The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Silence of the Lambs, 1991; directed by Jonathan Demme; starring Jody Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine

One of the most iconic and fearsome characters in all of American Moviedom is the brilliant, psychotic cannibal Hannibal Lecter.  Though originally brought to life by Bryan Cox in Michael Mann’s under seen 1985 thriller Manhunter, for most of us Anthony Hopkins *is* Hannibal Lecter.  And yet he is only on screen for 15 minutes of its 118 minute run time.  That is simply astonishing that in such brief screen time that indelible an image has been burned in our brains. Along with fava beans and a nice chianti.

Silence of the Lambs was only the third movie ever to sweep the top five awards at the Oscar – Best Actor, Best Actress, Best (adapted) Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture (the others were the 1935 screwball comedy It Happened One Night and the 1976 Jack Nicholson tour de force One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).  And it remains the only horror film (though there are no monsters or supernatural forces, and some could argue that this is more of a police procedural) to receive the Best Picture honor. But don’t be fooled by all of those Oscars. This is a truly frightening movie and deserves a venerated spot on our Poptober List.

The one unfortunate thing about Hopkins’ performance in Lambs is that it has completely overshadowed Ted Levine’s own brilliant performance as Buffalo Bill.    As dark and twisted as Bill is, he is no one note, cartoonish villain by any stretch.   There is a recognizable humanity to him, as though he was badly warped by early trauma. And while today’s world that is much more aware of, and open to, the transgender experience, in the early 1990s when SOFL was released, there were barely any mainstream gay role models on television or the movies that, even if sympathetic, weren’t at least of a narrow stereotype. Transgender folks weren’t anywhere on the radar.  In that light maybe it’s easier to see how alienation and scorn could have pushed Buffalo Bill into his deeply disturbing activities.  It still doesn’t justify them of course, but it does maybe add some recognizable humanity – and perhaps even a slight sliver of sympathy – to the performance.

So pour yourself a nice chianti and enjoy the ride with Clarice, Hannibal and the whole gang.  The fava beans are optional.  Today perhaps Hannibal, ever the fashionable hipster, would have brussel sprouts instead.  And to us at Pop Teez, that is the part that’s just gross.

Dr. Vorhees