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Mute Witness [Limited Edition] (4K UHD Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

A mute practical effects artist working on a slasher film in Moscow witnesses what she believes to be a real snuff film being made and she becomes the target of dangerous people trying to kill her.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Writer/director Anthony Waller unleashed Mute Witness in 1995, a horror-thriller that belies its low budget with riveting storytelling and edge-of-the-seat intensity. Blending the best visual techniques and dramatic tropes evocative of Hitchcock and De Palma, Waller’s film is a film inside a film inside a film.

An American film crew is working in Moscow on a slasher film with the practical effects specialist Billy Hughes (Marina Zudina), a mute who can hear but cannot speak, as part of their crew. Billy’s sister, Karen (Fay Ripley), girlfriend to the director, is her translator and signs for her when needed.

Mute Witness starts with a fake, showing us a woman being attacked in her home, stabbed to death, before slowly panning out and showing the masked killer sitting back and watching her struggle, but as the camera pans across, we realize we are watching a film set and a scene from this film. Later in the evening as the set clears in the abandoned building they are using as the studio set, Billy finds herself accidentally locked in by the security guard. On her way to find a way out, she stumbles across Russian members of the crew filming what she believes to be a real “snuff” film – a rape and murder of a terrified woman. In her panic, she knocks over a coat rack, alerting them to her presence. They begin searching throughout the building for her in one of the most intense cat and mouse scenes of the film. One particular scene where Billy runs down a hallway uses the Hitchcock dolly zoom effect, also popularized in Jaws. She is caught, but right then her sister and the director arrive to save her. She finds herself with no one believing what she saw but is soon embroiled in a dangerous mystery involving a criminal underworld, crooked police, and people trying to kill her.

Mute Witness is a spicy and delicious thriller that throws unexpected but believable twists at the viewer at every turn, and Waller shows a good command of the camera and direction, taking full advantage of star Zudina who puts on an amazingly emotive, silent performance, showing dread, passion, and anger in her face and with her hands. The film reminds me very much of Vertigo, Blow Out, or Dressed to Kill, but on a lower budget, even though you never notice that. Alec Guinness also appears in the film, although his parts were shot in Germany in 1985, ten years before the film’s release.

Purchase Mute Witness (Limited Edition) [4K Ultra HD] on Amazon.com

  • Marina Zudina in Mute Witness (1995)
  • Marina Zudina in Mute Witness (1995)
  • Mute Witness (1995)
  • Mute Witness (1995)
  • Marina Zudina in Mute Witness (1995)
  • Mute Witness (Arrow Video - AV581)
  • Mute Witness (Arrow Video - AV581)
  • Mute Witness (Arrow Video - AV581)

The Video

Mute Witness comes to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a 2.35:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) HDR10 encodement newly restored and approved by director Anthony Waller. The low budget film shot on 35mm Agfa film in Super 35 has a soft, diffuse grain structure, but the transfer is natural and pleasing with no evidence of excessive DNR. It resolves organically and yields lots of detail. The HDR10 grading has a lot of pop in the specular highlights, like the film set lamps and streetlights, where they are brilliantly bright, but can also make out the bulbs in the lights. Even in the murky graininess of this film, shadows often have some good detail.

The Audio

Mute Witness comes with a restored stereo soundtrack in LPCM 2.0. The audio sounds superb, with wide stereo imaging, lots of detail and dynamics, clear and intelligible dialogue, with the score also coming through with lots of air around the strings. This is one stereo mix where one hardly misses a surround mix.

The Supplements

Arrow delivers the good with this release including two new audio commentaries, one from Waller and one from the crew. There are also two excellent new visual essays exploring the film’s relationship to snuff films and films-within-films respectively, among other featurettes and collectibles.

Limited Edition Contents:

  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michelle Kisner
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais
  • Double-sided foldout poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais

Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary by Anthony Waller. (NEW)
  • Audio commentary with production designer Matthias Kammermeier and composer Wilbert Hirsch, moderated by critic Lee Gambin. (NEW)
  • The Silent Death (1080p; 00:11:33) – In this visual essay, recorded exclusively for Arrow Films in 2024, author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas examines Mute Witness and its relationship with the world of snuff films. (NEW)
  • The Wizard Behind the Curtains (1080p; 00:23:23) – In this visual essay, recorded exclusively for Arrow Films in 2024, author and critic Chris Alexander explores films within films and Mute Witness. (NEW)
  • Snuff Movie Presentation (1080p/60; 00:25:08) – This original presentation, made when the film was still known as “Snuff Movie”, was produced to generate interest from investors and distributors, and features interviews with director Anthony Waller and various members of the creative team.
  • Location Scouting Footage (1080p; 00:07:30) – Original footage from the location scout in Boston, Massachusetts, shot prior to the decision to film in Moscow.
  • Alec Guinness Footage (1080p/60; 00:02:41) – The original Alec Guinness footage, filmed in Hamburg a decade prior to the rest of Mute Witness.
  • Teaser (1080p; 00:01:09)
  • Trailer (1080p; 00:01:47)
  • Image Gallery (1080p)

The Final Assessment

As a first-time viewer of this film, I was presently surprised and wondered how this flew under my radar for so many years. Mute Witness is a nailbiter that is thrilling, melds familiar themes into a unique story, and looks and sounds satisfying on 4K from Arrow.


Mute Witness [Limited Edition] (4K Ultra HD) is out June 11, 2024, from Arrow Video

Purchase Mute Witness (Limited Edition) [4K Ultra HD] on Amazon.com


  • Rating Certificate: R (for violence and a strong scene combining sex and violence)
  • Studios & Distributors: Avrora Media | Cobblestone Pictures | Comet Film Produktion GmbH | Meteor | Patoss Films | Arrow Video
  • Director: Anthony Waller
  • Written By: Anthony Waller
  • Run Time: 95 Mins.
  • Street Date: 11 June 2024
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: HDR10
  • HDR Metadata:
    • MaxLL: 1000 nits
    • MaxFALL: 400 nits
    • Max. Luminance: 1000 nits
    • Min. Luminance: 0.0000 nits
  • Primary Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Stereo
  • Subtitles: English SDH
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A mute practical effects artist working on a slasher film in Moscow witnesses what she believes to be a real snuff film being made and she becomes the target of dangerous people trying to kill her.Mute Witness [Limited Edition] (4K UHD Review)