Release Date(s)1994 (February 18, 2022)
Studio(s)Silvio Berlusconi Productions/30th Century Wolf (Turbine Medien)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
[Editor’s Note: This is a Region Free Blu-ray import from Germany.]
Before Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer littered the cinema landscape with their own brand of spoof and essentially killed the genre off, other, better-produced films tended to generally come from two camps: Mel Brooks and friends, and the Abrahams/Zuckers team. In 1994, seemingly out of nowhere, Italian actor, writer, and filmmaker Ezio Greggio decided to take a stab (all puns intended) at making his own spoof movie, The Silence of the Hams, which uses a framework that mixes Psycho with The Silence of the Lambs to lay on joke after joke after joke.
Opinions on The Silence of the Hams tend to be primarily negative, but one can’t deny the sheer amount talent on the screen. It’s a project that apparently everyone said yes to, if only to appear for a single scene or line. The main cast features Billy Zane, Dom DeLuise, Joanna Pacula, Charlene Tilton, Martin Balsam, Stuart Pankin, and Ezio Greggio himself, while the supporting cast is littered with the likes of Rip Taylor, Larry Storch, Phyllis Diller, Shelley Winters, Bubba Smith, Eddie Deezen, Lance Kinsey, Marshall Bell, and Henry Silva. And let’s not forget the cameos by Mel Brooks, John Carpenter, Joe Dante, John Landis, and Rudy De Luca.
It’s also one of the most jam-packed spoof films ever made, with hardly a frame that doesn’t feature some sort of gag. (It’s clear that jokes were even added in post-production just to beef up the potential hilarity.) Besides references to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Exorcist, Star Wars, Total Recall, Misery, Batman Returns, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Basic Instinct, there’s a slew of visual gags, American political satire, scatological humor, fat jokes, old people jokes, and of course, sex jokes. Much of it is just dumb Pythonesque humor, such as Billy Zane whipping out a waffle in lieu of FBI credentials, or Ezio Greggio asking someone if they would like some spaghetti, then serving them tacos. Some of the humor, including a passing sex change/crossdresser joke is definitely a product of its era, but none of it is particularly boundary pushing… not that it needs to be.
The Silence of the Hams is oddly charming and thoroughly watchable, especially if you’re a film fan or a genre fan. It has a lot to appreciate, even if the madcap humor doesn’t always land. One can smile as Martin Balsam re-creates his role of the private detective Arbogast from Psycho, or have a grin when John Carpenter and Joe Dante have some noir-ish schtick on the gang-filled streets of Los Angeles. On the other hand, there’s also Billy Zane at the center, delivering a top notch straight man performance in an otherwise unorthodox, off-the-wall comedy.
The Silence of the Hams was shot by cinematographer Jacques Haitkin on 35 mm film, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Turbine Medien offers the film on Blu-ray in a slimmed down package from their previous Mediabook release. When this master was struck is unclear, though it could be an older master since grain isn’t all that prevalent and looks to have been scrubbed away as detail can be flat without much definition. It’s a strong presentation with a healthy bitrate, but a fresher scan might introduce a more prominent and natural grain structure, and boost shadow detail. The color palette doesn’t offer a wide variety of hues, but flesh tones are decent, even if the color grading isn’t always even from shot to shot. Blacks are occasionally crushed, but contrast overall is satisfactory. It’s a stable presentation with only mild speckling leftover, and could look better, but it’s certainly more than watchable (and currently the only release of the film on Blu-ray in print).
Audio is included in 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, in both German and English. Subtitles are also included in German and English for the film and the extras. The film was released in stereo, and was mostly mixed to add more ambient activity and occasional panning for a bit more body in the soundtrack. On both tracks, dialogue is up front and discernible with good support for score and sound effects.
The Silence of the Hams on Region Free Blu-ray sits in a clear amaray case featuring reversible artwork with the film’s original poster artwork in German, with and without the ratings logo. The following extras are included:
- Audio Commentary with Ezio Greggio, Billy Zane, Charlene Tilton, and Craig Campobasso
- All Hail the Lambs: Breaking the Silence on a Comedy Classic (HD – 88:31)
- My Buddy Bubba: An Interview with Lance Kinsey (HD – 13:33)
- Open Matte Version (SD – 78:00)
- US Trailer (HD – 1:30)
- German Trailer (HD – 1:46)
The audio commentary features Ezio Greggio, Billy Zane, Charlene Tilton, and casting director Craig Campobasso. Unfortunately, it’s strictly a reactionary commentary since the four basically watch the film for the first time in who knows how many years. It’s nice to hear them all together again, but mostly useless when it comes to learning anything about the film. (To be fair, Campobasso occasionally will say something of note, but not enough to justify the track in that regard.) All Hail the Lambs is a nearly 90-minute look back at the making of the film with a few of the key players: Ezio Greggio, producer Julie Corman, actors Charlene Tilton, Billy Zane, Stuart Pankin, Lance Kinsey, casting director Craig Campobasso, and composer Parmer Fuller. It’s a far better companion as it provides plenty of information about the film. My Buddy Bubba features an interview with Lance Kinsey in which he talks (understandably) mostly about his work on the Police Academy films and his working relationship with Bubba Smith, as well as the rest of the cast of those films. Interestingly, Turbine has included the film’s home video version, presented in standard definition and open matte, which is how most of us first saw it. Last are the film’s US and German trailers. The only items not included from Turbine’s previous Mediabook release are the deluxe packaging, which included writing by Christoph N. Kellerbach, and a DVD copy of the film.
The Silence of the Hams is one of the films that’s had a rough road to travel in the US since it’s mostly been unavailable on optical disc. I personally saw it on cable for the time, where it was playing endlessly, and really grew to appreciate it. It’s a dumb movie, there’s no arguing that, but there’s something intriguing about it that keeps me coming back. Ezio Greggio himself describes it as “somewhere between Gone with the Wind and The Room,” which couldn’t be more weirdly accurate. Turbine’s Blu-ray release is currently the only way to not just see the film, but own it, and it just happens to be a very nice release.
- Tim Salmons