2003 DVD release cover
|Directed by||Anthony Waller|
|Produced by||Anthony Waller|
|Written by||Anthony Waller|
|Music by||Wilbert Hirsch|
|Cinematography||Thomas L. Callaway|
|Edited by||Kert Vandermeulen|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Classics|
Mute Witness is a 1995 Russian-British-American-German horror film written, directed, and produced by Anthony Waller. The film was shot in Moscow, Russia, while Alec Guinness's scenes were filmed in Germany.
Billy (Marina Zudina), an FX make up artist who does not have the physical ability to speak, is in Moscow working on a low budget slasher film directed by her sister's boyfriend Andy (Evan Richards). On one particular night Billy returns to the set to fetch a piece of equipment for the next day's shoot when she is accidentally locked in the studio. Being unable to speak but having the ability to communicate with her sister Karen (Fay Ripley), Billy makes several telephone calls but is interrupted when she discovers a small film crew working after hours to shoot a cheap porno film. Watching unseen, Billy is amused until the performed sex becomes sadistic. When a masked actor pulls out a knife and stabs the actress (Olga Tolstetskaya), Billy reacts and is discovered. She flees pursued by the homicidal film crew.
Billy narrowly escapes and manages to tell her story to her sister and the police, but the snuff film crew manages to convince the authorities that the onscreen 'murder' was a cinematic special effect. However, the events bring forward Larsen (Oleg Yankovsky), an undercover detective who is tracking the activities of the covert film crew and their connection to a shadowy criminal mastermind called "The Reaper". The Reaper (Alec Guinness) is a financier of an international underground snuff ring. He tells the criminal film crew that Billy is a witness and must be eliminated, thus motivating the snuff film director, his thug assistant and a host of subsidiary criminals to retrieve a missing computer disc from her and dispatch it. As more and more factions get involved in killing and saving Billy the action becomes wild and fantastic and hard to discern what's real from movie magic.
- Alec Guinness as "The Reaper"
- Marina Zudina as Billy Hughes
- Fay Ripley as Karen Hughes
- Oleg Yankovsky as Larsen
- Evan Richards as Andy Clarke
- Igor Volkov as Arkadi
- Sergei Karlenkov as Lyosha
- Nikolai Pastukhov as Janitor
- Valeri Barakhtin as Mitja
- Sascha Buchman as Alex
- Olga Tolstetskaya as Actress
- Denis Karasyov as Fake policeman
- Igor Ilyin as Fake policeman
- Oleg Abramov as Double
- Vladimir Salnikov as Lab assistant
- Konstantin Sitnikov as Angry props manager
- Norbert Soentgen as Peeping Tom
Critical reception has been mostly positive and the film currently holds a rating of 80% "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes, based upon 20 reviews. Variety gave the film a mostly positive review, remarking that while the movie can be "entirely plot-driven, neglecting to develop intriguing characterizations", its "suspense is so chilling, its narrative so disciplined and its style so pleasurable, they jointly triumph over the other deficiencies." The review from the New Yorker was more mixed and they wrote that the director's "technique is impressive; the film falls flat only when he attempts to make the frightening funny. But the plot takes some nice twists and turns, the tension builds a good head of steam, and the tawdriness never lets up."
- The Wallflower critical guide to contemporary North American directors. Wallflower Press. 2001. p. 477. ISBN 1903364094.
- "Mute Witness". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
- "Mute Witness (review)". JoBlo.com. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
- Ebert, Roger. "MUTE WITNESS (Review)". Roger Ebert.com. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
- "Review: 'Mute Witness'". Variety. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
- "THE FILM FILE: MUTE WITNESS". New Yorker. Retrieved 29 December 2013.