The Silence of the Lambs appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The fourth DVD release of Lambs, this one looked the best.
The picture looked consistently crisp and detailed, as I discerned very few examples of softness. A few wide shots seemed slightly ill-defined, but those were brief and minor. I saw no problems related to moiré effects, jagged edges, or edge enhancement. Source flaws remained negligible. Other than a handful of specks, defects were absent.
Lambs offered a restricted palette but the colors seemed fairly well-reproduced. The colors looked clean and accurate, though ultimately quite subdued. Black levels came across as dark and solid, while shadow detail was clear and easily discernible. While probably not quite as ominous as the transfer for the 1998 Criterion edition, this at least seemed to alleviate the excessive perkiness of the 2001 special edition. That made it the most consistently satisfying presentation to date.
However, I continued to prefer the old Criterion soundtrack. The Fox DVD offered the same remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 audio from the MGM disc. The front soundstage was quite broad and added a lot to the experience. Music and effects were consistently spread out across the front speakers, and I also heard some dialogue from places other than the center. The rear channels stuck with music and effects, though they did so adequately. The surrounds contributed some decent atmosphere at times, although they were junior partners in the mix.
The area in which this 5.1 mix and the old Criterion 2.0 tracks mostly differed related to audio quality, though many of those elements seemed similar as well. Dialogue appeared to be easily intelligible but slightly rough, as the speech betrayed a somewhat hard-edged and metallic tone at times. Howard Shore’s score also appeared somewhat harsher than it should, though the fidelity was decent. Effects came across as the most natural and realistic parts of the mix, but they still appeared somewhat thin and bland.
In comparison with the Criterion release, the dynamics of the soundtrack were where I really heard the biggest differences. The 5.1 mix sounded rather flat and sterile for the most part, as it offered little depth and spatiality. On the other hand, the 2.0 track was quite rich and warm, and it possessed some excellent bass response. I directly compared the two, and the differences were significant. The ominous rumble during much of the film came across clearly in the 2.0 version, while the 5.1 edition sounded lifeless and cold. Again, this altered the effect of the film for me, as Lambs became a much less effective work with the lackluster soundtrack.
On its own, the 5.1 mix was good enough to merit an objective “B-“, which wasn’t much lower than the objective “B” I gave to the Criterion DVD. For such purposes, I took each on its own merits and compared them against a theoretical “average” soundtrack from the era. However, subjectively, I greatly preferred the old mix, as it packed a strong punch and greatly reinforced the movie’s aura.
As I noted, this 2007 Fox “Collector’s Edition” of Lambs appeared to duplicate the picture and audio of the 2001 MGM “Special Edition”. It also provides all the same extras along with some added elements. I’ll mark new features with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, the component already showed up on the 2001 release.
DVD Two contains all of the set’s supplements. We start with a very good documentary called Inside the Labyrinth. This 63-minute and 13-second program consists of the usual array of film snippets, shots from the set and interviews with participants. The latter category provides the strongest elements, as “Labyrinth” packs in a wide variety of folks. From the movie’s production circle, we hear new material from producer Ron Bozman, screenwriter Ted Tally, former Orion Pictures VP Mike Medavoy, production designer Kristi Zea, composer Howard Shore, set dresser Ken Turek, set decorator Karen O’Hara, art director Tim Galvin, special makeup effects Carl Fullerton and Neil Martz, costume designer Colleen Atwood, editor Craig McKay, production sound mixer Christopher Newman, moth wrangler Ray Mendez, re-recording mixer Tom Fleischman, sound designer Skip Lievsay, and actors Anthony Hopkins, Roger Corman, Diane Baker, Brooke Smith, Anthony Heald, and Ted Levine. In addition, we also get comments from film critic Amy Taubin and transgender activist Vicky Ortega; more about the latter later. Remarks from actors Jodie Foster and Scott Glenn appear via 1991 interviews, while director Jonathan Demme remains totally absent.
The failure of the last three folks to appear in the new material offers this program’s only disappointment; while we hear from a slew of others, those three are awfully important omissions. However, I honestly barely missed them during this entertaining documentary. Very few stones were left unturned as the piece neatly cut through all manners of the film’s production. It gave a fine overview of the various elements, and it even went into the movie’s aftermath. I had totally forgotten about the misguided protests leveled against Lambs by gay and lesbian groups; they complained because of the film’s evil homosexual villain. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, as Jame Gumb was never described as gay. Sure, he was viciously misogynistic and a crossdresser, but as Ortega explains, that doesn’t make him gay, and Gumb’s sexual preferences play no part in the film. Anyway, that dimension of the documentary shows how detailed it was, and I thought it was an enlightening and entertaining piece.
Some new elements appear next. *The Silence of the Lambs: Page to Screen runs 41 minutes, 17 seconds and includes remarks from Foster, Tally, Medavoy, Glenn, Zea, Heald, book editor Richard Marek, NY Times book editor Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, producer Ed Saxon, former St. Martin’s Press editor-in-chief Tom McCormack, former FBI agent John Douglas, and actors Kasi Lemmons and Gene Hackman.
“Screen” starts with a look at author Thomas Harris and then examines issues related to his work as well as some specifics of Lambs. From there we move to the movie. Its participants discuss why the project appealed to them and we get info about the tale’s path to the screen. Those pieces inspect how the producers brought Demme on board plus Tally’s script adaptation, casting, research and preparation, locations, sets, cinematography and visual design, the film’s shoot, its release and reception.
Though “Labyrinth” encompasses a lot of information, “Page” manages to bring out a fair number of new details. I like the parts about Hackman’s initial interest in the project, and Foster’s dissection about why the movie needed a non-American actor as Lecter proves insightful. I think it skims over the scriptwriting process too quickly; the title implies a stronger look at the printed page, whereas “Page” tries harder to become a general overview of the production. Nonetheless, it works well and fleshes out our knowledge of Lambs.
*Jonathan Demme & Jodie Foster fills 52 minutes, 35 seconds and includes remarks from that pair. Both start with their involvement in Lambs and goes through research and preparation, other actors, locations, sets and shoot details, character notes and working from Clarice’s point of view. We hear about the “direct camera approach”, performance development and the relationship between Foster and Hopkins, cinematography, and a few other challenges. For the last act, the piece covers score, structure, the film’s release and reception, and its legacy.
Inevitably, this show covers territory already discussed elsewhere. Though more than a few elements repeat from prior programs, plenty of new information appears, and the perspectives on display help make the piece worthwhile. It’s good to find Foster and Demme in modern discussions, though it’s too bad they weren’t recorded together. Nonetheless, this is a consistently compelling documentary.
For a look at the music, we go to the 15-minute, 21-second *Scoring the Silence. This presents notes from composer Howard Shore as he discusses challenges connected to the project, various choices he made and aspects of the score. He gives us a concise and insightful look at his work that proves illuminating.
In addition, we get an eight-minute and eight-second Featurette that stems from the original release time frame of Lambs. This brief piece focuses on interview snippets from Hopkins, Douglas, Demme, Glenn, Foster and an unnamed FBI dude. Obviously the program’s brevity means that it can’t provide much depth, but it still offers a good experience. We learn some details absent from “Labyrinth”, mainly due to the extra perspectives. It’s a somewhat insubstantial piece, but I like it nonetheless.
The next big attraction is a collection of 22 Deleted Scenes that last a total of 20 minutes, 28 seconds. Although the Criterion DVD also included excised footage, the two duplicate little material. As such, a lot of the Fox disc’s snippets are quite valuable. Eight of them are referred to as “excerpts”, which essentially means that they’re just tiny snips from various segments. Some are also just alternate takes of existing scenes. However, a number of them are totally new, and these are the most useful pieces. They were quite fun to see, even if none of them really needed to be in the film.
Speaking of unused material, we find a 107-second Outtake Reel. This offers the usual mix of flubbed lines and goof-ups, which I usually don’t enjoy. However, in this instance, I made an exception, mainly because it was so odd to see semi-lighthearted footage from the seemingly grim Lambs set.
Another unusual extra comes via the Anthony Hopkins Phone Message. This brief piece provides an outgoing answering machine clip. I don’t know if Hopkins actually had this on his service or did it for a friend or performed it just for promotional purposes, but his Lecter bit is entertaining to hear.
The Photo Galleries split into eight subcategories. These offer from five to 20 images apiece for a total of 118 stills. The pictures mix the usual array of shots from the set with movie frames and publicity photos, and they offer a decent lot if you like that sort of thing.
A mix of ads comes along for the ride as well. We get 11 TV Spots plus two trailers for Lambs. The set also provides promos for Get Shorty, Raging Bull, Hoosiers, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and a “Horror Compilation”.
Inside the package, we find some paper materials. Five *Recipe Cards offer instructions to make some of Hannibal Lecter’s favorite dishes. You find directions for fava bean risotto, deviled lamb’s tongue, foie gras and fava bean salad, chicken liver and fava bean crostini, and roast saddle of lamb. In addition, we get a four-page Booklet. This throws in a few general production notes.
I continue to love The Silence of the Lambs. After more than 15 years, it’s lost none of its power or perverse charm. This DVD presented arguably the best visuals to date, but I wasn’t wild about the somewhat thin and lifeless Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, which paled in comparison with the Criterion DVD’s 2.0 mix. The DVD includes a nice mix of extras, though, most of which don’t also appear on the Criterion set.
For those who don’t already own a DVD of The Silence of the Lambs, they’ll have little choice. The Criterion disc is out of print and it fetches high prices at auction, which makes it an unrealistic option for most. Except for the audio, this Collector’s Edition is a good step up from the 2001 Special Edition, as it improves picture quality and adds useful extras. It’s probably the most consistent Lambs DVD of the four, and it’d make a nice upgrade for folks who own the 2001 SE.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS