Several years ago, probably about 1986, I was living at 204 Johnson Blvd. in Jacksonville, North Carolina. I had only been back in town for a little over a year, and was now working for the New River Baptist Association, overseeing their “crisis ministry,” called “The Hem of His Garment.” The operation involved running a thrift store, a food pantry, and performing client intake. The churches and community donated second-hand items, clothing, furniture, toys, and food items. Volunteers, and a few paid staff, sorted through the donated items, throwing out the worthless, tattered, moldy things, and organizing the rest and putting it out on display in the thrift store. The thrift store was located in the old part of town, just a block or so from the Salvation Army’s thrift store, and diagonally across the street from the old Jacksonville train depot.
Mary Bell Jarman was one of the paid staff at the Hem, and one day she came up to the front counter and handed me a paperback book. I don’t recall her exact words, but I knew from what she said that she thought the book might contain “questionable” content and she wasn’t sure she should put it out for the public to purchase. I took the book, looked at the cover and the back, and slipped it on a shelf beneath the counter. The book’s title was “The Red Dragon” and the author was Thomas Harris. I hadn’t heard of either at the time.
I’m not sure if I took the book home with me that day, but eventually, I began to read it. It was captivating, but as I read it, I realized at some point that I had seen a movie, probably just a few months prior to getting the book, that at least had the same plot, if not characters. The old “Iwo Jima” theater was, by that time, a $1 movie theater, and I had seen “Manhunter” there. Many years prior, I had also seen “Planet of the Apes” and “The Godfather” there, or at least that is the way I remembered it.
“Manhunter” was captivating, involving an FBI agent, Will Graham (a young, skinny, William Petersen of CSI-Las Vegas… probably why he got the latter part), and a serial “whole family + the pet” killer, that was operating in the Southeastern United States. Graham knew he was on a time schedule before the next family would be hideously killed and then posed for display. I don’t even remember Hannibal Lecter being a standout character in the story, but of course he was. Will had been attacked by Dr. Lecter, and almost killed, but had survived and triumphed. Dr. Lecter was in prison, and Will was recovering, more from the emotional injuries, rather than the physical ones inflicted by Lecter, with his young family (wife and son) in Florida (at least that is where I think the beach house was located). Because of the time constraints of the new case, Will returns to the FBI, and the dark haunts of his inner self, and bolds himself to confront Dr. Lecter again, asking for the Doctor’s insights into “the killer.” The Doctor’s insights that the killer was staging his victims so that they could see what he was “becoming” draws Will closer to the killer. And, the creative insight that Will finally has, regarding the families’ home movies, brings him to the burning doorstep of the serial killer. But, if you have a watch, or are watching the movie on television, you realize that the movie can’t be over, and surely there must be a plot twist. And, that does occur.
NOTE: “Manhunter” suffers from an honestly procured “Miami Vice” sound score. Perhaps by attrition, when there are none that remember the distinctive “Miami Vice” opening theme, then “Manhunter” will be a hit again.
So, now just a few years shy of thirty, I recorded the first two episodes of “Hannibal,” a new NBC TV series. And, there is Mads Mikkelson (a wonderful Bond nemesis – LeCheffreeeee “Casino Royale”), as Dr. Hannibal Lecter. I watched the second episode first (only because I didn’t realize it was the 2nd episode… which seems to be the SOP with me and Scandinavian cinema – I watched the “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy, in complete reverse order.). The second episode has a serial gardener who works as a drug dealer, “No,” that’s a pharmacist that preys upon diabetics, because they are easy targets for his sweet tooth. He subverts their medications, which puts them in a coma, and then plants them and transfuses them to grow his mushrooms, because as everyone knows, mushrooms are more empathetic than human beings. Well, they are more responsive than comatose diabetics when it comes to serial killers.
So, as I’m watching, I know all of this is a prequel to Lecter’s attack upon Will Graham. I also know that the red headed journalist, who doesn’t mind driving a Mack truck through a crime scene, and ignoring all etiquette & protocols, to get the story, is already high on Dr. Lecter’s “menu.” In fact, he has already told her she was “rude” and rude people don’t last long in Dr. Lecter’s world.
I do not know the actor that is playing Will Graham in the series, but his mannerisms remind me of those of Sherlock Holmes in “Elementary” and Kevin Bacon’s character in “The Following.”
NOTE: So, our society has descended quite far in just a brief period of time. If you ring up the gorey body count of the television shows that I like to watch, “Justified”, “The Following”, “Hannibal” then it has to be at least 20 victims a week (possibly more, but I’ve become numb, and lost count).