Based on Thomas Harris's novel, Jonathan Demme's terrifying adaptation of Silence of the Lambs
contains only a couple of genuinely shocking moments (one involving an autopsy, the other a prison break). The rest of the film is a splatter-free visual and psychological descent into the hell of madness, redeemed astonishingly by an unlikely connection between a monster and a haunted young woman.
Anthony Hopkins is extraordinary as the cannibalistic psychiatrist Dr Hannibal Lecter, virtually entombed in a subterranean prison for the criminally insane. At the behest of the FBI, agent-in-training Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) approaches Lecter, requesting his insights into the identity and methods of a serial killer named Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine). In exchange, Lecter demands the right to penetrate Starling's most painful memories, creating a bizarre but palpable intimacy that liberates them both under separate but equally horrific circumstances.
Demme, a filmmaker with a uniquely populist vision (Melvin and Howard, Something Wild), also spent his early years making pulp for Roger Corman (Caged Heat) and he hasn't forgotten the significance of tone, atmosphere and the unsettling nature of a crudely effective close-up. Much of the film, in fact, consists of actors staring straight into the camera (usually from Clarice's point of view), making every bridge between one set of eyes to another seem terribly dangerous. --Tom Keogh, Amazon.com
On the DVD: On disc one, the film itself looks clinically sharp in a faultless widescreen (1.85:1) anamorphic transfer, while the Dolby 5.1 soundtrack makes the most of the chilling sound effects and Howard Shore's masterfully understated score. Unlike the Region 1 Criterion Collection, however, there is no audio commentary at all. On the second disc, the all-new hour-long "making-of" documentary features contributions from the screenwriter, producer, composer, costume designer, make-up effects people and even the moth wrangler ("There were no moths harmed in the filming!") as well as Ted Levine (Buffalo Bill) and Anthony Hopkins, who talks at length about creating Lecter. Conspicuous by their absence are Jonathan Demme and Jodie Foster. Aside from the usual trailers and stills gallery there are 21 deleted scenes, many of which are not whole scenes but deleted excerpts, a promotional featurette made in 1991 and an outtakes reel that proves the cast really did have fun making this scary picture. For those who want to scare all their friends, there's also an answerphone message from Anthony Hopkins "in character". --Mark Walker
FBI Officer Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is investigating a bizarre and gruesome series of murders, carried out by 'Buffalo Bill'. The investigation steps up a gear when the mayor's daughter is abducted. Starling turns for help to incarcerated psychopath Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), who has a penchant for chewing people's faces off. Given special privileges in exchange for information, Lecter escapes, leaving two twisted killers on the loose. The film won Oscars for 'Best Film', 'Best Director' (Jonathan Demme), 'Best Actor' (Anthony Hopkins), 'Best Actress' (Jodie Foster) and 'Best Adapted Screenplay' (Ted Tally).