The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
|Year Of Production||1991|
|Running Time||113:34 (Case: 115)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (58:19)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Jonathan Demme|
Lawrence T. Wrentz
Frank Seals Jr.
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
With MGM finally joining the ranks of the local distributors and taking responsibility for their own distribution, several of their titles have been re-released as single disc bare-bones editions at a budget priced entry point. The Silence Of The Lambs is the first title I have had a look at in this new range. Originally distributed in Region 4 by Twentieth Century Fox and released as a two-disc edition back in August 2001, The Silence Of The Lambs: Special Edition came with a second disc containing a decent array of extra material including a newly-made making-of documentary, deleted scenes, but alas no commentary track.
What we get here of course for the ultra-budget price of just $14.95 is just the film and nothing else. For those unfamiliar with the story and needing an introduction to one of the finest thrillers ever made, this is a very good way of getting acquainted with Hannibal Lecter and friends. A quick recount of the plot, with much of the detail borrowed from my earlier review follows.
In her Academy Award winning role, Jodie Foster is FBI agent-in-training Clarice Starling. The head of the FBI Behavioural Sciences section, Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) requests her help in his team's hunt for a serial killer by the name of Buffalo Bill. It seems the deranged Bill has been kidnapping, skinning and murdering young woman. Desperate for a new lead, Crawford sends Starling to the Baltimore Mental Institution to interview the imprisoned psychiatrist turned serial killer Hannibal 'The Cannibal' Lecter (a career-defining role for Anthony Hopkins). It is hoped that the once-renowned Dr Lecter can provide an insight into the mind of the serial killer and deliver the information that is needed to capture Buffalo Bill. Needless to say Dr Lecter does prove useful, but Clarice is in store for much more as the cunning doctor toys with her mind and emotions. In exchange for the information he gives her he wants information about her childhood which he gleefully uses for his own amusement. Ever the professional, Starling soon gets on the trail of Buffalo Bill who has just kidnapped a Senator's daughter and may be about to kill again, but the link with Dr Lecter has been established and is proving hard to shake. "You don't want Hannibal Lecter inside your head" warns Jack Crawford to his young protégé, but it may be too late.
What was a fantastic novel by Thomas Harris became an international sensation in 1991. Brilliant, tight and quite imaginative direction from Jonathan Demme, stellar casting with perhaps the strongest male/female lead character interactions ever seen in film, and a script that held it all together in a vice-like grip made for arguably the best movie of the nineties. This is not horror with the true "someone jumping out from behind the door" type of scare so prominent in the more unimaginative slasher movies. This got to you in another way. It was what you didn't see that affected you so much. The unassuming and seeming normality of Hannibal Lecter and the calm and urbane way he carried himself in an almost gentlemanly pose, discussing fine wine and art in between viciously murdering and eating people. Juxtapose this with Clarice Starling's nervousness and insecurities about her own life and her burning desire and enthusiasm to capture the deranged Buffalo Bill and it all made for an unnerving psychological thriller without peer.
At the Academy Awards ceremony in 1992, The Silence Of The Lambs cleaned up and became only the third film (after It Happened One Night, and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest) to garner the top five Oscars for Best Film, Director, Male Actor, Female Actor, and Adapted Screenplay. It surely doesn't get much better than this, and for those wanting a budget priced introduction to this classic, this disc is hard to pass.
From initial comparisons it certainly appears this transfer is identical to the one which was used for the two-disc special edition. At the time I found little fault with that transfer aside from an issue with the location subtitles. Alas this problem is still a concern (more on that in a moment), but watching this again in critical review mode, rather than pure enjoyment mode, I am struck by how much more demanding I have become of video and audio transfers in recent years. I put this down to the sheer number of real top quality discs that we are all spoilt with nowadays. The quality of this disc is still excellent, but I just can't quite place it as highly as I did when I first watched it nearly three years ago.
The major gripe from the original release is still an issue - the treatment of the location subtitle captions (captions to tell the viewer of a change in city or state for example) used throughout the film. They have been removed and placed into a subtitle stream by the disc's authors. This is in an effort to make the disc more "international" by allowing the authors to place the translated place name on the screen for each of the subtitle languages present. I don't have an issue with this, but I think it could have been done better. The typeface used is vastly different to that which is on the original print, which was extremely distinctive and highly original. It is also in a different location on the screen and looks like an extension to the subtitles. It changes the way the director intended these captions to appear and that isn't good enough. There must be a better way of doing this.
The good news is that the video transfer is presented in the original theatrical aspect of 1.85:1, and it is also 16x9 enhanced.
The transfer is above average in terms of sharpness and clarity, but certainly not anywhere approaching reference quality. There is not a trace of edge enhancement and the level of shadow detail that is so very important in a movie like this is spot-on. The many dark scenes such as when Clarice is in the storage facility at 22:10-25:50 are magnificent. Blacks are deep and solid, and there is no hint of low level noise. There a reasonable scattering of grain, mostly on solid backgrounds, but it is of no consequence and does not provide any disruption.
Colours are also superb, but not in the usual gob-smacking vivid and vibrant way we expect. There is a very muted palette on offer due to the nature of the film, with plenty of drab greys, blues, and cold off-whites displayed. The colours used are consistently solid and richly-defined with no bleeding. Skin tones are natural, with the many extreme close-ups providing an opportunity to see every line and crease in the pale sunlight-deprived skin of Hannibal Lecter.
There are no MPEG artefacts and thankfully there are almost no film-to-video artefacts. Even the dreaded aliasing does not raise its ugly head. Unfortunately, film artefacts are quite numerous, and this is certainly the most disappointing aspect of the transfer. My expectations of these not appearing in a transfer of a classic film have certainly been raised after seeing so many near flawless releases over the last couple of years (take a bow Indiana Jones and Paramount). I used to be quite forgiving of such things, but I now know that it can be done better and the level of artefact presence here is quite disappointing. To be fair they are only the usual minor white/black flecks and are not overly disruptive, but the early parts of the film especially do look quite grubby.
The same 14 subtitles that are present on the special edition are carried across here. I verified the presence of all and extensively sampled the English and English for the Hearing Impaired versions. They are not perfect, but are better than many I have sampled.
This is a dual-layered disc that is RSDL formatted. The layer change occurs at 58:19. Placed on a scene change, it is noticeable but not disruptive. It is exactly the same place as the special edition layer change.
As mentioned there is only one audio track present in this disc, this being a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.
Like the video this would appear at first listen to be the exact same audio soundtrack that was used on the two-disc special edition. I also had it pointed out to me in no uncertain terms at the time of my original review that the original Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack was definitely not a remastered track, but rather a poor straight copy of the original Dolby Pro-Logic 2.0 surround soundtrack passed off as a 5.1 remaster. On close listening it is obvious the dialogue is not isolated to the centre channel and there is clearly audible dialogue leaking through to the front left and right channels, albeit quite minor. There is also very little in the way of surround use, though I can't imagine how much better this film would sound with consistent activity in the rear channels anyway. I don't find this issue of a stock standard Pro-logic track being passed off as something else as offensive as some, and certainly not enough to make me prefer a non-anamorphic transfer as was suggested a couple of years ago, but you may wish to sample the disc before purchase.
Dialogue is very, very important in this film. There are some magnificently dramatic moments that purely revolve around the dialogue being delivered. Any of the exchanges between Hannibal and Clarice focus primarily on the voices and here they are delivered with absolute clarity. There are no audio sync problems.
As a precursor to his work delivered on The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, this is a superb and somewhat unconventional score composed by the renowned Howard Shore. It is a score used to build tension, but not in the usual slasher manner evident in so many films. It is engrossing, at times mystifying, always memorable, and it blends seamlessly with the on-screen action. Almost perfect.
The surround and subwoofer channels are used sparingly and certainly are not utilized to the same extent as they would be in a modern-day 5.1 recording. Both they and the dialogue would benefit greatly from a full 5.1 surround remix.
|Surround Channel Use|
Aside from a little menu audio there are no extras on this budget priced disc.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Obviously this is a budget priced release devoid of any extras, so a direct comparison with the special editions in both Region 1 and Region 4 is a little unfair. For the sake of those wishing to do a comparison I will still list the extras that are missing from this disc and that are available on the Region 1 and 4 special editions. Those two special editions were almost identical save for a couple of additional French and Spanish soundtracks present on the Region 1. It is also worth noting that there was previously a Criterion Collection disc available that did contain a commentary track, but this is no longer available unless you are able to purchase it second-hand, and most likely for a huge premium.
The Region 4 single disc version misses out on:
The Region 1 and Region 4 Special Edition discs miss out on:
The Silence Of The Lambs is a true cinematic classic in every sense of the word with superb direction, casting, and acting, rounded out by a solid and compelling story. Couple these elements with a script without peer and it makes for a very pleasurable night's viewing. It is a worthy winner of all the accolades that have been heaped upon it over the years.
This single disc version is budget priced, and as such comes with no extras. The video and audio transfers appear to be the same ones used for the two-disc special edition.
|DVD||Loewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).|
|Speakers||Front - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10|