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  • Jeff Beck

Mute Witness: An Effective Blend of Thrills, Chills, and Laughs (Blu-ray)


The Film:


Last week had us delving into a sub-genre of crime films that focus squarely on the courtroom and all of the drama that it entails as the trial plays out. Ironically, this week has us going into another intriguing sub-genre of the same topic, this time focusing on the witnesses of those crimes. We've seen plenty of examples of these over the decades as well, with many being quite serious (the Oscar-winning "Witness" comes right to mind), while others have tried to bring more levity to their plots ("Sister Act" being a notable example). "Mute Witness" most certainly falls into the former category, and while it may be a bit more obscure than the others, it's a prime example that deserves to be mentioned nearby, at the very least. With it being very close to the film's 30th anniversary, Arrow Films is bringing it to Blu-ray for the very first time this week, so let's take a look at how it stands out in another rather crowded group of films.


The film centers on Billy Hughes (Marina Zudina), a mute special effects makeup artist who is currently working on a slasher film in Russia. One night, she stays behind to grab something for the next day's shoot, but accidentally gets locked inside the studio. Shortly after, she discovers a couple of her co-workers shooting what looks like a porno, but which actually turns out to be a snuff film in which a woman is brutally murdered. They soon realize that they are being watched, leading to a chase throughout the studio, but Billy is eventually able to get to safety when her sister Karen (Fay Ripley) arrives. Billy tries to tell everyone what she saw, but the murderers cover up the crime rather well, making the police think it was a special effects trick. However, even with everyone supposedly fooled, the man in charge of these criminals (Sir Alec Guinness) wants no witnesses left alive, meaning Billy's horrific night is far from over.


"Mute Witness" is one of those good old fashioned thrillers that's not looking to do anything particularly flashy or overly-complicated in its effort to keep the audience entertained. It gives you a pretty basic set-up, but from that, it's able to derive a fair amount of compelling excitement as Billy fights to survive this one wild night. As far as its story goes, again, it may be slightly generic, but it's more so a foundation to build a series of twists, turns, and thrills anyway, and in that regard, it serves the film just fine.


As mentioned, having a witness fighting for their life is hardly anything new, but a rather interesting factor that the film incorporates is that this particular witness is a mute, giving her an extreme disadvantage when it comes to calling for help. As if the thrills from just trying to stay alive weren't enough, this character trait provides an extra layer of suspense on top of that, leading to a number of close calls that have you on the edge of your seat as you anxiously watch her try to struggle through it.


Overall, "Mute Witness" is an effective little thriller that does quite a lot with its somewhat simple narrative. Over the course of a brief 90 minutes, it gives you thrills, chills, and even a few surprisingly well-placed laughs. It hardly rewrites the book on the classic crime thriller, but for a decent dose of entertainment that doesn't overstay its welcome, this little-talked-about '90s gem pretty much gives you exactly what you'd want from a film of its nature.


Video/Audio:


"Mute Witness" comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow Films in a 2.35:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. The new 4K restoration has the film looking practically new again, with the image looking remarkably sharp. Likewise, the LPCM (uncompressed stereo) soundtrack is fantastic, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and music in outstanding quality. Overall, this is yet another release that Arrow has done an incredible job on.


Special Features:


Audio Commentary by Anthony Waller

Crew Audio Commentary

The Silent Death (12 Minutes)

The Wizard Behind the Curtains (23 Minutes)

Snuff Movie Presentation (25 Minutes)

Location Scouting Footage (8 Minutes)

Alec Guinness Footage (3 Minutes)


The Limited Edition Blu-ray comes with a fantastic collection of extras, including a pair of commentaries (one with the writer/director and another with the production designer & composer), two fascinating visual essays that analyze the film, and additional behind the scenes footage. Plenty of excellent material here for those looking to learn more about the film.


Conclusion:


"Mute Witness" may have a somewhat simple premise, but using that as a foundation, it's able to derive plenty of thrills, chills, and even a few laughs, ultimately turning this into an effective little '90s crime thriller that does quite a lot with so little.


Score: 3.5/5


Available on Blu-ray from Arrow Films starting tomorrow.


Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.



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