Cannibal Films

A fearless fan of cannibal culture dreams of the ultimate movie-date

By David Templeton

Writer David Templeton takes interesting people to interesting movies in his ongoing quest for the ultimate post-film conversation. This column is not a review; rather, it’s a freewheeling, tangential discussion of life, alternative ideas, and popular culture.

It’s late. Aside from all those enormous Vikings in the back row, the movie theater is practically deserted. I assume I am dreaming. In the dream, I am waiting for the movie to begin, swapping tasteless cannibal jokes with my guest, Dr. Hannibal Lechter.

Evidently, I’ve invited Dr. Lechter–AKA, “Hannibal the CannibaI,” the flesh-eating, pun-loving übershrink from The Silence of the Lambs –to see The Thirteenth Warrior, the same ultra-bloody Norse gore-fest (it’s based on Michael Crichton’s novel The Eaters of the Dead.) that I saw last night, thoroughly enjoyed, and is clearly the reason I’m now dreaming about great big Vikings and famous cannibals.

Dreams like this have become something of an occupational hazard of late. After six-and-a-half years of taking “interesting” people to movies, it seems unsurprising that I now take people to movies in my dreams. Last week I saw To Kill a Mockingbird with dead author Truman Capote and live folk-singer Jewel. Truman kept interrupting the film to go to the bathroom and Jewel just sat in her seat, muttering, “Bummer. Wow. Bummer!” Earlier this summer I saw Tea with Mussolini, with Mussolini. As I recall, he didn’t like the film, but he wanted Cher’s home phone number in the worst way.

Back in my current dream, however, Dr. Lechter has another joke.

“Why won’t cannibals eat clowns?” he asks.

“I don’t know,” I reply, as he sits upright, smiling across the dimly-lit gloom of the theater. At least, I think he’s smiling. It’s hard to tell, actually, since he’s wearing that weird, protective face mask from the movie–the one with the little iron bars in the mouth-piece. In fact, my guest is full restrained, strapped tightly to his chair. “Why won’t cannibals eat clowns?” I repeat the joke.

“Because they taste funny,” he replies.

Actually, I knew that one. It seemed unwise to snatch the punch-line away from a guy like Hannibal Lechter, though, so I let him it. But I know more.

“What game do cannibal children like to play the most?” I ask.

“Swallow the leader, of course,” Lechter answers quickly, stealing my punch-line, then charging ahead with, “Did you here the one about the cannibal who was expelled from college for buttering up his teacher?” Hey. Good one.

“Did you hear about the cannibal who passed his brother in the woods?” I toss right back.

“Did you hear about cannibal who arrived late for dinner and got the cold shoulder?” he continues.

And so it goes. All night long. All because Antonio Banderas decided to make a movie about a dozen brawny Vikings–accompanied by one Arabian poet–all clashing swords with an army of cannibalistic cultists at the dawn of time, and I decided to go see it.

“What’s a cannibal’s favorite fast food?” my guest is saying, as one of the Vikings in the back row suddenly produces a loudly ringing alarm clock. “Pizza with everybody on it,” I hear Dr. Lechter say as the dream fades and the lights come up.

Ouch. The sun is shining. Birds are singing.

“Hey, I dreamed I was at the movies with Hannibal Lechter,” I cheerily inform my wife, who is expertly silencing the clock with a single karate chop to the snooze alarm.

“Serves you right for watching awful movies like that,” she mumbles, slipping away into sweet slumber.

Hmmm. She’s right of course.

My odd fondness for that offbeat sub-section of pop culture that is devoted to all things cannibal–call it “cannibal culture”– is not an easy thing to defend, and I’m not about to try. There’s no excuse for having so many cannibal jokes locked away in my unconscious, or for memorizing songs like Tom Lehrer’s I Hold Your Hand in Mine, Dear (“I hold your hand in mine, dear; I press it to my lips; I take a healthy bite from your dainty fingertips; The night you died, I cut it off; I really can’t say why; for now each time I kiss it I get bloodstains on my tie.”).

I’m also sure it’s unhealthy to know the titles of films like these: How Tasty was My Little Frenchman; Eat the Rich; Parents; Eating Raoul; The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover; Hotel Hell; Soylent Green; A Boy and His Dog; Sweeny Todd–the Demon Barber of Fleet Street; Cannibal–the Musical (Yes, that’s a real movie), Cannibal Campout (Yes, that’s also a real movie); Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungles of Death; and Fried Green Tomatoes. People tend to forget that last one–starring nice old Jessica Tandy–is a full fledged cannibal movie, but it is (“The secret’s in the sauce!”).

So it’s true. There’s no good reason for being amused by any of this.

I agree. And yet, as I pull the pillows up close, and begin to slip back into dreamland, I begin to smile, then to laugh.

I just remembered another one.

A cannibal from one island was visiting the cannibals on another island. He went to the market and noticed a sign that said “Fresh People: $2 dollars a pound. Politicians: $25 dollars a pound.” The cannibal asked the salesperson, “Hey–how come politicians are so expensive?” The salesperson answered, “Are you kidding? Do you have any idea how hard it is to clean one of those?”

Web extra to the September 9-15, 1999 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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