I think everyone got chills the first time Sir Anthony Hopkins grinned and said, “Hello, Clarice.”
I was about ten years old the first time I got to watch Silence of the Lambs. Was that wildly inappropriate for a child that age? Of course, but it helped in spawning a love for the charismatic villain who ate people! Here was this man, who for all intents and purposes, was perfectly sane, yet could give you nightmares just by talking. I indeed did have nightmares about someone cutting open my head and eating my brain a la Hannibal. In later years, this fear led me to learn all I could about this person, devouring each book Thomas Harris wrote in turn. Hannibal Lecter is one of the most iconic villains from film today, in my opinion, so read on and allow me to share what I’ve learned.
“As your mother tells you, and my mother certainly told me, it is important, she always used to say, always to try new things.”
An incredibly brilliant man who happened to also be a cannibal, Hannibal was traumatized at a young age when Nazi collaborators in Lithuania (his native country) murdered and ate his beloved sister Mischa. Young Hannibal was taken prisoner, but he soon escaped and sought refuge in an orphanage where he was routinely bullied and beaten before being adopted. Does our noble hero, er, villain, get revenge? Of course, but I digress from the true story of Dr. Lecter. When the first novel came out, Hannibal had been assisting the FBI with the capture of another serial killer from within the confined space of Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. He pretends to help before cleverly leading the serial killer, The Tooth Fairy, to Special Agent Will Graham’s home. Why does this matter? Agent Graham is the one who caught Lecter and put him behind bars and a padded wall, under the care of a colleague whom Lecter despises.
The Silence of the Lambs, the second book, shows us that Lecter is still in his padded cell, this time enamored with rookie Agent Starling, but willing to help her through clues and riddles to catch another serial killer, one Buffalo Bill. Of course, I’m sure most of you remember how that story ends (with the escape of the dastardly villain to Italy!) The last book in the series, Hannibal, ties up everything in a neat, albeit extremely odd, way. One of Lecter’s past victims is revealed to be alive and well and offers a reward for Hannibal Lecter. With one of the most grotesque scenes in literature I’ve personally ever read, Hannibal ends with a meal of brains and an almost sickening reunion between Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter who appear to go to live happily ever after. These books are not for the faint of heart, but are intense and enthrall you until you’ve devoured each and every one. Their cinematic counterparts are equally great (Hannibal Rising aside, sadly), so if reading isn’t your thing, head to your local movie rental place!
Craving a little Hannibal Lector fix now? Try out NBC’s new show Hannibal, starring Mads Mikkelson as Dr. Lecter! The show will be loosely based on the novel Red Dragon and is amazing so far.
“On a similar note I must confess to you, I’m giving very serious thought… to eating your wife.”
Hannibal Lector possesses no powers or skills with which he carries out his…meals, other than standard medical knowledge and a keen intellect with which to put the victim at east. Silver tongue and acute attention to detail are worth noting.
If you have liked what you have read and would like to learn more, you can check out the following story arcs/episodes/collected issues:
* Read where it all began with the first novel in the Hannibal Lector series, Red Dragon by Thomas Harris.
* Silence of the Lambs is still one of the top creepiest films and is worth watching at least once.
“Fly, fly, fly, Clarice. Fly, fly, fly.”
What villains would you like to see?