It’s probably safe to say that almost every serious DVD collector owns at least one version of The Silence of the Lambs. Based on the novel by Thomas Harris, the film remains a seminal psychological thriller. With its recent release on Blu-ray, The Silence of the Lambs is sure to become one of those “must owns” for adopters of the high-definition format.
The FBI is on the trail of a serial killer known only as “Buffalo Bill” because of his tendency to skin his victims alive. FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is given a big break when she is assigned to work on the case. Under the supervision of her boss Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), Starling is sent to enlist the aid of another serial killer, he demented Dr. Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), to help her track down Buffalo Bill. When Bill kidnaps the daughter of a prominent U.S. Senator, whom he is starving to death, Clarice knows she has to work fast.

Silence of the LambsThe first thing that strikes you is Hannibal Lecter’s cell. One look at it and you know Clarice is descending into hell every time she visits him. A crude, windowless box with rough stone walls, it’s the kind of place you wouldn’t want your dog to be. It has a filthy toilet, sink, cot, and an impenetrable clear window that offers him no access to the outside world beyond his cage. Access to the cell is through rather plain and unassuming corridors and stairwells, until visitors are greeted by a harsh red light and a subtle yet foreboding rumble that signals the entrance into one of the world’s most unforgiving prisons.
Although the case at the center of the film is intense, it’s really the really the scenes between Starling and Lecter in the mental hospital’s “dungeon” and “cage” that make the film the classic that it is. Lecter is willing to provide Starling with clues in finding the murderer but only in exchange for personal information about herself. He wants to know about her past, her inner demons; “Quid pro quo,” says Lecter. “What is your worst memory of childhood?” In a sense, she makes a pact with the devil. It’s a pact she doesn’t regret but it’s one that comes at tremendous personal cost.
Foster gives a sensitive performance as the dedicated but troubled and vulnerable heroine. Left parentless at a young age, one gets the sense that work is Clarice’s life. Hopkins is alternately creepy, scary, and amusing as the cultured cannibal. “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti,” he tells Clarice about one of his victims. And, of course, there´s his wonderfully droll closing line, “I do wish we could chat longer, but I´m having an old friend for dinner.”
Jonathan Demme directed the film from a screenplay by Ted Tally and did a great job bringing Thomas Harris’ novel to life. Along with cinematographer Tak Fujimoto, they’ve taken a rather simple story and made it both visually and psychologically disturbing. The film draws audiences into a world too frightening and stripped of humanity to endure first-hand, where only movie magic may suffice in leading audiences through a world so depraved as this. The Silence of the Lambs is so well constructed, the viewer has to watch it from begin to end with no interruption.

The Silence of the Lambs
gives audiences a chilling look at that underbelly of society. The story is told with precision and the acting first rate. The film deserved each of its top five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress.
The Silence of the Lambs debuts on Blu-ray with an MPEG-2 encoded 1080p high definition transfer, presented inside a 1.85:1 frame. The image is fairly grainy, and black backgrounds generally see a spike in the level of visible noise. The film has a bleak, depressed look about it through much of the runtime, setting the tone for the feel of the film. Colors are slightly dulled in some scenes but a bit brighter in others. They are always stable and strong and never too harsh and overblown or underdeveloped. Fine detail is adequate but not stunning. Flesh tones look good throughout. Blacks, aside from seeing a rather heavy level of noise, are dark but not always deep and inky, and there is occasionally a slight loss of fine detail in the darker corners of the image. The Silence of the Lambs offers a bland visual style that will never sparkle on any format, and it is reproduced quite well on this Blu-ray release.
The Silence of the Lambs features a stable but not overly impressive DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Music and effects sound slightly rough around the edges and somewhat undefined; the tussle in the prison after Starling’s first meeting with Lector, for example, features a ruckus from the prisoners who rattle their cages and beds while shouting obscenities, but it’s never all that clear and pitch-perfectly defined in its presentation. Gunshots, heard primarily during training sessions at Quantico, are loud enough but seemingly lacking clarity. Some sound effects move around the front of the soundstage with decent precision and clarity, speeding vehicles for example, which make for a bit of a reprieve from what is otherwise a front-heavy and dialogue-centric audio experience. In a film like The Silence of the Lambs, the audio presentation is meant to do little more than reinforce the story, and it does so admirably here. Its fine where it counts, offering strong dialogue reproduction, decent sound effects, and appropriately-placed and clearly-presented musical cues.
The Silence of the Lambs features a fairly good selection of special features:
Documentary: Inside the Labyrinth (SD, 57 minutes) – Originally produced for the 2001 DVD, this doc is is missing two very important elements. On one hand, it touches on all the basic points of the film’s development and production, as well as the controversies that surrounded its release, and its eventual success and Oscar windfall. On the other hand, two key players are missing from the interview roster: Demme, and Foster. Though we do get Hopkins, plus Ted Levine, Anthony Heald, screenwriter Ted Tally and others, it often feels as if the doc is scraping the archives to make up for the lack of Demme and Foster.
Featurette: Scoring the Silence (SD, 15 minutes) – A very nice visit with composer Howard Shore. His score remains quite identifiable and his interview is informative.
Featurette: 1991 Making-Of (SD, 8 minutes) – This is the film’s original promotional EPK, and only enjoyable for nostalgia’s sake. Plus, we get Foster wearing some really, bad hair and early-’90s fashion.
TV Special: Silence of the Lambs: Page to Screen (SD, 42 minutes) – Originally produced for the Bravo network, “Page to Screen” focuses on the development of Silence of the Lambs from novel to screenplay, and takes a look at author Thomas Harris’ quest for authenticity in terms of the FBI and technical methods used in the story. The interviews are mixed (we get mostly archive stuff with cast & crew, plus newer stuff with technical advisors, and even Gene Hackman), and there’s a lot of film clips. The special is broken into two parts: “A Wealth of Talent” and “Preparation and Authenticity.”
Deleted Scenes/Outtakes (SD, 23 minutes) – Next up are about 20 minutes of deleted scenes, totaling about 22 segments. There is nothing here revelatory, but lots of scene extensions. Alas, there’s no commentary or text to explain the deletions, and the video and audio quality is pretty poor. Also included here is a short 2-minutes of outtakes, plus an amusing 30-second phone message from Hopkins.
Theatrical Trailers/TV Spots (SD) – Rounding out this long list of extras, we get the film’s original theatrical teaser and full trailer, plus six TV spots.
This one is an exclusive on this Blu-ray…
Breaking the Silence – There is a new picture-in-picture slash trivia track created for ‘The Silence of the Lambs.’ Although Jonathan Demme is not present, there are new interviews here with Jodie Foster, Scott Glenn, Anthony Heald, Anthony Hopkins, and screenwriter Ted Tally. Mixed in are very short production and FBI factoids, which appear as on-screen graphic pop-ups. The interview material is solid — it’s especially nice to hear fresh perspective from Foster and Hopkins.