A perfect, thrilling, and absorbing piece of cinema 5 Stars

Crafted with a gift for capturing the layers of complex characters, investigative pursuit, and the tightening screws of tension, The Silence of the Lambs builds its effective psychological horror. It is mesmerizing cinema deserving of its five Academy Award wins, including for Best Picture, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins) and Best Actress (Jodie Foster). Criterion’s release is a definitive presentation, with flawless audio and video, and near-complete collection of special features.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Released: 14 Feb 1991
Rated: R
Runtime: 118 min
Director: Jonathan Demme
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Cast: Jodie Foster, Lawrence A. Bonney, Kasi Lemmons, Lawrence T. Wrentz
Writer(s): Thomas Harris (novel), Ted Tally (screenplay)
Plot: A young F.B.I. cadet must receive the help of an incarcerated and manipulative cannibal killer to help catch another serial killer, a madman who skins his victims.
IMDB rating: 8.6
MetaScore: 85

Disc Information
Studio: Criterion
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: R
Run Time: 1 Hr. 59 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Special Criterion
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 02/13/2018
MSRP: $39.95

The Production: 5/5

“You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well-scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste. Good nutrition’s given you some length of bone, but you’re not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you, Agent Starling? And that accent you’ve tried so desperately to shed: pure West Virginia. What is your father, dear? Is he a coal miner? Does he stink of the lamp? You know how quickly the boys found you… all those tedious sticky fumblings in the back seats of cars… while you could only dream of getting out… getting anywhere… getting all the way to the FBI.”

Trainee-FBI Agent Clarice Starling is recruited to assist in a special case by Agent-in-charge Jack Crawford. She is tasked to approach notorious serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter-Hannibal the cannibal-for potential insight into the serial killer, Buffalo Bill, known for skinning his victims. Starling is green, but eager. A capable student with a desire to work in Agent Crawford’s Behavioral Sciences Unit, she accepts, and confronts the fascinating, manipulative, oddly compelling Dr. Lecter locked away in the dungeons of a Baltimore criminal facility. Starling and Lecter form an unusual relationship as he teases out information and insight into the mind of the brutal killer Starling so desperately wants to help catch.

The Silence of the Lambs demonstrates a superb skill in terrifying audiences within the frame of a dramatic and thrilling plot. It tells quite a simple story; the hunt to catch a vicious serial killer and the young FBI agent who must consult a dangerous, seductive prisoner, “Hannibal the Cannibal,” to gain insight into the man being hunted. Giving the film an additional sense of urgency and a brisk pace is the race to save the young captive woman, who while still alive, does not have long. In the hands of the late Jonathan Demme directing, this fiercely intelligent production builds a frightful reality. Demme’s proclivity for having characters look directly into the camera, looking and talking to us-the audience-breeds an intriguing intimacy. We become a part of the scene and cannot look away. Demme directs from a splendid screenplay by Ted Tally, adapting Thomas Harris’ book, to create.

The world seen in The Silence of the Lambs is a drab, gritty place where the muted colors of life permeate everything, and the somberness of investigative procedure is mirrored in every dank location, run-down house, and landscape worn out by winter. Anthony Hopkins provides an immensely taut and outstanding performance as the cannibalistic killer, Hannibal. His interactions with the novice Agent Starling, played by Jodie Foster, as she tries to learn critical details about “Buffalo Bill”, are now legendary. Hopkins’ performance is landmark and magnificent. His ability to lure us with his soft-spoken way, unexpectedly and reluctantly endears us to him. He is likeable despite the ferocity of his actions-and that makes the character far more dangerous. Jodie Foster as Starling excels in her role. She portrays Starling with timidity and a growing sense confidence. Her wariness becomes a striking source of courage as she maneuvers the male-dominated field of law enforcement. We often see her surrounded by men, often much taller, who tower over her, but she never relents. She is able to more than hold her own with her keen intelligence and a fervent fortitude. She is a brilliantly realized hero, thrust in the center of brutal, violent circumstances, resolving to not become a hero, but to do the right thing, becoming the hero as a byproduct. One of cinemas most compelling characters.

The horror in The Silence of the Lambs comes most notably from the brutal and heinous mutilations of victims and from the associated bloody and disturbing images. But the true horror in this modern classic is found in the grotesqueries of distinct possibility. There is no apparition, no undead or implausible killer on the loose, and no supernatural or unnatural realm being tapped here, just the darkest dominion of what people can do. This is one of the best horror films ever made. It generates a sense of fear, placing the audience in a terrifying voyeuristic state watching characters in states of vulnerability. There we engage in nail biting and burying faces in pillows when the tension rises. And the denouement with riveting misdirection is still something to behold.

The film is a triumph, not only for the quality of its production and story, but for its ability to breach the mainstream consciousness and achieve a commercial and critical success nearly unheard of for a film like this. It thrust into the popular culture scene the iconic Hannibal Lector character, doing so in part by transcending genres to become a top-class thriller and an unsettling chiller. It has settings and sounds that are the territory of horror–brick dungeons with haunting echoes, ruthless and bloody killings, and a killer with shocking motives. All these things masterfully coalesce to earn this film a rightful place as an undisputed classic.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

Criterion’s perfect release features a new digital restoration, created in 16-bit 4K resolution from the 35mm original camera negative, all approved by director of photography Tak Fujimoto. The range of detail is striking. Plenty of dark, dank scenes are filled with more detail than I’ve caught in previous releases. Black levels, shadow details, contrast, colors and grain are consistent and stable.

This film doesn’t look 27+ years it. It looks like it was filmed recently. Outside knowing these are actors in their younger days, you can be fooled into thinking this is a new film just set in the early 90s. There’s a vibrancy and clarity and impressive contrast of colors and details in full preservation of the original intent. Just extraordinary and the most impressive this film has looked at home.

Audio: 5/5

This release features a terrific 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio as well as an alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio. For the purposes of this review I watched with the 2.0 track (and sampled the 5.1), and they are outstanding. This is a dialogue-rich film which, in every opportunity, is clear and unfettered. The impressive sound design lures and traps us, and, with Howard Shore’s score creating an entire, isolated world where we exist, thrilled and frightened. In fact, Howard Shore’s masterstroke score builds a tension, swells with dark threats and emotional wrenching and release. Any pops, cracks or other issues are nowhere to be heard. The 5.1 allows for more immersion, and gives the sound-design more space, but those looking to experience the original audio will be very pleased with the 2.0.

Special Features: 4.5/5

Just about everything ever included as a special feature has been included this release. The new elements are a new set of deleted scenes and an interview with critic Maitland McDonagh is an interesting discussion of killers and the cinema that examines them.

The scenes are alternate takes on scenes that made the final cut, or lines around those scenes, and a few other ideas. These deleted moments are of varying quality, from poor to okay. A collection of outtakes rounds these out. The commentary remains a fine listen, and the interview with composer Howard Shore offers still compelling insight into the process. I’ll also add that the booklet included, with the essay by critic Ann Taubin (and introduction by Jodie Foster and interview segment with director Jonathan Demme) is very, very good.

Audio commentary from 1994 featuring director Jonathan Demme, actors Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, screenwriter Ted Tally, and former FBI agent John Douglas

New interview with critic Maitland McDonagh

Thirty-five minutes of deleted scenes

Interview from 2005 with Demme and Foster

Inside the Labyrinth, a 2001 documentary

Page to Screen, a 2002 program about the adaptation

Scoring “The Silence,” a 2004 interview program featuring composer Howard Shore

Understanding the Madness, a 2008 program featuring interviews with retired FBI special agents

Original behind-the-scenes featurette

Trailer

Essay by critic Amy Taubin

Overall: 5/5

Horror has many faces. Things that go bump in the night, zombies, aliens, ghosts, the supernatural and the terrifying horror of what one human can do to another. That form of horror, sharing the unthinkable cruelty where the dark corner of the soul abandons its own humanity to perform unimaginable acts, is where Silence of the Lambs exists. And in its examination of that horror, and the hero of a young FBI agent-in-training standing up and standing out in her field, where this film earn its place as one of cinemas most thrilling films.

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Carlo Medina

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Because I'll support Criterion in most any way I can, I've already purchased this and it should be on its way shortly. That said, reading that it's a 4K 16-bit scan from the OCN...Criterion really need to get on the UHD bandwagon so I can buy this again from them.
 

Tom St Jones

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Wish they had used the original poster art on the front cover, or at least maybe the old DVD art. IMHO the only thing that keeps the Criterion releases from being "perfect" is lack of the orig poster/ ad campaign artwork. With few exceptions, Criterion never uses the original artwork (occasionally it may appear inside or in a booklet, just not as cover art). In fact, I must admit I've found some of their recent cover art downright awful. Alas, I guess you can't have everything...
 
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dpippel

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It's currently $25 on Amazon as well. If you're only planning on buying a single title from the Criterion sale (which means you pay for shipping) the Amazon price works out to be about the same if you have Prime.
 

Craig Beam

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Wish they had used the original poster art on the front cover, or at least maybe the old DVD art. IMHO the only thing that keeps the Criterion releases from being "perfect" is lack of the orig poster/ ad campaign artwork. With few exceptions, Criterion never uses the original artwork (occasionally it may appear inside or in a booklet, just not as cover art). In fact, I must admit I've found some of their recent cover art downright awful. Alas, I guess you can't have everything...
I completely agree. Some of their covers are horrific---- case in point: CARNIVAL OF SOULS. What the hell was that? Don't get me wrong--- I love Criterion, but whatever money they're throwing at their cover artist(s) would be better spent acquiring/rights-clearing original theatrical poster art. This one detail prevents most of their editions from being truly definitive for me. Eureka!/Masters of the Cinema, on the other hand, typically kicks Criterion's ass in this regard.
 
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Dave H

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For not being the original poster art, I think Criterion usually does a nice job including on this one. By comparison, look at the garbage Photoshop covers being used by most studios...
 
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Carlo Medina

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First catalog title in a while that I rushed home to, immediately unwrapped, and watched. Believe the quality hype. Audio and video is top notch.

It's incredible how well this holds up to repeated viewings over a span of years. Even when you know the twists and the outcomes, it frees you to pick up on little nuances you hadn't noticed before. Little tics and mannerisms in both Lecter and Clarice that you didn't notice before. These were two actors who earned their statues--even given the relatively "short" screen time for Hannibal. The fact that Hopkins' performance has embedded itself so deeply in film history and culture over the years just confirms that it's not how much screen time an actor is given, but what he does with it that should judge whether a performance is Oscar worthy.

Bonus treat? My flatmate and his fiancee had never seen it beginning to end (they're about 14 years younger than I am) and both thoroughly enjoyed it. She was fully creeped out by Hannibal, which says something given how she is in her late 20s and was raised in an era of Silence-inspired programs like CSI, Criminal Minds, True Detective S1, etc. Even then, Hopkins' performance chilled her.
 

Carlo Medina

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PS I’m watching the extras and Silence premiered on Valentine’s Day 1991. Hope some of you celebrated its anniversary today!
 

haineshisway

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A staggeringly great transfer of a staggeringly great movie. I shan't be watching the extras because my experience in the past has been it always ruins the film for me. I don't want to know what this was or that was or alternate takes - it all cheapens the watching experience for me and I just steer completely clear and let the movie do its job.
 

Colin Jacobson

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It's incredible how well this holds up to repeated viewings over a span of years. Even when you know the twists and the outcomes, it frees you to pick up on little nuances you hadn't noticed before. Little tics and mannerisms in both Lecter and Clarice that you didn't notice before. These were two actors who earned their statues--even given the relatively "short" screen time for Hannibal. The fact that Hopkins' performance has embedded itself so deeply in film history and culture over the years just confirms that it's not how much screen time an actor is given, but what he does with it that should judge whether a performance is Oscar worthy.
I don't think the "complaints" about Hopkins' victory have to do with his performance - I think they have to do with the fact he got Best Actor when his screentime seems more in line with Best Supporting Actor.

I've never felt bothered that Hopkins got BA instead of BSA, mainly because his presence looms over the entire film - it really comes as a surprise to realize how few on-screen minutes he maintains!

But I do get the argument for BSA...
 

Robert Crawford

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I don't think the "complaints" about Hopkins' victory have to do with his performance - I think they have to do with the fact he got Best Actor when his screentime seems more in line with Best Supporting Actor.

I've never felt bothered that Hopkins got BA instead of BSA, mainly because his presence looms over the entire film - it really comes as a surprise to realize how few on-screen minutes he maintains!

But I do get the argument for BSA...
I think Carlo is trying to say the same thing, but, he just didn't spell out that he was talking about BA when it came to screen time and performance.
 

Reggie W

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I've always been more of a fan of Manhunter than this film and always preferred Brian Cox as Hannibal. Still like this picture though and ordered it from Criterion. I have not seen it in many years and did not own it so this will be fun to revisit.