The Silence of the Lambs: Special Edition/Gold Edition (1991)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Featurette-Inside The Labyrinth: The Making Of The Silence Of The Lambs
Audio-Only Track-Anthony Hopkins Phone Message
|Year Of Production||1991|
|Running Time||113:33 (Case: 115)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Jonathan Demme|
Twentieth Century Fox
|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|
The Silence Of The Lambs is one of my all-time favourite movies and it has finally made it to DVD in Region 4 after a very long wait. Despite being very sorely tempted to place an Internet order for either of the Region 1 versions, I resisted. The two Region 1 offerings have been available for some time, although both have their negatives. The Orion release was not 16x9 enhanced and had no extras. There was also a Criterion Collection version that was chock full of extras including a director's and cast commentary, but this was also not 16x9 enhanced and came with a hefty price tag. MGM have finally released a new version on a two disc collector's set. I think the wait has been worth it.
Firmly entrenched in the Internet Movie Database Top 250 at number 19, for those half dozen or so people on the planet that haven't seen this absolute classic thriller that was responsible for redefining the serial killer genre, a brief outline of the plot is in order.
Jodie Foster plays FBI agent-in-training Clarice Starling. The head of the FBI Behavioural Sciences section Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) requests her help in his hunt for a serial killer by the name of Buffalo Bill who has been kidnapping, skinning and murdering young woman. Crawford sends Starling to the Baltimore Mental Institution to interview the imprisoned psychiatrist turned serial killer Hannibal 'The Cannibal' Lecter (a career-changing role for Anthony Hopkins). It is hoped that the once-renowned Doctor Lecter can provide an insight into the mind of the serial killer and provide the information that is needed to capture Buffalo Bill. Needless to say Dr Lecter does prove to be useful, but Clarice is in store for much more as he toys with her emotions and in exchange for the information he gives her wants information about her for his amusement. Starling soon gets on the trail of Buffalo Bill who has just kidnapped a Senator's daughter, 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, 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, a magnificent cast with perhaps two of the strongest male/female lead character interactions ever, and a script that held it all together in a vice-like grip made for arguably the best movie of the nineties. I still remember seeing this at the Carousel 8 complex in Cannington in 1991 with two mates. We sat in the back row and I was scared witless by it, and not in the "someone jumping out from behind the door" type of scare so prominent in 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, the mask he wore, and the grim reality of Buffalo Bill's basement with the pit that he kept his victims in 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 3rd movie (after It Happened One Night, and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest) to garner the top 5 Oscars for Best Film, Director, Male Actor, Female Actor, and Adapted Screenplay. It surely doesn't get much better than this, and being able to watch it again in its proper aspect is an absolute pleasure and one that will no doubt get many repeat viewings in my house.
This is a beautifully packaged set with a second picture disc full of extras and a decent dual disc case. It comes in my favourite dual-disc case - the Transparent Amaray with the hinged insert containing the second disc. My preference for this case is that it looks the same as all the others in my display rack and doesn't take up any more room. They are also substantially more robust than the double soft brackley or other variations thereof.
A movie of such greatness deserves a decent video transfer and thankfully that is exactly what we have got. There is only one major gripe that I have and that is with the treatment of the location captions (captions to tell the viewer of a change in city or state) used throughout the film. Essentially, 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 type face used is vastly different to that which is on the original print, which was quite distinctive and original. It is also in a different location on the screen and basically 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.
Presented in the original theatrical aspect of 1.85:1, this transfer, unlike the previous Region 1 offerings is 16x9 enhanced.
The transfer is brilliantly sharp. Not quite of reference quality, but this is the absolute best I have seen the movie look. 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. A fairly muted palette is on offer due to the nature of the film, but colours are solid and richly-defined with no bleeding. There is only one mild instance of oversaturation at 9:57 where Clarice and Dr Chilton are passing under extreme red light into the dungeon. Skin tones are natural, with the many extreme close-ups providing an opportunity to see the pale "dungeon-trapped" 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. Film artefacts are quite numerous as would have been expected. They are only the usual minor white/black flecks and are not overly disruptive.
There are 14 subtitle streams present. I verified the presence of all and extensively sampled the English and English for the Hearing Impaired subtitle streams. Aside from the problem highlighted above, there were no inconsistencies or problems with these.
Disc 1 of this two-disc set is a dual-layered effort with RSDL formatting. The layer change occurs at 58:19. Placed on a scene change, it is noticeable but not disruptive. Disc 2 is single sided and single layer.
|Surround Channel Use|
An 8 page full colour glossy booklet containing a reasonable history of the film. Quite detailed, though much of the information is contained in the main featurette on Disc 2. It also lists the full cast and chapter numbers.
An item worth mentioning is the wording on the back page describing exactly what the widescreen image means. Not once are the often-confusing terms of 16x9 enhanced or anamorphic mentioned. It instead uses a layman explanation of widescreen. It reads;
"The Silence of The Lambs Special Edition is offered in the widescreen format, enabling you to experience the picture exactly as it was originally shown in theatres. Depending on how the film was shot, the widescreen format presents up to 50% more image to the left and right of the screen than the standard "pan & scan" process, thus preserving the director's vision of each scene. Black bars at the top and bottom of the screen are normal for this format. The widescreen version of this MGM DVD has been encoded to take full advantage of high-resolution "widescreen" television sets. When viewed on this type of television, the film's picture resolution will be significantly increased."
This is the best description of exactly what 16x9 enhanced means and why it is so much better than the dreaded pan & scan. The more people that can be convinced the better.
A creepy menu introduction. Themed with the main title score, this 16x9 enhanced animation features extreme close-ups of Hannibal Lecter, Jame Gumm, and Clarice Starling's faces that slowly morph into each other while the ever-present and instantly recognizable moth icon flutters around the screen. Quite chilling.
Someone had some fun with this one. Featuring an animated 3D shot of Hannibal's famous dungeon cell, you see the cell from Hannibal's viewpoint standing right in the centre of the cell as it slowly spins around. Images of Hannibal and Clarice are overlaid on this image. Very detailed and quite handsomely executed. The audio is quite a suitable dungeon sound that is provided by way of a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.
Fully animated scene selection with audio. Four of the thirty two scenes are available per screen to select. Each shows the scene from the starting point and plays for approximately 15 seconds before looping around again. Audio is provided by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and is the main theme again.
A retrospective making-of featurette made this year to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the film. It is presented full frame 1.33:1 with shots from the movie in 1.85:1 widescreen. It comes with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch subtitles. This is a very good featurette filled to the brim with the history of the film and is one of the best behind-the-scenes documentaries I have seen. I use the term documentary none-too-lightly, as many of the making-of features that we see on DVD are pure fluff with cast and crew just patting each other on the back and offering little new information. This feature is a true documentary in every sense. You will actually learn something new about the history of the movie from watching this. The feature utilizes many photos and current interviews with the screenwriter, producer and some of the cast including Sir Anthony Hopkins, although notable omissions are Jodie Foster and Director Jonathan Demme - they appear in footage from 1991. The documentary details the history of the story, its genesis as a book and how Gene Hackman originally held the rights to direct and possibly star in it. The casting, location selection, costumes, and make-up and effects are all described in some detail. It runs for 63:15 and is almost worth the price of the disc by itself.
The original making-of featurette. Not in the same league as the above feature. It is presented full frame 1.33:1, with truly awful Pan & Scan images from the movie thrown in. Audio is by way of a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. It features many of the same interview segments as the above feature from 1991. It runs for 7:47 and is really a very light promotional piece.
It looks like these deleted scenes were stuck in the dungeon with the rest of Hannibal's memorabilia judging by the scratches and general poor quality of the prints. There are 21 deleted scenes in total most running for about 60 seconds each.All are presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and are in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. They are not 16x9 enhanced. After numerous viewings of this movie, it was a pleasure to see some of the scenes that didn't make it into the final cut. A worthy extra. The total running time is just over 20 minutes.
Five bloopers that are reasonable entertaining. The highlight is the amusing imitation of Rocky Balboa by Anthony Hopkins when his face is covered in blood. All are presented 1.85:1 widescreen and have a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.
The original theatrical trailer. Runs for 1:44 minutes in an aspect of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Similar video quality to the main feature. Some scattered film artefacts are about the only blemish on an otherwise decent trailer that doesn't give away any of the story. Audio is by way of a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. This also has the same six subtitle streams as the major making-of featurette.
The teaser trailer runs for exactly one minute and like the main trailer is presented in an aspect of 1.85:1 and features 16x9 enhancement. Audio is also provided by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.
Two TV spots are present, titled Hangs in the Balance and FBI. Both run for exactly 30 seconds each and are presented Pan & Scanned 1.33:1. Audio is again Dolby Digital 2.0.
A bit of a novelty this one. It's a 32 second audio-only recording of Sir Anthony Hopkins designed to be left as an answering machine message. A bit corny, but it is unique.
A reasonable number of photos contained in several galleries. Showing a mix of film, behind-the-scenes, and promotional stills, there are galleries for Jodie Foster/Clarice Starling (20 photos), Anthony Hopkins/Hannibal Lecter (15), Jonathan Demme (17), Buffalo Bill (16), Portraits (5), FBI (7), Special Effects (18), and Behind the Scenes (22). The individual galleries are selectable but the actual photos play automatically complete with audio (the main theme) and you can only pause them using your pause button. Makes it a bit easier to navigate I think, since hitting the right button on your remote several hundred times (like on the Hannibal DVD) can become a bit repetitive.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This title has been available in Region 1 for quite some time in two forms. As previously mentioned, neither of those two releases were 16x9 enhanced and only featured Dolby 2.0 sound. The Criterion Collection release did contain a commentary track featuring Jonathan Demme, Jodie Foster, and Anthony Hopkins among others but is not in production anymore. This MGM version is also due to be released in Region 1 and from the information I can find it has virtually the same specifications as the Region 4 disc. I would certainly favour the local product in this case, though I could still imagine that the Criterion disc would be a good companion to this new release, just for the benefit of the commentary track.
The Silence Of The Lambs, a true cinematic classic in every sense of the word has finally been given the treatment it deserves and released as a double disc set with a near perfect video and audio presentation. Great direction, superb acting, and a script without peer make for a very pleasurable viewing experience.
Fans of the film - don't wait - go and buy this now. It is a disc that deserves to be in everyone's collection.
If you haven't seen this, then I can't stress it more highly - get a copy any way you can and enjoy one of the best thrillers ever made.
|DVD||Toshiba 1200, using S-Video output|
|Display||Loewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10|