Believe it or not, the first time I watched The Silence of the Lambs was when it was the second of a double feature; the first film being, are you ready for this, the Cher/Winona Ryder movie, Mermaids. That less-than-memorable comedy-drama had been released in the mid-part of December 1990, and an advance screening of The Silence of the Lambs was being offered along with the price of admission to Mermaids. The only thing more twisted than that questionable combination was the official release date of The Silence of the Lambs: February 14, 1991—Valentine’s Day. The only thing that would have been even more twisted would have been if the movie’s tag line was “A love story for all tastes”.
As I began to view the horror film in that darkened theater, the palms of both hands quickly dampening from fear, I soon realized that I was in for something special and memorable. So in celebration of its 28th anniversary, I’ve revisited the 1991 Best Picture Oscar-winner, listing below in chronological order some fun “tricks and treats” observations I’ve made from watching the horror classic. To be enjoyed with a nice chianti, of course.
1/ The font used in the opening credits immediately reminded me a lot of the television show TWIN PEAKS (1990)
2/ The sign posted on the tree reads: HURT. AGONY. PAIN. LOVE-IT. OR DIE. With the last sign not being as clear as the ones preceding it, at first I thought it read as PRIDE (and not OR DIE). Oops.
3/ The “BILL SKINS FIFTH” headline seems a bit out of place on the front of The National Inquisitor, given what the other headlines promise on the pages within: “Body Signals Are Your Keys To Happiness”, “New Cologne Makes Men Irresistible”, “I Was A Wild Man Until I Met The Girl Of My Dreams”, and “How to Escape the Rat Race and Still Keep Your Job”. Come to think of it, these headlines could be applied to Hannibal Lecter!
4/ I think we can all agree, Dr. Frederick Chilton is a TFA (as in, Total Fucking Asshole).
5/ When Clarice is speaking with Barney, while she’s waiting in the small area between the guards’ workspace and the hallway containing the cells and their inhabitants, on the wall behind Clarice is a NO SMOKING sign. I think even hardcore chain-smokers wouldn’t need that sign to discourage them from lighting up, given this particular setting.
6/ When Hannibal is kindly providing Clarice with that way too accurate profile of herself, does he blink AT ALL while doing so?
7/ Clarice’s car is a total shit box—er, I mean, is like a condemned building on wheels. Then again, it is a 1975 Ford Pinto, so enough said.
8/ When Hannibal is being transferred to Memphis, and the multiple police cars arrive at the airport hangar, are the sirens REALLY THAT NECESSARY?
9/ Despite presumably being heavily monitored at all times, Hannibal still somehow manages to secure himself Dr. Chilton’s pen in order to execute his DIY handcuff key project. Did I somehow miss the scene where he obtains the pen?
10/ Hannibal clearly has some mad skills when it comes to picking the lock of a handcuff in record time; which is more than can be said for the poor son-of-a-bitch guard, terrible at unlocking the cuffs even though he’s in possession of the actual key.
11/ Why are there only two guards on duty on the 5th floor, where Hannibal’s cell is located, whereas there seems to be at least half a dozen or so police on the ground floor doing absolutely nothing…until it’s too late?
12/Exactly how much time passed between Hannibal’s attack on the two guards, and the other law enforcement officers making their discovery on the 5th floor? Not only did Hannibal have the time to skin and dine beforehand, but to string the dead guard up to the cage, give the other guard a bit of a face-lift, AND do some redecorating, courtesy of the red, white and blue banners that had previously been mounted to where the walls meet the ceiling. There’s a very ‘80s music video/Broadway stage vibe to the resulting set design, don’t you think? Cue the dry ice machine!
13/ OMG, that’s CHRIS ISAAK as the SWAT commander (on the left)! Does anyone else remember Isaak from his song, Wicked Game, and its sexy black and white video directed by photography legend Herb Ritts? I had such a crush—okay, moving on.
14/ Hannibal is quite the over-achiever, managing to defeat two guards, an ambulance crew (of I’m thinking at least two more people) AND a tourist, from whom he needed clothes and money, in practically no time at all. Bravo!
15/ At first I was questioning the placement of the “TAKE CARE OF CARPET – USE POWDERED BLEACH ONLY” sign in the scene with Clarice and Ardelia. That is, until I realized that the scene didn’t take place in the room they shared with one another, but in the academy’s laundry room. Unless, of course, the laundry room IS the room the two women shared?
16/ One of the establishing shots of Belvedere, Ohio, includes a close-up of a lawn ornament in the form of an Indigenous man/Native American paddling a canoe. I guess the local garden store was fresh out of equally racist lawn jockeys.
17/Despite the “police being back here so many times already”, as per victim Frederica Bimmel’s father, they clearly didn’t accomplish much in the way of investigating; it takes Clarice all of about five minutes to discover the secret compartment of the music box located in Frederica’s bedroom.
18/ Why does Crawford immediately think that Clarice is in danger when he and the FBI break into the wrong house? Why doesn’t he give her some credit for knowing how to a handle dangerous situation?
19/ Why doesn’t Clarice phone the police or FBI first and THEN begin her basement hunt of Buffalo Bill? (My apologies to Crawford; he was right to be worried about Clarice after all.)
20/My favourite line of dialogue in this film is courtesy of Bill’s imprisoned victim, Catherine, as she “suggests” to Clarice to re-prioritize rescuing her over hunting down Bill: “Don’t you leave me here, you fucking bitch!!!”
21/At the FBI academy graduation party, why does it appear that ONLY women are serving cake and coffee? UGH!
22/How in the hell did Hannibal manage to get to the Bahamas, clearly thwarting the authorities along the way? Did everyone shrug their shoulders and decide to call it a day following Hannibal’s earlier escape from custody
23/I love that the closing credits take its “in order of appearance” sequence very seriously, regardless of the species of the cast. Case in point: “Precious”, whose real name is “Darla”, does not appear at the tail end (pun intended) of the credits, but in her rightful spot, and ahead of some of her human castmates.
24/ My hands-down favourite credit of the film is that of “Moth Wrangler and Stylist”. All hail Raymond A. Mendez!