Unseen Silence of the Lambs Ending Was Much More Disturbing

Unseen Silence of the Lambs Ending Was Much More Disturbing
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Anthony Heald achieved a remarkable success as an actor when playing Dr. Frederick Chilton in The Silence of the Lambs.

In a film featuring not one but two serial killers, his character commits no overt crimes, yet manages to become probably the most hated person in the entire cast.

And that's despite a number of Chilton's scummier actions in Thomas Harris' original novel being left out of the film adaptation!

Chilton is the director of the Baltimore Hospital of Criminally Insane, to which Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is confined.

And he is a slimy, vainglorious man, with inflated ego. He both aggrandizes Lecter, as a way to indirectly aggrandize himself, the man who acts as Lecter's jailer, and underestimates his inmate.

His actions both obstruct the Buffalo Bill investigation and put Clarice and Catherine in danger.

Chilton's ego-tripping and incompetence ultimately give Lecter a chance to escape. After that Chilton arrives on Bahamas, possibly fleeing to save his life, but Lecter still manages to track him.

The theatrical cut of the movie ends with Lecter, chatting to Agent Starling on the phone as he watches Chilton.

Then he bids Clarice farewell with an infamous double entendre: he has to run because he's "having an old friend for dinner."

While this ending clearly indicates that Chilton is screwed, we don't see the murder.

The book just has Lecter send letters to Clarice and Chilton, promising the former he won't pursue her and the latter that he will – as Chilton is guarded by FBI, Lecter cannot easily get him. That was deemed insufficiently cinematic, thus the phone call ending.

However, as recorded in Four Screenplays: Studies in the American Screenplay by Syd Field, the movie's initial script had a different ending after the phone call was over, with Lecter confronting bound and gagged Chilton.

Lecter, holding a knife, asks him, "Well, Dr. Chilton. Shall we begin?" then the scene cuts to "The End".

However, while that variant of the ending survived several drafts, the movie's director, Jonathan Demme, ultimately found that he does not like it, and finds placing Chilton in a situation with no chance of escape too "close-ended".

So in the end it was rewritten into the final variant, which implied what's going to happen, but left the outcome ambiguous.