The Silence Of The Lambs Blu-ray Review
“Silence of the Lambs” is presented in widescreen 1.85:1 with MPEG-2 1080p coding.
As this is an older movie there were instances of print damage with specks of dirt visible in a lot of the scenes. There is also fair amount of grain present in “Lambs” which is clearly visible in the skyline during the opening scenes and on the interior walls of Quantico. As the movie progresses to predominantly indoor locations, the level of detail increases, with the grain becoming much less noticeable (although it's still present). The facial close-ups are where this presentation really shines and these are very well represented with nice definition, coupled with naturalistic skin tones. Foster's blue eyes, rosy complexion and the light sheen of sweet on her face during her first meeting with Crawford is a prime example. The disturbing photographs of Bill's handiwork contain more detail and are more sharply defined than I have seen in previous releases. Some of the office scenes, such as the grain in the wood paneling in Chilton's office and the variations in brickwork colour and pitting in the steel supports of Lecter's cell demonstrate the benefits of the HD upgrade. Chilton's suits also look very impressive, as are the subtle colour variations in Starling's clothing. Another nice visual surprise was the drawing of Starling and lamb that was not as clear in other releases. Some good shadow detail is also on display in some of the darker scenes.
With the focus of the movie lying firmly with character interaction and dialogue, the video presentation takes on a semi-monotonic muted appearance, that although noticeable, really suits the drab interiors of the Quantico headquarters and Lecter's cell. The print disappointingly did not lift as much as I would have liked and the scene where Starling is walking through the dinosaur display was one of the few instances where it demonstrated real depth. The colour balance seems to be skewed towards red which seems to have improved the overall palette (especially skin tones) and there was only one instance, the red bars when we enter Lecter's ward, where the balance looked slightly off (and demonstrated some slight colour bleed). There were also a few instances of black crush in some of the scenes but these were infrequent, for example in the first Bill basement sequence.
Overall this is a very good presentation with more detail on show when compared to previous releases, with a warmer overall feel, which suits the content of the movie. Some scenes were let down by softness that seems to be inherent to the print, but this flaw was largely noted only in background objects. There were a few short-lived scenes where the content was only marginally better than DVD quality but the facial close-ups, which dominate the movie, are thankfully impressive as a whole. Worth the upgrade but definitely not demo material.
“Silence of the Lambs” has a 5.1 dts HD Master Audio soundtrack.
Dialogue is the focal point for much of this audio presentation and is crystal clear throughout. “Lambs” is not an effects laden production and the low level of surround activity and sparse audio effects do serve to enhance dialogue and ensures that it's never muffled.
While the fantastic score from Howard Shore never really comes to the forefront to dominate, it is most definitely present and gently seeps from the surrounds, with a low level throb from the LFE channel. The score plays a strong part in this movie and can really add tension to the on screen action with some very nice crescendo moments. Disappointingly the surrounds do not come into play on many occasions during this presentation. The industrial hissing and mechanical effects during our first introduction to Lecter's orderlies is one of these occasions, and while this sequence sounds good, instances of surround activity are far too infrequent. There were a few instances, such as the opening scenes in Quantico, where there are gunshot rapports in the mix and I thought that more effort could have been made in include some surround activity for scenes such as these. Another example is the sequence where the FBI mobilise to thwart Lecter's escape from the war memorial temporary holding cell, with the majority of siren and helicopter effects lying front and center.
I'm sorry to report that there's not much audible improvement in this release over previous DVD releases. This is probably not a fault of the mastering process but more to do with the fact that the soundtrack for “Lambs” is not effects laden and therefore never has been overly immersive or active. Overall this is a serviceable presentation that does its job but it will most certainly not overwhelm or impress at any stage.
“Lambs” comes with an impressive selection of meaty extras that will keep fans of the movie occupied for hours.
”Breaking the Silence” (16x9 SD 1hr58min) - A PIP feature specially commissioned for this Blu-ray release featuring appearances from the cast and crew (although notably Demme is absent) as they expand on the story and comment on the characters from the movie. Foster and Hopkins in particular give valuable and informative insight for this updated feature. Also popping up on screen at various points throughout the movie are facts and trivia about the feature presentation. Although worthwhile when it's on screen, the PIP track does have segments of inactivity, and it's also a shame that this feature was not available for the 1080p presentation.
”Understanding the Madness” (16x9 HD 19min) - A feature on profiling techniques used by the FBI, with participation from retired FBI agents, and the manner in which they try and unravel the motivation and psyche of real life killers. Interspersed are scenes from the movie where Starling builds her profile of Buffalo Bill and other scenes to highlight these profiling techniques.
”Inside the Labyrinth: The Making of Silence of the Lambs” (SD 4:3 60min) - A documentary featuring movie critics, experts on serial killers and the cast and crew as they discuss the movie. We first get insight into the real life terror of serial killers and the influnce of Harris's novel. The focus then turns to the movie itself with plenty of footage from “Lambs” and interviews expanding with the producers as well as points of trivia. The second part of this feature focuses on production aspects of the movie with insight into set design and working on the set. An interesting and informative documentary.
“From Page to Screen” (SD 4:3 41mins) - A programme expanding on the process of bringing the literary vision and horror of Harris' 1988 novel (and mentioning the reclusive nature of Harris himself) to the big screen and the resultant success of the movie. Interviews with the cast (and Gene Hackman who owns the rights to the novel) as they comment on the characters from the novel. There's also a break half way through in case you need to make a cup of tea! Following this short sojourn, the programme looks at the methods and processes that the cast used to become their on screen counterparts and gives insight into Demme's directing techniques. Again interesting and informative.
“Scoring the Silence” (SD 4:3 16mins) - Howard Shore, who composed the score for the movie, explains his musical choices and how he made Starling the score's inspiration. Of course some of the more violent scenes are not based on Starling's exploits and Shore also expands on the musical choices for these.
“Original 1991 Making of Featurette” (SD 4:3 8mins) - A much shorter making of documentary that was filmed for the movies original release. Features interviews from Demme,Foster and Hopkins. Some of the points in this feature overlap with the beefier “Inside the Labyrinth”.
Deleted Scenes (SD 4:3) - Here we have twenty minutes worth of deleted scenes (in partially completed quality). Some are interesting, such as the alternative conversations with Starling and Hopkins, whereas others don't appear overly different from the ones that appear in the finished product. The rest of the scenes that didn't make it into the finished product are no great loss.
“Outtakes Reel” (SD 4:3) - A couple of moderately funny goofs from the movie. The definite highlight is Hopkins' Rocky impersonation.
“Anthony Hopkins Phone Message” - I thought that this would be a phone interview with Hopkins but it's actually a voicemail message that you can put on your phone! Pretty cool.
TV Spots (SD 4:3) - Eleven mini trailers for the movie.
Theatrical and Teaser Trailers (SD 4:3) - A couple of trailers for the movie, the theatrical one is 1080p.
”Silence of the Lambs” is one of the most exciting and interesting crime thrillers to come out of Hollywood and is a cinematic masterpiece - a movie that really has the complete package. Laden with quotable dialogue and memorable scenes, which have been parodied by everyone from French & Saunders to Family Guy, “Lambs” expertly builds tension to heightened levels as the movie progresses. We almost fear for Starling's safety at times as Foster and Hopkins demonstrate the meaning of on screen chemistry with unparalleled acting. This really is one of those must see movies and with this Blu-ray release those of you who do not already own a copy of this movie now have the perfect excuse to buy this upgraded version.
While both the video and audio presentations are very serviceable, they are unfortunately just that for the majority of the movie. The video presentation does have its moments of extreme clarity during the many facial close-ups, but the majority of the shots do have an inherent softness. The audio presentation, while always audible, never really comes to the forefront to impress.
This release also contains a very strong and expansive extras package providing plenty of worthwhile insight into the creation of the movie and its characters, with a commentary track or two being the only major omission (which were available on the Criterion DVD release). Overall a worthwhile upgrade over the many DVD releases that are currently available with the extras pack, and quality of the movie itself, making up for the slightly disappointing audio and video transfers.
“It rubs the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again”
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.77
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