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2002 Films on Disc  Stuart J. Kobak ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
       

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Silence of the Lambs A, A

US/1990/Color/Widescreen 1.9:1/Stereo Surround/118 minutes/Directed by Jonathan Demme/Starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins/Voyager/51 Chaps/Audio Commentary, Supplementals/2 discs/CAV-CLV/THX/$99.95

Silence of the Lambs is a stunning example of fusing diverse movie elements into a whole greater than the sum of the parts. Herein lies the great achievement of Jonathan Demme in his Academy Award winning directing turn. The director conducts his players to a work of precise balance that delivers more pleasure than one could expect from the horrific nature of the material. It is easy to kneel at the throne of Anthony Hopkins' thoroughly delicious performance as Hannibal Lector. Jodie Foster captures Clarice Starling with remarkable authenticity. The screenplay by Ted Tally is intelligent, witty, tense and terse. Each of them received the Academy Award for their 1991 work in the film, but it is the fluid baton of Demme, leading the right measure of Foster against the more flamboyant work of Hopkins, beating the perfect editing tempo to keep the film racing along at break neck speed, that melds these artists magically.

Demme combines with screenwriter Tally to weave a fabric of many genre strands. Silence of the Lambs is certainly a psychological thriller in the classic sense; it also relates closely to the sub-genre of a police procedural action film; and sections could have been lifted directly from a horror film. Dealing with the details of a deviate serial killer present many unexpected obstacles of questionable taste, and indeed the film has had its share of criticism leveled at it for its depiction of the serial killer. The team succeeds enviably in navigating this pothole ridden road on an even keel. It is a measure of the thought that went into the production of Silence of the Lambs that the methodical layout of its land rings true. The only moment at which I felt slightly betrayed is when the FBI crew is about to break into the supposed hideaway of serial killer "Buffalo Bill." Although this suggestion is emphatically reinforced by the editing, a quick cut to Jodie Foster at a doorway silences that avenue as the killer casually greets Starling. Perhaps a minor point, and it certainly does provoke the intended surprise, but it has rankled over numerous viewings.

The acting is splendid. Hopkins has a field day as "Hannibal the Cannibal" Lector, brilliant, twisted, urbane and demented. This is a very controlled performance that balances atop a high wire from which one false step could spell disaster. Hopkins is up to the task. He's so good he probably could be doing head stands on that thin wire. Hopkins seduces his audience just as he seduces agent Starling. Jodie Foster has the more difficult role playing all those crucial scenes opposite the fireworks of Lector. Foster manages in the short course of the movie to create a fully realized character, one who draws strength from her relationship with the perverted psychiatrist Lector. It was unusually just that each received the recognition of the Academy.

Scott Glenn, as Clarice's boss, agent Jack Crawford, is very convincing support for Foster and Ted Levine as Jame Gumb, a.k.a. "Buffalo Bill," is absorbed in his role to frightening and sickening effect.

Demme's long time collaborator, Tak Fujimoto, out does himself in his work on this film. The lighting and camera movement provide the perfect ambiance through which to view the movie. Howard Shore's relentless score likewise compliments this impeccable production.

This is not the first incarnation of Silence of the Lambs on laser, but it is the virgin widescreen edition and it is a rewarding special edition put together by the Voyager Company with a host of extras. The most important and primary feature is the audio commentary that accompanies the feature on analog track 2. The producers of the disk have assembled comments from Jonathan Demme, Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Ted Tally, and FBI agent John Douglas. Much of the commentary is not scene specific and it is not clear whether the participants are watching the film as their comments are made, but Criterion's style of alternating comments between the five participants keeps the narration from bogging down into an overbearing drone. The film is so enthralling that it plays powerfully right through the audio commentary. It is an invaluable treasure to have these principals commenting upon this award winning film. I would have liked more Hopkins and more Foster, perhaps less Douglas, but only through sheer greed. Surprisingly there are few technical details discussed. It would have been edifying to have more comments concerning the deleted scenes. Along with the commentary, there are seven deleted scenes, none of which are missed in the film, with the preacher scene "screaming" self-indulgence(But, it was cut!)Film to storyboard comparisons, which are included, always provide an insight into the filmmaker's work style. The discs are filled out with gallery of production stills, filmographies and profiles and a primer of information on serial killers.

This is truly a superb transfer that handles all the various lighting situations beautifully. Capturing this important aspect of the film thoroughly enhances the experience. The surround sound is totally involving. When the metal bars clamp shut they resonate with a solid finality. The haunting score is well served. A remarkably intelligent group of artists have brought their talents together to produce what amounts to a definitive thesis on the thriller and Voyager has given us a disc set that reflects that quality in this successful laser edition.

 

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Laser Disc Ratings

12 Monkeys Special/A-,B+ 

12 Monkeys/ B+,B

1941 SE/ C-, B-

a la Mode/B+,B+

A Pure Formality/C,B

After the Fox/C+,B

Alaska/B,B+

Albino Aligator/C+,B

Alfie/B,B

Amateur/B+,C+

American President/ B+, B+

Apache/C+,C+

Apocalypse Now/A-,A-

Apollo 13 SpecialA,A

Apollo 13//A,A

Appaloosa/C+,C+

Assassins/C,A

Bad and the Beautiful, The/A,B+

Basquiat/C+,B

Bend of the River/ B, B+

Belle Epoque/B+,A-

Bhagdad Cafe/B,B

Big Country/ B, C

Big Deal on Madonna Street/B,B

Big Picture, The/B,B

Big Trees, The/C+,C+

Bingo Long and His Traveling All-Stars/B+,A

Blood and Wine/B,B

Blue Kite/B+,B

Bogus/C,C+

Bordello of Blood/C-,A-

Borderline/C+,B

Bound/B+,B+

Brazil Special Edition/B+,A-

Bride Came COD/B-,B

Bringing Up Baby/A,B

Brute Force/B+,B+

Bulletproof/C,B+

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid/B,A-

Call Nothside 777/B+,C+

Camille Claudel/ A, B+

Canterville Ghost/C+,C+

Caro Diario/A-,A-
Captain from Castile/B,B+

Casino/ C+, B

Casper/C+,A

Cause for Alarm/C,B-

Celestial Clockwork/B+,B-

China Moon/B+,A

Christmas in July/A,B+

Christopher Columbus(1949)/C,C

Come and Get It/B,B+

Commandments/C+,B+

Courage Under Fire/B,A

Crash/C+,B+

Crimson Tide/A-,A

Crossing Guard, The/B,B+

Cutthroat Island/C, A

Dante's Peak/B-/B

Daylight/B,A-

Dead Man Walking/C+,B+

Dead Man/C+,A-

Dead Presidents Special/ B+,A

Dersu Uzala/B+,B

Diabolique(1995)/C+,C

Diary of Ann Frank/ A-,B

Dodes'ka-den/ B+, B+

Double Happiness/ B+,B+

Dragon/B+,A

Dune/C+,B+

Earrings of Madame de.../ B+, B+

Enemy Below/ B, B

Englishman Who Went..../C,B

English Patient/B+,A

Ermo/B-,B-

Escape from LA/B-,A

Everybody's Fine/C+,C+

Executive Decision/B+,A

Eye for an Eye/B,B+

F.I.S.T./B,B

Face-Off/B+,A
Family Thing/B,B+
Farewell My Concubine/A-,A

Far Country/ B-, C+

Field of Dreams Special/A-,B+

Field of Dreams/ A-, B

Fierce Creatures/B-,B+

Fires on the Plain/B+,B

Firestarter/C+,C+

First Knight/ C-, B+

First Wives Club/C+,B+

For Whom the Bell Tolls/B-,B+
French Kiss/B-,B+
Fugitive,The(1947)/B-,B

Frankie Starlight/B+,B

Freaks/B+,B

Free Willy 2/B-,B+

Funny Bones/A,A

Get Shorty/ A, A

Goldeneye/ B, A

Ghost Story/B,B

Great Escape(MGM)/A-,B-

Great Expectations/A,B+

Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan/B+,C

Grosse Point Blank/A-,A-

Grumpier Old Men/B-,B+

Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag, The/B,C-

Happy Gilmore/ B-, A-

Hard Boiled/B-,B+

Hard Eight/B,C+

Harriet the Spy/B,A

Haunting, The/A,B+

Head Above Water/D+,B

Heat/A-,B

Heaven and Earth/B+,A-

Helen of Troy/C+,B+

Henry V/A,B

Hill,The/A-,B

Hoop Dreams/A,A

Horseman on the Roof/B-,B

Innocent, The/ C, C

Innocents, The/ A, A-

Interrupted Melody/C+,C

Into the West/A,B+

Inventing the Abbots/B-,B+

Jack/C+,A-

Jean de Florette/ A-, B-

Jumanji/ B+, B+

Kansas City/D+,C+

Kentuckian/B-/B

Kingpin/B,B+

Kolya/A-,A-

Kwaidan/A,A-

La Dolce Vita/ A, B

Last Dance/B,B+

Last Man Standing/C,B

Last Supper, The/B-,B+

League of Gentlemen/B,B

Leave Her to Heaven/B+,B+

Les Miserables/ B, B+

Liar,Liar Special/B+,A

Lili/A-,C

List of Adrien Messinger/B,B+

Lonely are the Brave/A-,A-
Lord of Illusions/B,A-

Love Jones/B,A-

Malice/B+,B+
Mask,The/A-,A
Mi Familia/A-,A-
Michael/C+,A

Miracle of Morgan's Creek/B,B-

Mirage/B,B-

Mission Impossible/C+,B+

Mona Lisa/B+,B+

Morgan/B,C+

Mulholland Falls/C+,B

Muriel's Wedding/ B, B+

My Name is Nobody/C,C

Mystery of Rampo/ A-, B

Natural Born Killers/B,B+

Nell/B,A-

Net, The/ C, B+

Nixon/B+,A

Nothing Sacred/B,C

Old Man and the Sea/B,B

Othello/A-,B+

Peeping Tom/A-,A-
Raw Deal/B+,B
Red Firecracker,Green Firecracker/B+,A
Repulsion/A,A

Restoration/B+,A

Richard III/A,A

Ridicule/A-,B-

River Wild/B+,A-

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion/B,B

Room at the Top/A-,B

Rosewood/B,B+

Scopio/B,C

Seven SE/ B+, A

Shawshank Redemption/A-,A
She/B,B-

Shining Through/C+,B

Silence of the Lambs/A,A
Sling Blade/A,B+

Slingshot/A,A-

Something to Talk About/ B-, B+

Spartacus Special Edition/A,A

Species/C,B+

Star Trek: First Contact/C+,A-

Stars Fell on Henrietta/ C+,B+

Stealing Beauty/B,B

Strange Days/ C+, B+

Striptease/D,A-

Sudden Death/ B, A-

Sullivan's Travels/B+,B

Surviving Picasso/C,B+

T-Man/B,B

That Old Feeling/B-,A-

That Thing You Do/B,C+

They Drive By Night/B,B

Thieves(Les Voleurs)/B,B

Things You Do in Denver When You're Dead/D+,B+

This Sporting Life/A-,B+

Timemaster/ D, C

Tom and Viv/B-,B-

Tortilla Flat/B+,B

Trainspotting/B-,B+

Trees Lounge/B-,B-

Trigger Effect/B-,B+

Two Bits/C,B

Unforgettable/C,C+

Umbrellas of Cherbourg/B+,B

Unzipped/B-,B-

Usual Suspects/ B-,C+

Valdez is Coming/C+,B-

Vengeance Valley/B,C+

Vertigo/A-,A-

Virtuosity/ C+, A

Wait Until Dark/B,B-

Walk in the Clouds, A/ A-,

Walkabout/B/B-

Waterworld/ B+, B

White Man's Burden/ B, B+

White Squall/ B,A

Whole Wide World/B,B

Wicked City/ B, C+

Wild Bill/ C+, B

Window to Paris/ B,B

Witness/B+,A-
Wonderful,Horrible World Life..../B+,B

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 Films on Disc 1999  Stuart J. Kobak , all rights reserved.