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The first time I saw THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS ($25) was on the old pan and scan Image Entertainment Laserdisc, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why everyone made such a big fuss over this film. Years later, after watching THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS in wide screen on DVD, I suddenly came to appreciate the intensity of this particular film. All I can say is, what a difference a presentation makes. The proper aspect ratio, coupled with the 16:9 anamorphic enhancement and a big screen display has radically altered my perception of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Thanks to MGM’s first-rate presentation, I finally appreciate the complexities of this Academy Award winning police procedural, whose murky appearance and clinical detachment had previously left me cold.

Based on the novel by Thomas Harris, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS tells the story FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), whose ambition is to go into behavioral science. An instructor at the FBI Academy gives Clarice the task of interviewing cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), who is currently institutionalized in a facility for the criminally insane. Using Clarice’s charm, the FBI hopes to gain Lecter’s insight into a new serial killer that the press has dubbed "Buffalo Bill" because of his penchant for skinning his victims. At first, Lecter isn’t interested in helping the FBI, but he become intrigued by Clarice, and so he begins a cat and mouse game with the FBI trainee that will either lead her to "Buffalo Bill" or to a horrible end. Both Foster and Hopkins shine in their Academy Award winning roles, with Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter becoming one of scariest screen villains/monsters of all time. The cast of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS also features Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Kasi Lemmons, Anthony Heald, Frankie Faison, Diane Baker, Roger Corman and Charles Napier.

MGM Home Entertainment has made THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS available on DVD in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This is a truly fine looking transfer that gives THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS a consistently sharp and well-defined image. I remember the film having a murky appearance on both Laserdisc and broadcast- this is absolutely not the case with MGM’s new DVD. The picture is brighter and more cleanly render than I have ever seen it look. Since this is a down conversion of a new high definition transfer, there is no question that this the absolute finest THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS will look until that master is presented in its native format. Colors are fairly vivid and the transfer produces very appealing flesh tones. All of the more intense hues are rendered without any signs of chromatic distortion or smearing. Blacks appear smooth and accurate, plus there is a very good amount of shadow detail to be found in this decade old film. The film element used for the transfer is nearly blemish free, plus it displays very little apparent grain. Digital compression artifacts are well disguised by efficient dual layer authoring.

For this release, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is presented with a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. While not particularly showy, this is a solid soundtrack that was produced before the advent of the new discrete formats. There is excellent channel separation across the forward soundstage and the rear channels effectively produce the film’s edgy sense of atmosphere, through the use of ambient sounds and musical fill. The film’s dialogue was very well recorded and is reproduced here with marvelous clarity and intelligibility. Howard Shore’s intense score is rendered with a transparent quality that maintains its full musical integrity. The bass channel isn’t ground shaking, but the lower frequencies sound solid enough for the material at hand. French Dolby Surround and Spanish monaural soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's suitably creepy interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few supplemental features. Topping things off is brand new hour-long documentary on the making of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS entitled Inside The Labyrinth. The documentary features recent interviews with cast members including Anthony Hopkins, Ted Levine, Anthony Heald, Brooke Smith and Diane Baker, as well as members of the production team. This is a very thorough look at the production of the movie, and is a must see for any fan of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. The DVD also includes the film’s original featurette from 1991, which is far less detailed and more PR oriented. About twenty minutes of deleted scene are also present on the DVD, while they are interesting to see, they add nothing to the completed film and were cut to create a tighter paced motion picture. A photo gallery, theatrical trailer, TV spots and an outtake reel close out the main supplements. An amusing phone message featuring Anthony Hopkins is also provided on the DVD for those that want to give answering machines a new twist.

Thanks to MGM’s wonderful DVD presentation, I have finally come to appreciate THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Those who are already fans are going to love this DVD and will absolutely want to add this multiple Academy Award winner to their collections. Very highly recommended.


The Silence of the Lambs (Widescreen Special Edition)


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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