Off the Shelf

“Silence of the Lambs”

By Marcus Pan

Silence of the LambsTaken in chronological order, Silence of the Lambs follows the events of Red Dragon reviewed previously. Thomas Harris’ character, Hannibal Lecter, remains as one of the best true sociopathic serial killers in fiction. Released in 1988 in book format it was introduced to award winning film format in 1991 featuring a captivating performance by Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal. Lecter captured audiences’ attention worldwide as a completely remorseless killer, and amazing psychologist as well, baiting the young Clarice Starling into revealing truths of herself in an effort to gain truths about another serial killer now plying his trade – Buffalo Bill, who flays women for their skin.

Since the release of the film, “Hello, Clarise,” has become a national catchphrase. Jonathan Demme couldn’t have directed a better movie and the Hopkins/Foster acting roles were brilliant, launching Jodie and Anthony to the top of their trade. It is one of only three films that has won the five most prestigious Academy Awards: Oscars to both Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins as well as Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director[1]. The book format is of course more sinister, with further dialogue that couldn’t have been included in the movie due to time constraints. Lecter’s bait and switch and quick shot segues during the course of his conversations with Starling are brilliant, and I’d even read a 500 page script of pure dialogue between these two characters because it’s that interesting and mind crushing. Lecter is such a top tier villain he’s been compared to such notables as Satan (Paradise Lost), Darth Vader (Star Wars series) and Professor Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes series)[2].

The premise here – as if you haven’t seen Silence of the Lambs already – is another romp about in an attempt to catch Buffalo Bill, a serial killer wanna-be transvestite who wants to make himself a suit of chick flesh. Bastard cousin of Leatherface perhaps, he’s filleted a number of ladies for their skin, keeping them alive for three to ten days in a basement well where he starves them a bit for easier removal of his prize. Working part time as a tailor, and quite a good one, for a leather goods maker gruesomely named Mr. Hide, he’s become quite adept at utilizing the skin as a substitute for your usual assortment of animal hides.

Following such clues as a moth’s chrysalis, an overtly random body location and similar meaningless cruft, Clarice Starling tries to tap into the mind of psychologist and sociopathic killer Hannibal Lecter. When Bill’s latest catch turns out to be the daughter of a powerful senator, Lecter finds himself the recipient of prisoner’s privileges which he uses by first enjoying himself by playing with the heartstrings of all involved with cryptic selections of prose and dialogue, and then takes the lax security as a chance to escape.

By the end of Silence of the Lambs Starling has stumbled upon Jame Gumb, aka Buffalo Bill, and pops him one in the chest while Hannibal Lecter takes a powder. He continues to write his good friends – Dr. Chilton from the asylum that held him, who he plans to pay a visit to; Clarice Starling, whom he believes adds to the interesting nature of the world and who he has decided against visiting because he feels she’d be a loss. And Jack Crawford, the man who caught him the first time. His letters are brutal mindrapes from a man who can know far too much about you in a short meeting.

So we move on into Hannibal now, the third in the series, in which Hannibal continues to ply his trade with his release. I’ll have a review of that one shortly, as I’ve already begun it.

"Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris
Copyright © 1988 by Yazoo, Inc.
ISBN: 0-312-92458-5
Published by St. Martin’s Press
Library of Congress: 88-18203
[1] Research help by Wikipedia.
[2] Research help by Wikipedia.

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