Film Junk Premium Podcast #71: Hannibal Lecter


“Believe me, you don’t want Hannibal Lecter inside your head.” With the recent release of Hannibal on 4K UHD and last year’s Criterion re-release of The Silence of the Lambs, it seemed like a good reason to finally revisit another influential and iconic movie franchise. We start with a discussion of Michael Mann’s Manhunter before moving into the Anthony Hopkins trilogy and try to understand what makes Hannibal Lecter such a compelling character over 30 years after his on-screen debut. Discussion topics include the stylistic touches that each director brought to the franchise, the memorable scores and musical choices, the casting, the evolution of serial killer movies, and two similar yet distinctly different approaches to the same story with Manhunter and Red Dragon. Is Manhunter an underappreciated classic or is it all style and no substance? Is Ed Norton secretly to blame for some of Red Dragon‘s shortcomings? Is Hannibal Lecter the greatest movie villain of all time? And more importantly, how did he get a hold of that pen? Put the lotion in the basket and download this month’s premium podcast below.

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  • When this was announced I assumed you’d cover the Bryan Fuller’s NBC series.

  • OsoDuck

    Weird, I just happened to be watching the Making of Hannibal last night. Did not remember that Lector is a Dante scholar in the film.

  • colin the dude

    Come on, Frankie. You embarrass yourself when you say I can’t recall any serial killers on film before Hannibal and then challenge the others to prove you wrong. You also Refuse. To. Watch. Older. Films. Unless. You. Are. Forced. To.

    Get real, Frankie.

  • OsoDuck

    Sean probably goes to other charming serial killers quickly because Dracula is basically Hannibal, and Dracula is prevalent in film.

    In fact, if I may be so bold, since Hannibal is a scholar of Dante, it seems appropriate to find his proper place in Dante’s Inferno, which should accord with Dracula’s if my thesis be true. The easy choice of placement is the circle of counselors of fraud, a canto Dante commences by speaking about flies, mosquitoes and fireflies. The counselor of fraud is defined by his tongue, and because he has an evil tongue, his speech is like the buzzing of flies, worthless droning. The famous image of Silence of the Lambs is Clarice with the moth over her mouth. Hannibal, a counselor on psychological matters, has put his buzzing counsel into her mouth. Aptly, his choice of subject for his Dante lecture focuses on describing the dysfunctional speech of a hung man. Dracula, of course, has his buddy Renfield, a counselor (if not in 31’s Dracula, then in the original book maybe?) who just loves flies. If not Renfield, Harker is definitely a counselor (a lawyer is a type of counselor) in Coppola’s Dracula, and Dracula is essentially trying to take his place. Dante describes the tip of the flame that consumes the counselors as a serpent’s tongue, flickering about, which is on the level of the cinematic invention of the vampire fangs and their venomous sting. Where does the movie vampire bite his victims? The place where the voice lives, making his voice the voice of his victims. In other words, because the voice is a consequence of the words of the mind, it is a metaphor for mind control. The counselor of fraud looks to take control of other’s minds. Dracula, although ostensibly a count, is patterned more on the nineteenth century English magician and hypnotist. Silence of the Lambs is basically about a man who controls others minds and wills from the comfort of a cell. Hannibal is a modern Dracula update that keeps him evil, a drinker of blood, but turns him into a good counselor, crazily enough, and turns Jodie Foster into a heroic version of Lucy Westenra, or Mina, or even Renfield. I guess maybe Chilton is more Renfield, as he is a cartoonish character who takes care of Hannibal, while he sleeps in his coffin of a cell.

    Lambs are also usually a religious symbol for Christians or Christ’s Crucifixion. Clarice’s story then is a confession of her loss of faith, her inability to accept the crucifixion, something the demonic Lecter is all ears for. In fact, the word ‘lector’ has its origins as one who is a cleric in the minor orders, making her story a literal confession to a devil priest, a cannibal lector. Priests of course, are also types of counselors.

  • devolutionary

    It’s so good, and so “auteur” in the way they allowed different directors a crack at making episodes across 3 seasons. You can definitely sense the tonal shift when a new director takes over. Rarely has murder and psychology been displayed so artistically and restrained on Network TV before.

  • devolutionary

    His gateway into Hannibal was “Cable Guy”. That’s all that needs to be inferred. ;)

  • Loren

    I think the Filmjunk crew would really like the “Hannibal” TV Series and what they do with the characters. I’m still saving Season 3 to watch :)

  • samb

    Great stuff, fellows. As I recall, Thomas Harris resented the pressure he was getting to write a sequel to SotL, so he set out to write a book so gruesome as to be unfilmable, what with the psycho pigs and brain-eating and whatnot. And then in comes Ridley Scott and just does the damn thing. Have to respect that, even if I thought the movie was a gloomy, nihilistic slog.

  • OsoDuck

    I watched Manhunter out of curiosity last night. It’s good, and this striking image is actually the punishment of the counselors of fraud in the Inferno. They are clothed in individual flames. Surprisingly, it’s the only place in Dante’s Inferno where fire figures so largely.

  • corkneelius

    Absolutely. It’s the most shocking TV show I’ve watched. Can’t believe that was on network television. And hot take, Mads is the best Hannibal.

  • Sam

    That’s what I was gonna say. Frank is always the one to proclaim something as the “first time” or not being able to remember someone doing something prior and it’s always in reference to a movie from the 80s or 90s.

    Hell, part of Vincent Price’s shtick was often trying to a be a charming killer type in a lot of movies.

  • Isildur_of_Numenor

    A variation on the double doorbell scene in The Silence of the Lambs has been done in The Dark Knight when the Joker gives Batman 2 addresses, one where Harvey Dent is and one where Rachel is. I can’t think of others though, there should be tons, feels like something that would get the moratorium treatment back in the day.

  • Sean

    That’s a good one, thanks!