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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Silence of the Lambs



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#1 of 30 Cameron Yee

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Posted March 12 2009 - 05:38 PM

Posted Image

The Silence of the Lambs

Release Date: Available now (released March 3, 2009)
Studio: MGM Home Entertainment
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc, "eco-friendly" Blu-Ray case
Year: 1991
Rating: R
Running Time: 1h58m
MSRP: $34.99

MAIN FEATURESPECIAL FEATURES
Video1080p high definition 16x9 1.85:1480i or 480p standard definition; 1080p high definition
AudioDTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: French 5.1, Spanish 2.1Stereo
SubtitlesEnglish SDH, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean, MandarinNone


The Feature: 5/5
A film has reached a certain pop culture significance when a broad TV comedy like "The Office" can reference it with only the name "Clarice" and some slurping sounds. In fact I'd wager that even if someone hasn't seen "The Silence of the Lambs" (or read Thomas Harris's novel) they still know who Hannibal Lecter is and what he's known for, after years of jokes and impressions of the film's most memorable character. So you'd think after 18 years of both praise and parody that the film would somehow be diminished, that Lecter would have lost his teeth by now. Well, time and the continuing pop culture references haven't done it and neither have the dim sequels and prequels that followed in its wake of success. "The Silence of the Lambs" continues to be as horrific and permeated with dread as it was when it first hit theaters, thanks in large part to the cast that features Anthony Hopkins as the high class serial killer Lecter and Jodie Foster as the strong, but beautifully vulnerable, FBI-agent-in-training Clarice Starling. But much can also be said about director Jonathan Demme's guiding hand that knows how to pace and build up to horror rather than just spring it on a person like a cat leaping from a cupboard. In fact I can't say the film contains any horror movie tropes of that ilk, going for something more subtle and nuanced, which explains its continuing appeal and its broad success at the time (Academy Awards for Hopkins, Foster and Demme and the awards for Best Picture and Best Screenplay). As rare as it is for a horror film to win an Oscar, rarer still is a film that loses none of its impact from either time or exposure.


Video Quality: 3.5/5
The film is accurately framed at 1.85:1 and presented in 1080p with the MPEG-2 codec. The film's drab and dreary color palette doesn't prove to be much of a challenge for the format, with fleshtones veering toward the bluish-green for most of the film. Overall contrast can be a little flat, with inconsistent black levels that don't always plumb the darkest depths. The second visit between Clarice and Lecter, where Lecter is swallowed up in shadow, is a prime example of the black level limitations, with things looking more gray than inky. Detail and sharpness show similar levels of inconsistency, looking quite pleasing at times but at others looking a touch hazy or soft. Skin surfaces in close ups often look waxy or smudged, a sure sign of noise reduction, though at other times the softness looks like the result of extremely shallow depth-of-field (of course the transfer cannot be faulted for the latter). The occasional telltale loss of detail in wide shots further points to the use of filtering, though fortunately there seems to be no attempts to compensate for its side effects with sharpening measures. Overall, I would label the transfer as inconsistent, the presence of noise reduction being the most bothersome. For a taste of what might have been, check out the high definition theatrical trailer in the special features. There's much more visible grain structure (not a bad thing) and a much more satisfying level of detail.


Audio Quality: 3.5/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio track is front heavy with clear and intelligible dialogue taking (literal) center stage. Surround activity is limited to support for the soundtrack and some mild wraparound effects in a few key scenes. LFE is non-existent of course, but bass response seems appropriate for the material.


Special Features: 4/5
The special features package includes the majority of items from MGM's 2001 Special Edition and 2004 Collector's Edition. As expected, some of the special features from the Criterion Collection release, which included an audio commentary with Hopkins and Foster, remain absent. However, this Blu-Ray does have a new picture-in-picture video commentary that includes the two leads, though the feature itself could have been better implemented. Perhaps then the photo gallery could have been carried over too. As it is, it's a nearly complete package of extras, though, after awhile, a bit repetitive in terms of actual information. Items are in high definition where noted.

"Breaking the Silence" Video Commentary: The new feature has interview clips with the actors Foster, Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Anthony Heald, Kasi Lemmons and screenwriter Ted Tally, along with various factoids related to the film. The clips are hard coded onto a standard definition transfer of the film, which is a pretty regressive technique considering the Blu-Ray format has a picture-in-picture feature tailor-made for this sort of thing.

"Understanding the Madness" (19m35s): FBI and other law enforcement professionals provide a history of criminal profiling and talk about the film's major influences. In high definition with stereo audio.

"Inside the Labyrinth" (1h03m): 2001 retrospective documentary includes interviews with Hopkins, Foster and other members of the cast and crew and covers major topics like development, the characters, set design, protests from the gay community and the Academy Awards.

"Page to Screen" (41m17s): Cable channel program covers some familiar territory but places more emphasis on the source material, the optioning of the novel and early development efforts.

"Scoring the Silence" (16m00s): Composer Howard Shore reflects on writing the music, and shares the philosophy and goals behind the project.

1991 "Making Of" (8m08s): A brief, archival behind-the-scenes look at the production.

Deleted Scenes (20m32s): Twenty-two scenes.

Outtakes (1m45s): Actors struggle with latex gloves, get their lines wrong and goof off.

Anthony Hopkins Phone Message (33s): Hopkins leaves an outgoing message for the answering machine.

TV Spots (5m55s): Eight spots.

Theatrical Trailer (1m50s): In high definition with stereo audio.

Teaser Trailer (1m05s)


Packaging
This is the first release I've seen use the VIVA Eco-Box, which strives to be environmentally friendly by cutting down the amount of plastic used for each case. This is achieved by removing large portions from the center sections. The design is kind of interesting, but I can see collectors having problems with its eventual affect on the cover insert.

Posted Image


Recap

The Feature: 5/5
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5

An enduring and masterful contemporary horror film gets an average presentation and a fine - if at times redundant - set of special features.
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#2 of 30 Loregnum

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Posted March 13 2009 - 02:21 AM

I was really looking forward to this disc but when people got it the reports came in about how mediocre the PQ is which has basically made me decide to hold off for the no doubt future release that will actually look good...and if they don't ever double dip it then I will just get it down the line for cheaper.

#3 of 30 Todd Erwin

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Posted March 13 2009 - 03:36 AM

The video is in MPEG-2? This is obviously an older encode, as almost nobody uses MPEG-2 anymore. But, if I remember correctly, this is another film that has never really sparkled on home video.

Kudos to MGM, though, for at least providing a decent amount of extras on a catalogue title. Perhaps someone is listening....

#4 of 30 Powell&Pressburger

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Posted March 13 2009 - 04:10 AM

I still think the look of the trailer in HD is what the movie itself should look like. It looks way better than the film on the BD

Stop the Replacing of original Studio Opening / Closing logos! They are part of film history.

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#5 of 30 Cameron Yee

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Posted March 13 2009 - 12:19 PM

Quote:
I still think the look of the trailer in HD is what the movie itself should look like. It looks way better than the film on the BD
Agreed.
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#6 of 30 MatS

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Posted March 13 2009 - 01:46 PM

The Silence Of My Wallet .... pass

#7 of 30 Dave H

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Posted March 13 2009 - 03:46 PM

I'll probably grab this when it hits $14.99 at some point later in the year (my guess).

I saw some of the screengrabs of the trailer vs the presentation and while I'm for film grain as much as anyone, the grain in the trailer seems unnatural or from something like a multi-generational used print. I do see some film grain in the actual presentation based on those images and the DNR doesn't seem too bad. It does seem like Silence just contains a lot of softer shots, etc.

#8 of 30 pitchman

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Posted March 13 2009 - 05:17 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave H
I'll probably grab this when it hits $14.99 at some point later in the year (my guess).
I saw this in BB earlier in the week. I didn't realize that it was out on Blu. For a moment, I even thought about buying a copy, that is, until I pulled it off the shelf and saw the $44.99 sticker price! I thought for sure this had to be a mistake, but they had two copies and they both were price-marked the same. What the heck is the MSRP of this disc? $44.99 seems like an outrageous price for a single disc catalog title!
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#9 of 30 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted March 13 2009 - 05:22 PM

Doh! I didn't know about a DNR issue on this one, and of course, couldn't wait long enough to order it after checking the DVD Beaver review. Posted Image I hope the DNR is not too bad or my 2-disc SE DVD would've sufficed for much longer... Posted Image

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#10 of 30 Cameron Yee

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Posted March 13 2009 - 08:01 PM

Unfortunately there seems to be a trend with these older encode, MPEG-2 releases from MGM. Crossing fingers about The Princess Bride...
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#11 of 30 MatS

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Posted March 14 2009 - 07:14 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron Yee
Unfortunately there seems to be a trend with these older encode, MPEG-2 releases from MGM. Crossing fingers about The Princess Bride...
Princess Bride is MPEG-4 AVC Video 37631 kbps
and supposedly looks better than ever

#12 of 30 Cameron Yee

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Posted March 14 2009 - 07:18 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MatS
Princess Bride is MPEG-4 AVC Video 37631 kbps
and supposedly looks better than ever
Cool, looking forward to it. I thought the last DVD release showed a significant improvement.

I also added a bit to the review regarding the packaging, which uses the VIVA Eco Box.
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#13 of 30 Dave_P.

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Posted March 14 2009 - 01:56 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by pitchman
I saw this in BB earlier in the week. I didn't realize that it was out on Blu. For a moment, I even thought about buying a copy, that is, until I pulled it off the shelf and saw the $44.99 sticker price! I thought for sure this had to be a mistake, but they had two copies and they both were price-marked the same. What the heck is the MSRP of this disc? $44.99 seems like an outrageous price for a single disc catalog title!

This was a universal Best Buy tag misprice. Bringing it up to the register it will ring up at the $24.99 price (which it was during release week, might be $29 now)

#14 of 30 Brian W.

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Posted March 15 2009 - 04:58 PM

I'll pass on this. The video companies need to get the message that, after so many double-dips, we aren't willing to open our wallets unless they're willing to open their wallets for a new, state-of-the-art transfer. The same thing is happening now that happened in the first few years of DVD, where they would port old laserdisc transfers onto DVD. Now some companies are using old DVD transfers for their Blu-Rays. It didn't cut it then, and it won't cut it now.

#15 of 30 Robert Crawford

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Posted March 15 2009 - 09:32 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian W.
I'll pass on this. The video companies need to get the message that, after so many double-dips, we aren't willing to open our wallets unless they're willing to open their wallets for a new, state-of-the-art transfer. The same thing is happening now that happened in the first few years of DVD, where they would port old laserdisc transfers onto DVD. Now some companies are using old DVD transfers for their Blu-Rays. It didn't cut it then, and it won't cut it now.
The question is whether a few consumers refusal on the internet to not buy this release will send that message??? Anyhow, I'll be watching my BRD this afternoon because I think it will be awhile for another BR release of this title and I'm tired of keeping the HD showing of it on my DVR.





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#16 of 30 Ron Reda

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Posted March 18 2009 - 03:16 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MatS
Princess Bride is MPEG-4 AVC Video 37631 kbps
and supposedly looks better than ever

That's the rumor which is GREAT news. "Silence" has gotten me a little bit MGM gun shy.
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#17 of 30 Paul Arnette

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Posted March 18 2009 - 05:45 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron Reda
That's the rumor which is GREAT news.

It's no rumor. I watched it last night, and it looks fantastic.
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The Jackal
, Out of Africa, and Traffic.

#18 of 30 Ron Reda

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Posted March 22 2009 - 02:28 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Arnette
It's no rumor. I watched it last night, and it looks fantastic.

Very nice, I still need to pick it up, but only when the price tag comes back down to Earth.
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#19 of 30 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted March 24 2009 - 11:32 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave H
I'll probably grab this when it hits $14.99 at some point later in the year (my guess).

I saw some of the screengrabs of the trailer vs the presentation and while I'm for film grain as much as anyone, the grain in the trailer seems unnatural or from something like a multi-generational used print. I do see some film grain in the actual presentation based on those images and the DNR doesn't seem too bad. It does seem like Silence just contains a lot of softer shots, etc.

I watched most of it the other night (after watching Changeling), and I'm leaning somewhat toward this view of it.

It's not too clear to me that there's actually a (significant) DNR issue on this one. As noted in RAH's review thread, the issue may largely just be due to the flatter, "softer" look (in terms of contrast level) of the film, if this is indeed faithful to the film. There are details (and grain) here, but the rather flat look essentially hides a lot of the more subtle details (and grain). They just won't "pop" out at you like many other "reference quality" BDs, but I thought they were present nonetheless.

Admittedly, I was rather tired when I watched it and will need to give it another go to confirm my first impression of it.

I should also add though that at least a few shots did look noticeably softer (and lacking in detail), and I wouldn't be surprised at all if those had a hefty dose of low quality DNR filtering applied.

_Man_
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#20 of 30 Stephen_J_H

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Posted March 24 2009 - 11:58 AM

Ugh. Looking @ that box gave me bad flashbacks to snappers. I understand the desire to be environmentally friendly, but let's be honest: how many people actually throw out the cases? This type of case is more likely to be thrown out by virtue of its design. I can see people buying replacement BD cases and doing just that.
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