Main Feature (1H 58M 37S)
I have seen this film quite a few times and each time I am left with a different overall opinion. I am always left feeling impressed with Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter but that I prefer the more openly psychotic portrayal from Brian Cox in Manhunter. Jodie Foster, fresh from her Oscar-winning performance in The Accused, puts in a good performance as the gifted FBI cadet Clarice who finds the strength to overcome her fears. I can’t put my finger on why my opinion on this film has differed so much in the past because watching it again, noticing how each performance fits so well into the picture as a whole, it’s clear to me now that everything is so well balanced. Ted Levine’s performance, as Buffalo Bill, is much ignored in favour of Hopkins and Foster due to a lack of on-screen character development but he did a wonderful job with with such few lines and for me is the equal of Hopkins.
Director Jonathan Demme was an odd choice at the time as his less than glittering career was based on comedies but he stepped up to the plate and when presented with the opportunity to prove his talents he grabbed it with both hands. Demme did a great job but it could be argued that his greatest achievement was working with this cast which had its doubters and getting the most out of them as a team.
It’s little surprise now that this swept the Oscars but at the time no-one expected that from a thriller about serial killers but it’s clear the success is down to the cast and crew pulling together and clicking so well. This stands as one of the most critically acclaimed films based on a novel and is certainly one of the best American psychological horror films of all time.
One of the most important aspects of any psychological thriller or horror is the use of music and this film is blessed with the genius of composer Howard Shore. It is easy to forget that Shore worked on films such as Silence of the Lambs before his work on recent successes such as The Departed, Gangs of New York, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Silence of the Lambs isn’t as violent or gruesome as I remembered but I accept that, being a fan of Takashi Miike, my current threshold on violence might be abnormal. Apart from less than impressive video quality this is still an enjoyable watch and is at least the equal of any psychological thriller in more recent years.
Deleted Scenes (20M 29S) — Many of these “scenes” aren’t proper scenes at all and consist of only a few seconds here and there. The clips which are longer, a good example is the drawn out Clarice target practice scene, don’t add anything to the story and were understandably removed. The clips are of a really poor quality and there’s a lot of visual and audio distortion.
Out-takes Reel (1M 46S) – The first out-take is quite funny and has the Coroner using up 30 seconds as he struggles to pull on a pair of rubber gloves while trying to maintain a serious expression on his face. There is also a nice moment where Anthony Hopkins does a funny impression of Rocky.
Breaking the Silence (1H 58M 37S) — This is a Standard Definition version of the film interspersed with occasional video of the cast and screenwriter in a picture-in-picture style plus additional facts and figures in text form. This is the closest thing the Blu-ray edition has to a Commentary and I don’t think it works as well due to the gaps between each comment and I’m confused as to why this is SD and not HD. There is one comment I found very interesting and that is when the Screenwriter, Ted Tally, admits that his film version of the “Buffalo Bill” character isn’t as rich as he appears in the book.
Understanding the Madness (19M 35S) — This is a very interesting documentary in which FBI agents describe psychological profiling and how useful such information can be. The agents also go into some detail on real-life serial killers and what aspects of their personality and actions can be found in the Hannibal and Buffalo Bill characters.
Inside the Labyrinth: Making of The Silence of the Lambs (1H 6M 28S) — Is a substantial documentary which is packed full of information and a must-see for fans of the film and anyone interested in the creative side of film-making.
The Silence of the Lambs: Page to Screen (41M 17S) — For one reason or another I’ve not yet read the novel but this documentary makes me want to rush out and purchase it. This gives us an insight into the author Thomas Harris and the level of detail and precision he went into when creating this story.
Scoring the Silence (16M) — Howard Shore talks about his love of film music and the choices he made in order to create the soundtrack for this particular film. Shore comes across as an exceptionally thoughtful composer and his explanations for the choices he made really add to the film as whole.
Original 1991 “Making of” Featurette (8M 7S) — This is a nice extra because it takes you back to an old fashioned style of documentary film-making, complete with trailer style voice-over, found in the Eighties and early Nineties.
TV Spots (5M 55S) — This, similar to the above Featurette, is great because it’s like watching an old VHS tape and reliving all the old trailers complete with some entirely inappropriate Blade Runner and Halloween style music.
Theatrical Trailer (1M 49S) — Once again this is a great addition as it takes you back to a different era in film trailers.
Teaser Trailer (1M 5S) — Like above but shorter, more fast-paced, and minus the voice-over.
Anthony Hopkins Phone Message (34S) — This is a cute little message, from Hopkins as Lecter, which probably won’t be used in reality but is an interesting addition.
After watching the main feature I wasn’t sure how I felt because while I certainly enjoyed the film the visual quality understandably comes into question when compared with more recent motion pictures filmed in HD.
As this is a review of the Blu-ray edition and not merely of the main feature I reserved my judgement until I had viewed the extra features and I must say that the quality of the documentaries alone are enough to earn this Blu-ray top marks.