actually envisioned Michelle Pfeiffer for the Starling role, and Robert Duvall for Lecter! While that would have been interesting to say the least, it was the final role call that proved the winning formula. In fact, had it not been for the interplay between industry heavyweights Foster and Hopkins I doubt that Demme's version of Harris' novel would have been nearly as memorable as it has become. Demme's casting is nigh on perfect, as a decade on one couldn't imagine any other actor in ANY of the roles onscreen. The ensemble structure of the piece, paired with Ted Tally's tight script and Howard Shore's genre non-specific orchestrations still coagulate into one of the finest examples of genre filmmaking you will see. Even overlooked elements such as Tak Fujimoto's extraordinary cinematography and Kristi Zea's detailed production design enhance immeasurably the cumulative viewing experience. Put quite simply, this has all the hallmarks of becoming a timeless genre classic.

Oh yeah, now THIS is how you give the fans what they want in terms of a double-disc set Special Edition of a bonafide genre classic (not like another I could mention, but hey�hunt through my reviews to find the MAJOR bitch!). Demme's film now looks perfectly beautiful within the depths of its squalid, naturalistic horror, and is a testament to the DVD medium being THE format for genre fare when done (this) right. Letterboxed in its original theatrical aspect of Spherical 35mm (1.85) and anamorphically enhanced to boot, "Silence" scrubs up the best it ever has whilst making the usual colour correction tweaks necessary for the home viewing environment. It's not quite as cold as you remember it from the cinema, but it's damn close. Lovely colours and rich definition make this a viewing experience that effortlessly lends itself to repeated screenings.

There has been some criticisms of the new 5.1 remix of "Silence" (from the theatrical Dolby SR), but tonally this eerily replicates the unsettling atmosphere induced by the bass-enhanced surround track present in cinemas back in '91. Anyway, were it presented with a Dolby 2.0 surround mix to keep the purists happy, the trainspotters would pop a cog decrying the fact that there hadn't been a 5.1 remix administered. For Christ's sake, some people are just NEVER happy�I, on the other hand, was more than impressed.

Hmmm, extras, extras, extras�now THIS is how a Special Edition of an Academy Award� winning genre classic SHOULD be done (New Line, take note). Though nowhere near the amazing package that was put together for the sequel, MGM/UA really did things right with this one (though sadly omitted a much needed commentary track from the feature�ah, licencing issues!). "Inside The Labyrinth" is a thoroughly engrossing 63-minute documentary that follows every facet of the production from the film's genesis under Gene Hackman through to its bitter reception from the American Gay and Lesbian community. So fascinating, that it went on to be the quickest hour of my life this year! For those that felt that "something was missing" from the feature, we're treated to an amazing 21 Deleted scenes that do much to flesh out the story and characters (though in retrospect it's easy to see why many were dropped). Throw in the original promotional featurette, a couple of trailers, some TV spots and a Stills gallery or half dozen and it's all over bar the shouting, right? Well, sort of�cool bonuses are a cheesy Hannibal Lecter phone message, and a laugh-out-loud Outtakes reel (of which, Anthony Hopkins steals everyone's thunder�you'll see what I mean!) which is sorely short at 90 odd seconds. All up? Perfect, thanks!

What is there that needs to be said? This is an essential purchase for any self respecting genre fan, and a necessary addition to your DVD library. It is a film that will easily stand the test of time, and one of the few instances where "our" favourite form of cinema has crossed over to be embraced by the masses (which is never a bad thing, "acceptance" is always a positive stepping stone). "Silence" stands right up there with "Jaws", "The Exorcist" and their ilk as the apex of the genre when it is working as a well oiled machine. To be slightly more glib, MGM/UA have done us all proud with this release, and it is the perfect companion for that "Hannibal" Special Edition on collectors' shelves. In years to come, I have a sneaking suspicion that Scott's film will be judged on its own merits and lauded as the masterpiece that Demme's original has already been acclaimed. :)

Review by M.C.Thomason

Released by Fox Home Entertainment/MGM UA
Classified MA(15+) - Region 4
Running time - 118m
Ratio - Widescreen 1.85 (16:9 enhanced)
Audio - Dolby digital 5.1
Extras :
"Inside The Labyrinth" Making of Documentary; Original featurette; 21 Deleted scenes; Teaser trailer; Theatrical trailer; Outtakes reel; 2 TV spots; Stills gallery; Anthony Hopkins Phone Message