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Wednesday, August 31, 2016
With 1991's THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, Anthony Hopkins burst onto the horror film scene with a Hannibal Lecter whose rich theatricality and giddy delight in his own unfathomable evil captured the imaginations of filmgoers, including many in the mainstream, like few such characters before or since.
Approaching his dark, Gothic lair in the bowels of a castle-like hospital for the criminally insane where he lurks like some medieval gargoyle, we share the trepidation of the young FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) who has been sent to consult with Lecter regarding another serial killer on the loose (known as "Buffalo Bill" due to his penchant for skinning his victims).
Hopkins plays Lecter to the hilt, relishing each perverse aspect of the character just as Lecter enjoyed feasting upon the organs of those he killed--sometimes with "fava beans and a nice Chianti...fthfthfthfth!"
His version of the silken-voiced psycho, unlike that of MANHUNTER's equally fine Brian Cox, is a creation that would fit comfortably in any rogue's gallery of horror film icons.
One of the pleasures of this film is watching him toy with the callow Starling (excellently portrayed by Foster) on a purely emotional and intellectual level in which she has no defense, then growing to admire her courage, convictions, and strength of will.
Also unlike the Lecter of MANHUNTER, we get to see this monster at his full power once he's broken free in a terrifying sequence that is beautifully-directed by Jonathan Demme. When Lecter's brilliant escape plan goes into motion, it's a thrill to watch Hopkins turn into one of the most cunning and terrifying killers the screen has ever known.
Compared to his mad-dog antics, the film's wrap-up of the Buffalo Bill story is almost anti-climactic, although Demme does stage a nailbiting finale with Starling taking on the killer by herself in his pitch-dark cellar of death.
Still, Bill delivers a line to one of his captives that has since become one of the most oft-heard quotes in recent film history: "It puts the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again." And his naked dance will become seared in your memory whether you like it or not.
With a level of excellence that garnered it Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, and Best Director, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS remains one of the finest and most popular horror films ever made.
Read our review of MANHUNTER
Read our review of HANNIBAL