Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 8/7/98
The Silence of the
1991 (1998) - Orion
review by Todd Doogan,
special to The Digital Bits
One of the greatest films ever put on celluloid. A well-rounded
thriller with wonderful characters and a villain we all can root
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Although the audio isn't of the THX standard the laserdisc from
Criterion is, it's still good. The video transfer is flawless and
respects color choices made by DP Tak Fujimoto and the extras
include some of the most informative entries ever placed on DVD.
Overall Rating: A
An excellent DVD version of an excellent film.
118 Minutes, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, RSDL
dual-layered (layer switch at 28:00, right at change point between
chapters 7 and 8), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary by
director Jonathan Demme, Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, screenwriter
Ted Tally and FBI consultant John Douglas, seven deleted scenes,
film-to-storyboard comparison, storyboards, FBI crime classification
manual, Voices Of Death:
word-for-word statements of convicted serial killers, animated
film-themed menu screens (with background music), scene access (27
chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0 Surround Sound)
Anyone who has read any of my reviews at
Roughcut.com knows that I'm a
big supporter of The Criterion Collection. I always look at their
product with a critical eye, because the moment they stumble I feel
a need to be there to help them get back up. So far, I've been
spotting them without incident, but when they made their move to DVD
recently, I got a little closer - just in case. Well it looks like I
can back off now, because right out of the gate, the incredibly
careful people at Criterion have been on their game. With authority,
I can say that these people love movies - and although they took
flack in the last couple of years for putting out questionable
Disney product like SuperCop
and The Rock while also
claiming "a continuing series of classic and important
contemporary films", their choices are ALWAYS warranted. I
don't care what anyone says about The
Rock, I think it's a great brainless movie filled with
choices no one in their right mind would make. For some that's their
complaint about the movie, but to me that's the frickin' great thing
about the movie. If I want to see people make real choices, I'll go
hang out with my cousin at the ER.
I want to be entertained damnit - and The
Rock is as entertaining as they come.
But I digress. Let's talk about a film that no one can argue about
being in The Criterion Collection - The
Silence Of The Lambs. Based on Thomas Harris' brilliant
novel, Lambs focuses on the twisted journey taken by a young FBI
trainee named Clarice Starling, played with an unflinching honesty
by Jodie Foster. The journey Starling makes is in fact a quest. She
is asked by her superior Jack Crawford to question the infamous Dr.
Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter. Lecter is Starling's
mentor in a way. She is trying to glean from him information about a
current rash of serial killings occurring around the state of
Illinois. Nicknamed Buffalo Bill, the serial killer is so evil,
criminal profilers claim there couldn't be a person evil enough to
commit the crimes perpetrated in this film in real life. What we
know (and the FBI doesn't) is that Bill is making himself a suit.
But not just any Brooks Brothers job, no siree Bob. Our nasty friend
is making a suit out of human skin - dead, overweight and female
human skin. It's a nasty idea, but it works in the context of this
Clarice and Lecter form a bond of sorts, and he agrees to help her,
only if she tells him a story from her childhood. She agrees, and
that's the movie in a nutshell. I don't like giving things away, so
if you haven't seen the film for yourself, you should - and don't
let anyone's opinions stand in your way. This is one well-made film,
and if the subject matter doesn't appeal to you, just keep in mind
that it's done very tastefully. Hell, I doubt Foster would be
involved if it was exploitative.
The Criterion Collection edition of The
Silence Of The Lambs is as good a DVD as your gonna get.
Yeah, I would have liked more (much more actually) included in this,
but for what we get, we can't complain. I can, and so I'm going to.
One of the things I would have liked to have seen is a theatrical
trailer - I'm assuming there is one, I can't remember - but it must
have been cool. Though the laserdisc was the first Criterion disc to
sport THX-quality sound, the DVD is not up to the same standard. The
sound is quite good, but a laserdisc, at least at this point,
shouldn't sound better than the DVD. Sadly, this is the case here.
And were is a "making of"? I would have loved to see some
behind-the-scenes stuff on this one - a document of how the actors
did this, and some research material as to what inspired the story.
I know Harris is a recluse (so much so that there is a debate
whether he actually exists), but it would have been nice to get
Harris involved here. [Editor's Note: I would add a 16x9 anamorphic
transfer to Todd's wish list. Every widescreen Criterion DVD should
be so enhanced.]
But, complaints aside, we do get a great audio commentary track.
Jodie Foster starts things off with her take on the Hero Myth, a la
Joseph Campbell. She breaks down Clarice's quest as being the
classic hero's quest, pointing out similarities to classic
mythologies and Silence all
throughout the disc. She really is a brilliant person, and just
hearing her talk is enlightening. Speaking of hearing someone talk
-- I don't care what he's talking about, but I will forever want to
hear Hopkins' voice. That guy could talk Moses into dropping a few
commandments. Hopkins talks about motivation and his identity with
Lecter. Fascinating and enlightening. Also included is Jonathan
Demme, the director who talks about director stuff and FBI
consultant (and Jack Crawford model) John Douglas, who tells us what
is hokey and what is by the book. He just sounds like a cop - it's
weird what we get from voices, isn't it?
On top of the commentary, there are also seven deleted scenes, all
of which appear in the film in shorter versions. The stand out is
the video of the evangelist that is playing during Clarice's second
visit with Lecter. It's a full blown rant about child abuse, and is
quite appropriate for the film's subject about nurture versus
nature. The piece was written and performed by performance artist
Jim Roche, a friend of Demme's that he discovered in Florida while
filming Something Wild.
Of great interest, on this DVD you will find three stand out
things. One, a reproduction of the FBI crime classification manual
that uses examples to explain certain differences in crimes. These
examples are morally repugnant, but you can't help to read on and
on. The case involving two sex crime offenders, who pooled their "talent"
and created a van of death, intent on raping a woman of every age,
is disgusting. Ironically enough, these guys audio taped themselves
doing some of these crimes and Douglas played the tape to Scott
Glenn to get him into the "mood" of being Jack Crawford.
Another thing on this, is a collection of quotes taken from serial
killers on many different subjects. It's just a small snippet, but
it is so enthralling, most anybody reading this will want to know
more about what goes on in these people's minds. Lastly there is a
great piece of video included here that splits the screen and shows
you the storyboard and the actual film of a scene from the film. In
my opinion, every special edition should include this if they're
going to have storyboards. It's an incredible look behind the
scenes. This is the sort of thing that was done for The
Game laserdisc from Criterion, and it works wonderfully.
The disc itself is a great transfer -- colors are bright and
smooth, the dark and light contrasts are beautiful. This is the best
looking representation I've seen. The sound is good, it's not THX --
and since I have something to compare it to, I'm spoiled and can
point this out. It sounds like the Image disc, and that is not a
slam. Both discs sound good.
If you are interested in following Clarice Starling down into the
pits of hell, the best guide you have is this DVD. A wonderful
print, good sound and extras that will keep you occupied for a
couple of hours make this a disc best served with fava beans and a
nice Chianti. And no, I'm not going to make that slurpy noise, so