An appreciation post for the ’90s cult classic and some fascinating facts before streaming it
My unrelenting obsession with thrillers—and serial killers—began with Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Highly intelligent, cunning and well-spoken, the forensic psychiatrist with a genius IQ from Baltimore has become a household name. Before Sir Anthony Hopkins played the honorable Pope Benedict XVI in The Two Popes and became an instant internet sensation, he was the sinister cannibal.
This year, CBS picked up the 1991 film (ironically released on Valentine’s Day) for the crime TV series Clarice, obviously alluding to Clarice Starling, the FBI agent who had quite the complicated relationship—not platonic but not romantic either—with the doctor. Before we get our hopes up (or become resigned to the fact that Jodie Foster can’t ever be replaced), let’s take a look back at the film masterpiece.
The Allure of Hannibal Lecter
Now a blazing media franchise, the film started as an adaptation of the bestselling 1988 novel by Thomas Harris of the same name. It has inspired many a pop culture references and, not to mention, genius Halloween costumes. Through the years, it’s also become a hit TV series Hannibal, highlighting the relationship between FBI criminal profiler Will Graham and the nefarious Dr. Lecter.
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The formidable psychiatrist, a great conversationalist with exquisite taste, is incarcerated for his cannibalistic crimes. Inside prison, he assists the FBI in finding other serial killers like himself. Let’s not forget Agent Clarice Starling, heavily inspired by retired law enforcement officer, detective and criminal profiler Robert David Keppel. In the film, he becomes somewhat of a “respected” mentor but still cleverly manipulates both Clarice and members of the police force.
Behind the Scenes
The Silence of the Lambs is one of the three films in history that received the big five in the Oscars—Best Director, Best Actor, Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Screenplay—along with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and It Happened One Night.
In a viral interview with Graham Norton, Jodie Foster shared that she has never spoken with Anthony Hopkins out of fear; she intentionally avoided him during the filming process. Those intimate one-on-one scenes are staged always behind a partition, a key visual technique inspired by renowned director Alfred Hitchcock. Strangely enough, Foster wasn’t the first choice for the role of Clarice by Director Jonathan Demme; it was actually Michelle Pfeiffer (Scarface), but she turned it down because she found the script too disturbing.
Jame Gumb also known as “Buffalo Bill” (Ted Levine), the harrowing serial killer who skins women to make himself a suit, was actually inspired by a number of real-life psychopaths. The FBI’s antagonist was highly influenced by Ted Bundy, Jerry Brudos, Gary Heidnik and Edward Gein. And for the curious ones, the song behind his iconic dancing scene is Goodbye Horses by Q Lazzarus. (He still makes my skin crawl.)
Believe me, I’ve watched it all it all—Se7en (a fantastic contender, by the way), Primal Fear, Zodiac and the long list goes on. Whether you’re streaming it for the first time or rewatching it, The Silence of the Lambs is an unimaginable treat. (Don’t forget to watch Hannibal and Red Dragon while you’re at it!) The unlikely triumph will span generations, and you best believe I’m still waiting for it to be part of Netflix’s diverse catalog.
Art Alexandra Lara