MUTE WITNESS (1995). Review by Steve Kirkham

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5

MUTE WITNESS (1995)

4 stars
Arrow Video. Limited edition 4K UHD and Limited Edition Blu ray. Out Now

I really enjoyed this cracking little Hitchcockian thriller with horror overtones that I have to admit had previously passed me by. Now thanks to Arrow you can check it out on a great, fully restored 4K UHD release – even if the image is sometimes rather grainy, probably due to the low budget nature of the production.

The story takes place on the set of a US horror/slasher film being shot in a studio in Moscow. It opens with an over the top, almost laughable sequence – which you quickly realise is part of the movie being shot. Billy Hughes (Marina Sudina) is a mute make up fx artist who, one night, finds herself locked in the building. Then she witnesses something she shouldn’t have and must try and escape. Of course, being unable to speak, makes it rather difficult to call for help! How will she get away? Interestingly, at the time, actress Sudina didn’t speak English – which clearly didn’t matter.

This is a well made, gripping shocker directed by Anthony Waller, who also wrote the well constructed script, which draws you in and keeps you tense. The production makes good use of a mostly single location, with the studio offering ample places to try and hide or run away. Whilst the whole thing isn’t massively original, what it does do it does well – there’s a great sequence as the killers try and break into Billy’s flat.

Fay Ripley appears in an early role as Billy’s sister and there is a bizarre cameo appearance from Alec Guinness. Why bizarre? Because the director actually shot his small part some ten years previously in a Hamburg underground car park – making this Sir Alec’s final theatrical role! In the credits he is listed as Mystery Guest Star.

Since this debut Brit Waller hasn’t made much to equal this – he wrote and directed AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS (1997) and recently made the entertainingly terrible PIPER, starring Liz Hurley.

Steve Kirkham

EXTRAS
4 stars

New audio commentary by writer/director Anthony Waller
New audio commentary with production designer Matthias Kammermeier and composer Wilbert Hirsch, moderated by critic Lee Gambin
The Silent Death – visual essay by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, examining Mute Witness and snuff films (11 mins)
The Wizard Behind the Curtain – visual essay by author and critic Chris Alexander, exploring the phenomenon of the film-within-a-film and Mute Witness (23 mins)
“Snuff Movie” – fascinating presentation, created to generate interest from investors/distributors when the film was called “Snuff Movie” (25 mins)
Original location scouting footage – scout in Boston, Massachusetts, before the film moved to Moscow to shoot – basically 7 minutes of random abandoned buildings!
Original raw footage with Alec Guinness, filmed a decade prior to the rest of Mute Witness (2 mins)
Teaser trailer
Trailer
Image gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais
Double-sided foldout poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais
Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michelle Kisner