Greatest Movie Series
Franchises of All Time

The "Hannibal Lecter" Films

Hannibal Rising (2007)

Hannibal Lecter Films (Original)
Manhunter (1986) | The Silence of the Lambs (1991) | Hannibal (2001)

Hannibal Lecter Films (Prequels)
Red Dragon (2002) | Hannibal Rising (2007)

The "Hannibal Lecter" Films (Prequels)
Hannibal Rising (2007)
d. Peter Webber, 121 minutes, 131 minutes (unrated version)

Film Plot Summary

The film opened in the wartime year of 1944, in Lithuania in Central Europe, at the Lecter Castle, as the Lecter parents and their young daughter Mischa and 8 year old son Hannibal (Aaran Thomas) fled from approaching German troops and tanks (the Germans were fleeing and starving in the waning years of the war). They sought refuge in the family's woodsy hunting lodge. The Lecter Castle was occupied by the Germans - with the aid of six local Lithuanian militiamen (all six Nazi collaborators would later play a larger role in the film: Grutas, Dortlich, Grentz, Kolnas, Milko, and Pot Watcher -- victims of young Hannibal's bloodthirsty revenge) who wanted to join the SS - the group was challenged by the SS commander to "earn" the right by shooting the Lecters' Jewish cook who had remained in the castle.

A Russian tank plowed through the forest to the Lecters' hunting lodge, and ordered everybody out of the house. While pumping water, they were seen by a German Stucka bomber, and gunfire erupted amidst explosions. Everyone, except Hannibal and Mischa, was slaughtered during the firefight when the plane was shot down and crashed into the tank. Mother Lecter died in Hannibal's arms.

As the area at the Lecter Castle was attacked from the air and from the ground by the advancing Russians during the winter, the six militiamen looted what they could ("We're getting rich"). One of the more ruthless of them, the leader Vladis Grutas (Rhys Ifans), shot the wounded SS Major, and stole the Iron Cross from his uniform, as they fled from the attack - becoming deserters. Meanwhile, the two orphaned children were fending for themselves in the hunting lodge (watching as wolves at their parents outside), when the marauding militiamen broke in, subdued them, and looted the home as war profiteers for its meager supplies. On a radio, they learned of roadblocks, and their plan was to impersonate medics in order to escape, and to keep the children alive for a short while, to bolster their story. As the animalistic Grutas chewed on a raw bird with blood and feathers on his lips, after discovering that the frozen woods yielded little food, he was watched by a traumatized Hannibal as he spoke menacingly about his plump sister: "We eat or die." [Off-screen, Hannibal's cherished baby sister was cannibalized by the soldiers.]

Eight years later after the war ended, the Lecter Castle had become a Soviet-run orphanage ("the People's Orphanage"). Lecter was one of the oppressed teenaged orphans, rendered mute by his traumatic wartime experiences, and he refused to sing the official anthem at mealtime. When bullied by a youth commander, he defended himself with a fork hidden in his hand, impaling the bully when struck. He was summoned to the office of the Headmaster, who partially sympathized with him: "It must be difficult for you to live in this house." During the night, Lecter had another nightmare about his experiences in the hunting lodge with the brutal militiamen, and screamed out: "Mischa." He was chained and locked in a dungeon/cellar area by the enraged youth commander, and told: "Scream all you please." He found a concealed, secret passageway and escaped, vengefully leaving behind a bear trap (with the word "SING" written in the dirt) for the youth commander.

He proceeded cross-country to the Soviet border, narrowly avoided capture by sentries, and then hopped on trains through Poland, to East Germany (Berlin), West Germany, and finally into France (near Paris). His only possession was a collection of family photographs and letters, with the name of his widowed aunt, Lady Murasaki-Lecter (Gong Li) [she had lost her entire family when a bomb fell on Hiroshima in 1945]. She had been married to wealthy Robert Lecter, who had died a year earlier. Hannibal's destination was her return address on one of the envelopes - Chateau Vigo in Etampes, France. When he met her, she told him: "Only you and I are left now." Hannibal continued to suffer nightmares regarding his younger sister Mischa. Lady Murasaki asked: "Do you remember what happened to Mischa?" but he couldn't answer.

She taught him the art of flower arranging, and was able to gently coax him into speaking again. She also showed him the altar where she practiced ancestor worship, and ancient painted parchments of her samurai ancestors who decapitated and displayed the heads of their enemies. Hannibal was instructed in martial arts, as she told him: "You must be ready for anything." In the local, open-air market, when a fat and rude butcher named Paul Momund crudely remarked at Lady Murasaki: "Hey, japonaise. Tell me the truth. Does your pussy run crossways? With a puff of straight hairs like a little explosion," Hannibal erupted in anger and defended her honor by attacking him. The chief gendarme promised to deal with the much-hated Vichy collaborator, but nothing was done. Hannibal prepared for vengeance, oiling a curved samurai blade and fitting his face with an ancestor's mask. He confronted the butcher while he was on a fishing excursion, and demanded an apology. When the butcher refused, Lecter slashed his bulging belly "crossways" with his samurai katana, then his upper arm, lower back and leg - before decapitating him. French detective, Inspector Pascal Popil (Dominic West), who had lost his entire family in the war and specialized in war crimes, viewed the butcher's disembodied corpse, detecting a scent of cloves oil from the blade, while searching for the missing head.

That evening, the Lecter's family cook told Hannibal, as he cooked the butcher's absconded fish: "The most exquisite bits of the fish are the cheeks. This is true for many creatures." Lady Murasaki suspected Hannibal as the murderer, confirmed when she found the head on a platter on her ancestral altar. Hannibal admitted his crime, and that he used the samurai blade for the kill: "The butcher was like butter." She told him: "You didn't need to do this for me," as Hannibal told her it was a "crime of passion," not murder. After he was given a lie detector test by Inspector Popil at police headquarters, it was determined: "He reacts to nothing. It's monstrous." A few minutes later, Popil was notified that the butcher's head was impaled on a gate nearby, placed there (learned later, by Hannibal's aunt) and inscribed with a Nazi insignia on his forehead - Hannibal was no longer considered a suspect.

His aunt was notified that her chateau was soon to be auctioned when her legal residency was threatened after her husband's death. Meanwhile, Lecter was admitted to a French medical school - the youngest student ever, on a work scholarship. They both left for Paris, where she funded his studies at the Institute de Medecine St. Marie - his main duty being "preparing bodies for the anatomy class." He remained haunted by Mischa's death and asked Lady Murasaki about the story of Abraham in the Old Testament, who was tempted to kill his son: "Do you suppose God intended to eat Isaac? That's why he told Abraham to kill him." She answered: "Eat him? Of course not. The angel intervenes in time." Lecter replied: "Not always," as he thought about the killing of his sister: "I have to know about Mischa. I can see the faces in my dreams, but I can't remember what they called each other with their bloody mouths. I would give anything to remember."

During the course of his work, Lecter witnessed Popil questioning a condemned Nazi war criminal named Louis, who was injected with sodium thiopental to coerce him to recall his past war crimes against children, before he was executed. To recall his own repressed past memories, Hannibal injected himself with sodium thiopental while listening to a phonograph record playing the Goldberg Variations in his apartment, and viewing six pencil sketches he had made of the Lithuanian soldiers who had cannibalized his sister. He remembered how one of the men had said that Mischa, suffering from pneumonia, should be killed: "She's going to die anyway." [She was subsequently boiled on the stove in a small bathtub, after she expired.] He also had a vision, in a flashback, of how Pot Watcher had grabbed the dog-tags of all the deserters as the Russians stormed the hunting lodge, but was killed when the lodge was bombed and died in the rubble, along with the tags. Hannibal remembered how he was rescued by Russian troops.

Hannibal returned by train to Lithuania (now a Soviet republic), and at the Soviet border at Medininka, his passport required a visa for entry. One of the six original soldiers, Enrikas Dortlich (Richard Brake) - a border official in the nearby town of Kaunas, Lithuania, noticed Lecter's name on the entry list. He revisited the hunting lodge, the scene of the deaths of his family members and Mischa, where he was watched from afar by Dortlich. In the ruins, he unearthed his mother's pearls, Mischa's remains in a metal bathtub, and Pot Watcher's satchel with the dog-tags, just as Dortlich attempted to sneak up on him and kill him, but failed. After respectfully burying his sister's bones in the woods, he questioned Dortlich, now bound to a tree, while dangling a thick noose in front of him as he asked: "Where are the others?" After Dortlich claimed that Grentz was in Canada as an emigrant, he would say nothing further other than that the others were dead. Hannibal calmly used a horse-drawn pulley with thick ropes to choke Dortlich, to learn the location of Kolnas - Fontainebleau. The rope then tightened further and decapitated Dortlich, as his head thumped to the ground and blood splashed across Lecter's face. He took his gloved hand, wiped off some spattered blood, and licked his finger. When Soviet police with dogs found Dortlich's head on a tree stump, they saw carved-out cheeks that Lecter had cooked with wild mushrooms to make a brochette or shish-ka-bob: "Mushrooms and cheeks."

When Lecter returned to Paris, Lady Murasaki greeted him in his apartment, noting that he smelled of smoke and blood. He told her: "I found them. The men who killed Mischa. I have the names. They're here in France." In Fontainebleau at Kolnas' restaurant Cafe D'Ente, Hannibal (with Lady Murasaki) located war criminal Kolnas (Kevin McKidd), now using the name Kleber, who was accompanied by his young daughter Natalya (wearing Mischa's bracelet), his son, and wife. He placed Kolnas' dog-tag in her coat, as Kolnas called for her to join him for church. Kolnas was startled to discover the dog-tag while surrounded by his family. Lady Murasaki advised Hannibal not to kill Kolnas: "He has children."

The remainder of the group of Lithuanian militiamen was now alerted to Hannibal's existence and revenge plot, as Kolnas contacted Zigmas Milko (Stephen Martin Walters) and Grutas, now traffickers in the sex trade, conducted on Grutas' mobile houseboat: "Dortlich's dog-tag was in his mouth. That means that he has all of our dog tags." Grutas ordered Milko to go to Paris to follow and eventually kill Lecter. Meanwhile, Inspector Popil, who knew of war criminal Dortlich's murder near the Lecter Castle (and suspected Hannibal, especially after searching his Parisian apartment decorated with sketches), began an investigation to locate Dortlich's friends: "Hannibal may know." He suspected that Lady Murasaki was protecting her nephew because both of them had lost their families during the war ("That is your bond with him").

Late one night, an armed Milko snuck into the Medical Institute's laboratory through a window where Lecter was working - the young lab student immediately sensed the intruder's presence because of the opened window, came up behind him, and injected his jugular vein with a hypodermic needle to knock him out. Milko was bound and immersed in a tank of yellowish embalming fluid, next to other cadavers. Lecter cremated Milko's clothes, to avoid leaving any trace, and forced Milko to admit eating twelve bodies, before he learned the location of Grutas' house - Milly-la-Foret. Lecter then submerged Milko in the fluid to drown him in the enclosed tank, as Inspecter Popil, who had entered the school, came into another section of the lab. The police inspector questioned Lecter after producing dog-tags found in his room, and accused him of murdering Dortlich and cannibalizing his cheeks, but he had no proof.

Popil told him that was interested in prosecuting war criminal Grutas, still-at-large, who had sawed off the head of the rabbi at Kaunas, shot gypsy children in the woods, and walked free from Nuremberg when a witness had acid poured down her throat. Lecter was forced to be recorded during a deposition - recounting his recollections of his brutal wartime capture by the six deserters and Mischa's death. Popil attempted to make a deal with Lecter, although he threatened him with the guillotine if he killed anyone in France. Popil would let Lecter go if he would share everything he knew about Grutas, so that he could be legally captured and tried. Popil knew: "He'll lead us to Grutas. Then we'll arrest him. The court has to declare him insane...The little boy Hannibal died in 1944 out in that snow. His heart died with Mischa. What he is now - there's no word for it - except 'monster'." Lady Murasaki incestuously kissed Lecter, and begged for him to promise to turn the men over to the police, but he replied: "I can't. I already promised Mischa."

Knowing he was being followed, Lecter snuck away to his lab, where he completely disposed of Milko's remains, and then created a crude time bomb. He surveyed the outside of Grutas' home before infiltrating and setting his bomb to explode on a lower level of the house. He then emerged from the steam room near where Grutas was being attended in a bathtub by one of his favored sex-trade prostitutes, and held a gun on him. The entry of one of Grutas' other maids quickly brought bodyguards who foiled Lecter's plan. As Lecter was held down, Grutas taunted him: "Would you have fed me to your little sister because you loved her?" and he staunchly refused to apologize. Lecter was saved from having his throat slit when the time bomb exploded, affording him escape.

When he returned to Lady Murasaki's apartment, he realized she had been kidnapped as a hostage to be used as bait when he received a phone call from Grutas. He recognized she was being held at Kolnas' restaurant when he heard the sounds of caged birds during the call, as Grutas bargained with him for Murasaki's life: "Bring me everything you have. The dog tags, Pot Watcher's little inventory...A life for a life." Lecter was ordered to be at kilometer 36 on the road to Trilbardou, at a telephone kiosk at sunrise. Grutas' plan was to kill him at the kiosk, and have his hitmen "bring his balls to the boat," while he held Lady Murasaki at his houseboat/canalboat.

Lecter hid a Tanto (short Japanese dagger blade/knife) behind his back under his shirt before leaving and proceeding to confront Kolnas in his restaurant. Lecter then bluffed Kolnas, telling him that he had already visited the family's home, entered his children's room, and retrieved Mischa's bracelet from sleeping Natalya. Lecter bargained to exchange Kolnas' daughter for Lady Murasaki, and forced Kolnas to divulge the canal boat's location -- in Canal L'Ourcq, west of Meux. Lecter said he would keep his word: "I spare your life for the sake of your children," and placed his gun temptingly on the hot stove. When Kolnas predictably grabbed for it, Lecter stabbed him with his Tanto - under the chin through to the top of his head.

As Lecter located the canal boat and jumped onboard, Grutas was threatening to sexually molest and violate Lady Murasaki. When Lecter found Lady Murasaki and walked forward to untie her, Grutas shot him in the back/spine. He then taunted Lecter, believing he was paralyzed: "You won't feel it when I cut off your balls. (To Lady Murasaki) A present for you. A velvet bag." Grutas then began to forcibly finger-rape Lady Murasaki, as Lecter reached for his Tanto - it had protected him from harm when chipped by the bullet. He slashed at both of Grutas' ankles to cripple his Achilles' tendons, and then freed her. Lecter watched as Grutas strained to crawl across the floor to reach his gun, and then promised to kill him quickly if he divulged Grentz' location - a village in Canada near Saskatoon.

Lady Murasaki begged that Grutas be turned over to Inspector Popil to respect the rule of law, but vigilante Lecter argued: "He ate my sister." Grutas laughed and added that Lecter had also consumed his sister - in the film's shocking revelation, and was covering up by killing all those who knew: "So did you. You ate her, too, so why don't you kill yourself?...Pot Watcher fed her to you in a broth...You have to kill everyone who knows it, don't you? You ate her - half-conscious. Your little lips greedy around the spoon." Incensed and growling, Lecter carved an M - his sister's initial, into Grutas' bare chest, as the horrified Lady Murasaki watched and tried to stop him. She stabbed Grutas' houseboat captain in the throat when he appeared, and then pleaded with Lecter: "Stop now. Forgive them." When he insisted, "Never," she began to leave, even after he vowed: "I love you." She asked: "What is left in you to love?"

Hannibal left his signature trademark - he chewed the cheeks off Grutas, and then spit out the flesh, before blasting the houseboat with multiple fiery explosions. Lady Murasaki was met on the dock by Inspector Popil, who assumed that Lecter died in the blaze, but he was seen by the edge of the canal in the woods. The film ended with Lecter's pursuit and killing (off-screen) of the sixth deserter, Grentz (Ivan Marevich), in his Canadian hamlet of Melville, where he was employed as a taxidermist - Lecter greeted him in his shop with his dog-tag, the whistling of Das Mannlein Im Walde, his sketched portrait, and the words: "I came to collect a head."

Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)

The film, an 'origin story,' was considered a prequel to all of the other films in the series, occurring chronologically before Manhunter (1986) and its remake Red Dragon (2002).

Often considered the weakest, and least profitable of the films.

It was an adaptation of Thomas Harris' 2006 novel of the same name, about the childhood and historical European roots of the infamous cannibalistic killer, with Thomas Harris' own screenplay.

With a production budget of $50 million, and box-office gross receipts of $28 million (domestic) and $82 million (worldwide).

Young Hannibal Lecter
(Aaran Thomas)

Young Mischa Lecter
(Helena-Lia Tachovska)

Hannibal Lecter
(Gaspard Ulliel)

Lady Murasaki-Lecter
(Gong Li)

Vladis Grutas
(Rhys Ifans)

Enrikas Dortlich
(Richard Brake)

Petras Kolnas
(Kevin McKidd)

Zigmas Milko
(Stephen Martin Walters)

Bronys Grentz
(Ivan Marevich)

Pot Watcher
(Goran Kostic)

Inspector Pascal Popil
(Dominic West)

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