Have Thomas Harris’s Hannibal novels ascended to become hallmarks of modern literary culture? A new Vimeo mashup makes a very compelling case that they have occupied that status for decades—it just took us a while to notice.
Fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter has become a mythic figure who looms so large over the pop culture landscape that many people may not realize that he has a definitive origin point: Thomas Harris’ famous thriller series, beginning with the 1981 novel Red Dragon.
Now, a new Vimeo mashup shows us just how completely these onscreen adaptations have stuck to their source material. Fuller’s Hannibal included the Red Dragon arc in its final half-season, making it the third adaptation of the Harris novel. This means that professional film editor Matthew Morettini had enough material to completely recreate one of the most famous scenes from the novel: the initial reunion between FBI pathologist Will Graham and Hannibal, his most dangerous catch.
What’s most striking about this mashup is not how different the adaptations are, but how seamlessly the three film versions work together to reproduce Harris’ page-turner. Hannibal’s universe has attracted acclaimed directors from Fuller to Ridley Scott and Michael Mann. But perhaps surprisingly, the films have all stuck very close to Harris’ novels themselves for their primary materials—including plot and dialogue, as Morettini’s mashup shows. Many of the most terrifying aspects of each of the films of Harris’ works have come straight from Harris himself.
That makes a compelling argument that Harris’ novels are more than just pop fiction: They deserve consideration as one of modern culture’s lasting literary landmarks. As Morettini himself notes: “Other than filmed works of Shakespeare, I can’t think of another pop culture creation that has been interpreted so faithfully three separate times.”
What do you think? Are Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham the Richard III and Hamlet of our time?
One thing is certain: They may not be as storied as the literary legends of the past—but they’re every bit as electrifying to watch on screen.
Screengrab via Matthew Morettini/Vimeo