Illustration by Hilton Dresden
Foreplay: Hannibal (2001)
This shameless sequel to Silence of the Lambs (even Jodie Foster refused to participate) gained a new and hysterical audience when clips of Julianne Moore gunning down crazed urban predator Hazelle Goodman was used in a popular gun-control satire. It showed politically correct pacifist Moore pleading “Enough!” But too much is never enough for director Ridley Scott who out-creeps Jonathan Demme’s original film. Ridley even features an outrageous cannibalism scene in which Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecture makes a gourmet feast of unfortunate detective Ray Liotta’s gray matter. It’sBrain Salad Surgery—an inside reference to the classic Emerson Lake & Palmer prog-rock album with cover art by H.R. Giger whose ghoulish designs in Alien made Ridley’s career.
Press Play: Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
This box office embarrassment about a magical Negro (Will Smith) who spreads fairy dust on segregated pre-Civil Rights era golf courses was both ahead of its time (pre-Obama) and behind the times. Tiger Woods had already won a Masters Tournament and a U.S. Open when the movie was released and flopped, but Hollywood prefers p.c. sentimentality to actual social progress. Matt Damon, portraying the condescending white golf pro, didn’t seem to know better and director Robert Redford was simply in pandering mode. Will Smith was in search of a klieg-light halo. His next role would be Muhammad Ali.
Playtime: Compulsion (1958)
This bio-pic of Loeb & Leopold, thrill killers of the 1920s, follows Alfred Hitchcock’s 1949 stage-based dramatization Rope. But this quasi-exploitation version of the story is even better. Genre expert Richard Fleischer dares to show Loeb & Leopold (Bradford Dillman and Dean Stockwell) as rich, narcissistic murderers, gay fellow-travelers of Chicago’s Al Capone era—and Stockwell goes all the way with sensitive, sympathetic gay inference. He’s Sub to Dillman’s Dom and Orson Welles (imitating real-life defense attorney Clarence Darrow) argues for them memorably. Stockwell, Dillman and Welles split a well-deserved Best Actor prize at that year’s Cannes Film Festival.