Monday, August 31, 2009

Manhunter analysis - part 4: Problems with the FBI's hair analysis

CATEGORY: MOVIES     [Hidden plot related]

The toilet tissue note found in Lecktor's cell. Note that it is in two pieces.

In this and the next post, we are going to go over some things which suggest that the FBI investigators should not have been as certain as they were, that the entire note found in Lecktor's cell was actually written by the "Tooth Fairy" (Francis Dollarhyde). These things involve the incorrect use of lab results, the failure to carefully look over key pieces of evidence, and some other related phenomena.

Let us first look at the hair sample results. Recall that when a note (written on toilet tissue, supposedly in its entirety by the Tooth Fairy) is found in Lecktor's cell and is brought to the FBI lab in Washington, there are also some hair samples brought along with it. The lab technician discovers a single one-half inch hair on the note, and she is to compare it to hair samples from Lecktor's comb, whisker samples from the electric razor the prison staff allows him to use, and hair from the guard who removed the note from his cell.

In the group discussion after the lab analyses have been completed, the lab technician (Beverly Katz, shown at left) who analyzed the hair confidently states that the scale counts and core size of the hair match the blond hair found in the Jacobi's residence. Therefore, her conclusion, which she firmly states, is that the note was written by the Tooth Fairy. However, a little research shows that the lab technician was in error when, based on the reason she gave (the matches with scale counts and core size), she concluded that the two hairs must have come from the same person.

The quoted material below is taken from the FBI standard, the Encyclopedia of Security Management, 'Hairs and Fibers' section:

"Hairs. Examination of hair can determine if it is animal or human; if animal, the species from which it originated (dog, cat, deer, etc.), and if human, the race, body area, how removed from the body, damage, and alteration (bleaching or dyeing).

The finding from a hair examination is good circumstantial evidence, but not positive evidence. An examination can conclude whether or not a hair could have originated from a particular person based on microscopic characteristics present in the hair. Age cannot be determined, but gender may be determined depending on the condition of the hair's root."[a] (emphasis not in original).

Scale counts and core size are microscopic characteristics of hair. Therefore, the lab technician was in error when she stated that the hair must have come from the Tooth Fairy.

In the next part of the analysis, we will go over a key item which some of the investigators, including Graham and Crawford, overlooked.

a. Fay, John. Encyclopedia of Security Management. Butterworth-Heinemann, 2007. Google Books, pp. 186-187. URL =


Manhunter analysis - part 3: The characters' speech peculiarities


Let us begin this post by discussing the topic of Dollarhyde's deformity. He has cleft lip (see screencap below). Recall, however, that Reba tells him he speaks very well, although she also mentions to him that he avoids fricatives and sibilants. She also tells him she has trained for therapy with speech- and hearing-impaired children. We also observe that in the interaction between Francis and Reba, we have a man who is primarily interested in visual stimuli, being attracted to a blind woman.

Dollarhyde has cleft lip (click image to enlarge).

Although Dollarhyde does not have any overt speech defects, he does however exhibit, on several occasions, the behavior of speaking with a delay in the middle of a sentence. One example of this is his telling Freddy Lounds, upon first showing himself to Lounds, "Here" (the ellipsis denotes the delay of one or two seconds between words). He does this a second time in the same scene, after putting in his false teeth in preparation for biting Lounds – he says, "seal our promise with...with a kiss."

This behavior seems to be trivial until we note that both Graham and Molly speak in this way too, that is, with a delay, on a couple of occasions. In the first scene in the movie, in which Graham and Jack Crawford are conversing, Crawford says, "You look alright now", and Will responds, "I am...alright." Molly's delay in speaking comes at the very end of the movie when, in referring to the killing of Dollarhyde by Will, she says to Will, "It was on"

Above left: Dollarhyde speaks with a delay in the middle of a sentence, while talking to Freddy Lounds just before biting him. Above right: Graham speaks with a similar delay while talking to Crawford at the beginning of the film.

Another behavior which both Will and Molly exhibit, and their son, Kevin, as well, is stuttering. When Will is talking to Kevin while building a turtle hatchery (above left), at one point Will says, "can't dig unner – under." In the scene in which Kevin wakes up Molly (above right), she stutters upon being awoken, then Kevin says, "s–ss-someone’s outside."

Another scene in the movie which has to do with speech peculiarities, occurs when Crawford and Graham are flying to St. Louis, to apprehend the Tooth Fairy, whose real name they do not yet know. For a description of this scene, see the screencaps (with captions) below.

Top left: Crawford (seated at left) and Graham (seated at right) are on a small aircraft bound for St. Louis, Missouri, where they have discovered the Tooth Fairy's workplace (Gateway Labs) to be located. Top right: During this flight, Crawford gets on the phone with a man at Gateway labs, and this man starts feeding Crawford, one by one, the names of Gateway employees who have permits to park vans (the investigators also know by this point, that the Tooth Fairy drives a van). Crawford relays the names to Graham, one by one. Above left and right: Graham (above left) is in contact with Lieutenant Fisk of the Missouri State Police (the black man in the above right screencap); the Lieutenant is looking up the driver's license of each man whose name is given to him by Graham, in the state Department of Revenue records, to see if the physical description on the license matches the physical description of the Tooth Fairy he has already been given by Graham. At one point, Crawford gives Graham the name of an employee whose surname is "Alvaro", pronouncing it 'al-VAR-o' with the emphasis on the second syllable. Graham then gives the name to Lieutenant Fisk, pronouncing the last name 'AL-var-o'.

As we will see later, the fact that there are speech peculiarities in the movie has some very important significance for this analysis.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Manhunter analysis - part 2: There is a killer within Graham

CATEGORY: MOVIES     [Hidden plot related]

Top left: Graham pulls some photos out of the Tooth Fairy case file while on an airplane flight; note the young passenger sitting to his left. (All images may be clicked to enlarge). Top right: The photos are from the victim families' home movies (Leeds family on left; Jacobi family on right). Above left: Later on during the flight, after Graham has been sleeping for a short while, we see some photos of the Leeds and Jacobi crime scenes on his tray, such as this photo of Mrs. Leeds' dead body, with mirror shards placed in her eye sockets. Above right: The young passenger is horrified upon happening to see the crime scene photos.

As shown in the above screencaps, there is a scene in Manhunter in which Will Graham is a passenger on an airplane, and at one point during the flight he pulls some photographs from the home movies of the two families who have been killed (so far) by Dollarhyde, the Leeds and Jacobis, out of his case file, and puts them up on his seat tray so he can look at them. Eventually he drifts off to sleep and has a dream of Molly and of working on a boat. Then after a short while, he is awoken by the screaming and crying of a young passenger next to him, and when he looks down we see that there are now different photographs of the two families on the tray: instead of the home movie stills, we see photos of the respective crime scenes showing the victims' bodies after they have been brutally murdered and mutilated - it's as if the families have 'gone from living to dead' due to Graham himself, as if he is the killer. As an aside, in Greek mythology, Thanatos, the personification of death, is the twin brother of Hypnos, the god of sleep. Mythology will come into play later in the analysis.

One of the strongest suggestions the audience is sent by the movie-makers, that Graham is like the killer, occurs in the scene in the Jacobis' back yard. At every turn during his investigation in this scene, Will knows what the killer was thinking and doing while he was in the yard; for example, Will sees a candy wrapper on the ground (above left), and then 'knows' to climb the rope leading up the nearby tree (above right). One might say that this would be normal investigative procedure for the police or FBI, but the point here is that Graham does not hesitate in performing these actions - he instead seems to be acting simply on his own natural initiative.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Silence of the Lambs analysis - part 63: Lecter knew Starling was coming


Previously in the analysis, we have observed that Hannibal Lecter's storage unit and the items in it, especially the mannequins (shown at left), represent Clarice Starling's unconscious and its contents, respectively. We determined that the psychoanalysis Dr. Lecter is doing on her, which begins as an exploration of her unconscious, has as its purpose to 'set up' the conditions in Clarice's psyche such that she will see confronting Jame Gumb as necessary for her to become a complete woman.

The point of reviewing all of this here is to highlight the importance of the storage unit and its contents: their existence is crucial in order for Lecter to implement the manipulation of Starling's unconscious. The question is, what prompted him to set up the unit in the first place? Did he 'know' ahead of time that God would send an angel of death, someone like Starling? - Recall that he set up the unit and paid for it several years in advance. Let us examine in detail the chronology of events that are related to the rental of the unit:

When Starling is preparing to enter the storage unit Lecter rented (as shown at left), the storage company owner tells her that the unit was prepaid in full for ten years at the time it was rented, in the name of a Miss Hester Mofet. Starling then asks the owner, "So no one's been in here since 1980?" (Note that this implies that the movie is set in the year 1990).

Later, in Memphis, Lecter tells Senator Martin, who is accompanied by Agent Krendler (of the FBI) and some other people, that "Louis Friend" was referred to him by another of his patients, Benjamin Raspail, in April or May of 1980. ("Louis Friend" is Lecter's fictional 'alias' for Buffalo Bill - he is here misdirecting the authorities.) Note that Lecter met Gumb, and rented the storage unit, in the same year (1980). (Since Lecter has been in prison for eight years when he first meets Starling, he must have been imprisoned in the year 1982, so there was a two-year time span between the year in which he met Gumb, and the year in which he entered prison).

Above left: Senator Martin and her party (with Agent Krendler standing to her immediate right) have assembled at an airplane hangar in Memphis, Tennessee to discuss with Lecter the terms of his transfer to a different prison facility. Above right: Lecter is wheeled toward the Senator.

One could say that Lecter did not know that an angel of death would come, but that he only set up the unit in case one should come. But Lecter knew about the pursuit of Buffalo Bill from reading the papers, so one would have to ask why he didn't come forward prior to Starling showing up – it seems that he could have told Dr. Chilton (or other officials) about the storage unit and Raspail's head, and about the connection between Raspail and Gumb, and then worked a deal so as to get transferred, all without the involvement of Starling.

The implication is that Lecter knew ahead of time, that an angel of death would arrive on the scene.

[If you are only interested in viewing the explanation of the film's hidden plot, continue on to part 68 of the analysis. Otherwise, use the buttons below to navigate the analysis.]


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pulp Fiction analysis - part 14: Further exploration of the gold watch scene


In part 11 of the analysis, it was stated that the meaning of the gold watch being handed (metaphorically speaking) down to the Pulp Fiction audience, is that we have had shit handed down to us by a previous generation. To identify who the specific metaphorical 'handing' and 'receiving' generations would have been in the year of Pulp Fiction's release (1994), i.e., to determine what year spans their birth years fall into, let's start out by examining the scene in the young Butch's home. Instead of trying to guess the year of the flashback scene from the home furnishings, dress of the characters, etc., it is easier to start out by simply looking at the screenplay, which is available at the Internet Movie Script Database. The portion of the screenplay we're interested in begins by saying, 'BUTCH'S POV', and then describes the setting:

"We're in the living room of a modest two bedroom house in Alhambra, California, in the year 1972. BUTCH'S MOTHER, 35ish, stands in the doorway leading into the living room. Next to her is a man dressed in the uniform of an American Air Force officer. The CAMERA is the perspective of a five-year old boy." (capitalization in original).

The problem with this is that Butch's facial appearance places him at significantly older than five; in fact, he physically looks eight or nine years old (as shown in the screencap of the young Butch below).

Above left: The scene described in the fragment of screenplay quoted above. Above right: Butch's facial appearance places him at eight or nine years old in the watch flashback scene, not five.

The implication of this is that the five-year old referred to in the screenplay is not Butch. In fact, the 'five-year olds' are the members of the (1994) Pulp Fiction audience, who are effectively the persons Koons is addressing during the latter portion of his monologue (as discussed in part 11 of the analysis, Koons is addressing the audience during this part of his monologue).

Now let us examine Koons' monologue itself. He tells Butch that his (Butch's) father was an infant near the end of the Battle of Wake Island. This battle occurred in the year 1941, so we can take Butch's father as being born in the same year. Taking Butch as either eight or nine years old in 1972, the year of the watch handing scene, he was born in 1963. Therefore, Butch's father was in his early twenties when Butch was born. This seems reasonable, especially considering that he would have been in his early thirties in 1972 (if he was still alive), which is close to the age of the mother (around 35 in this year, as indicated in the fragment of screenplay quoted above). Note that Butch's father was born prior to 1946; 1946 is commonly considered to be the first year of the baby boom. Koons is a Captain, and Butch's father was a Major, which is one rank higher than Captain, so Koons is a few years younger than Butch's father would be if he were still alive. In fact, based on the rank difference, Koons would have been born in 1946 or 1947, making him a 'leading-edge' baby boomer. Thus, it is some subset of leading-edge baby boomers who are the metaphorical 'handers of shit'.[a]

The specific metaphorical 'receiving audience' for the watch was five years old in 1994, the year of Pulp Fiction's release, so was born in the late 1980's and thus consists of members of Generation Y. Members of this generation are sometimes called echo boomers, due to the significant increase in birth rates through the 1980s and into the 1990s, and because many of them are children of baby boomers. They are also often called millenials.[b]

Above left: The small hand reaching into the lower left of the movie frame to grab the watch from Koons, although it can be taken to be Butch's hand, is also the 'audience's hand'. Therefore, the underlying message is that some sub-group of leading-edge baby boomers has handed down shit to their children's generation (as represented by the audience), and by implication, has left all of us with this. In this context, Koons' name corresponds to the word 'goons', i.e., the subset of the leading-edge boomers represented by Koons, are to be considered to be goons. Above right: One of the film's minor characters (played by the film's producer, Lawrence Bender) is billed in the closing credits as "Long Hair Yuppie-Scum". Noting that historically, a yuppie is an aging hippie, this billing is a hint that it is the hippies/yuppies who are the group that has handed down shit to us.


The reader of this analysis might be wondering how we, the Pulp Fiction audience members, are supposed to know that the year is 1972 during the watch flashback scene, and how we are to know that the camera perspective is that of a five-year old boy, without having to look at the screenplay. It would seem that we are to deduce the year of the flashback by the dress of the characters and the furnishings and decor of the Coolidge home. How we are to deduce that we are looking at Koons from the perspective of a five-year old boy, is by noticing that when we see Butch's face, his (Butch's) eyes are only directed upward by a small amount, because Koons has knelt down in front of the nine-year old Butch such that his eyes are at almost the same level as Butch's. On the other hand, when the camera is on Koons' face, while he is speaking to the audience, it is evident that we are viewing it from a lower height than Butch is, i.e., we need to look upward more than Butch does to look into Koons' eyes. Ultimately, we're supposed to realize that we're looking upward through the angle that a typical five-year old boy, when sitting, would have to look up through to look into Koons' eyes.

Butch's eyes are directed upward by only a small amount while Koons is speaking to him, because Koons has knelt down in front of him. (Butch is sitting on the floor).

Above left: Captain Koons talking to Butch. Above right: Koons speaking to the audience. Note that he looks further downward to address us, than he does when speaking to Butch.

a. The leading-edge baby boomers are generally considered to be those Americans born during the years 1946-1955.
b. Wikipedia, 'Millennials'. Web, n.d. URL =


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Silence of the Lambs analysis - part 62: Jame Gumb's death


Jame Gumb lying on his back just after having been killed by Starling, with curled up arms and 'bug-like' eye goggles making him appear like a dead insect.

The wind twirler hanging in Gumb's basement shown spinning, just after his death, depicts a butterfly flying among flowers. The Dictionary of Symbols says that the Aztecs considered the butterfly to symbolize "the soul or the breath of life exhaled by the dying. A butterfly fluttering among the flowers represented the soul of the warrior who had fallen on the battlefield [a]."[b]

As evidenced by the military helmet, small American flag, and toy soldier in Jame Gumb's basement window sill, Gumb must have been in the armed services at some point during his life (click image to enlarge).

a. Krickeberg, Walter, 'Les religions des peupels civilisés de Mezo-Amerique', in Religions amerindiennes, translated from the German by L. Jospin, Paris, 1962, p. 43.
b. Dictionary of Symbols, Ed. Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant, Trans. John Buchanan-Brown, London: Penguin Group, 1996, p. 141.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Pulp Fiction analysis - part 13: Butch as a 'self-less' person; the Diamond Sutra


Recall that we have already determined that Butch Coolidge is a bodhisattva warrior. To review: Mahayana Buddhism regards the bodhisattva as a person who already has a considerable degree of enlightenment and seeks to use their wisdom to help other human beings to become liberated themselves. In this understanding of the word, the bodhisattva is an already wise person.[a] With this in mind, we must ask ourselves, why does it not seem to us, the Pulp Fiction audience, that Butch has become a being who goes around helping people liberate themselves?

The answer to this question can be found in certain passages in the venerated Buddhist writing on the subject of wisdom, the Diamond Sutra. Before we look at these passages, however, let us first consider the name 'Butch'. One way that this name has historically been used, at least in America, is as a popular nickname, or 'generic' name, for an everyday boy or man. In this usage it is a name which conveys little in the way of identity to its owner.

With this idea of 'Butch' as a 'self-less' name in mind, let's look at some passages from the sutra. In the following excerpts, which are from the Red Pine translation, the speaker is the historical Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama, and he is speaking to Subhuti, a senior monk. 'Tathagata' is the name the Buddha uses to refer to himself.

"Subhuti, a bodhisattva who creates the perception of a being cannot be called a 'bodhisattva'. And why not? Subhuti, no one can be called a bodhisattva who creates the perception of a self...

"[Subhuti], these fearless bodhisattvas do not create the perception of a self. Nor do they create the perception of a being, a life, or a soul. Nor, Subhuti, do these fearless bodhisattvas create the perception of a dharma [a virtuous path], much less the perception of no dharma. Subhuti, they do not create a perception nor no perception. And why not? Because, Subhuti, if these fearless bodhisattvas created the perception of a dharma, they would be attached to a self, a being, a life, and a soul. Likewise, if they created the perception of no dharma, they would be attached to a self, a being, a life, and a soul...

"Subhuti, if any bodhisattva should thus claim, 'I shall bring about the transformation of a world,' such a claim would be untrue. And how so? The transformation of a world, Subhuti, the 'transformation of a world' is said by the Tathagata to be no transformation. Thus is it called the 'transformation of a world.' Therefore, Subhuti, fearless bodhisattvas should thus give birth to a thought that is not attached and not give birth to a thought attached to anything. They should not give birth to a thought attached to a sight. Nor should they give birth to a thought attached to a sound, a smell, a taste, a touch, or a dharma...

"Subhuti, someone who sets forth on the bodhisattva path should give birth to the thought, 'In the realm of complete nirvana, I shall liberate all beings. And while I thus liberate beings, not a single being is liberated'...Subhuti, there is no such dharma as setting forth on the bodhisattva path."

Note the idea of a bodhisattva as someone not attached to a self, which is in line with what was said above about Butch's name conveying little in the way of self-identity. The method of speaking (and thinking) in seeming paradoxes, which is used in the sutra passages, is one of the essences of Buddhist teaching. The basic idea here is that Buddhism teaches that many bodhisattvas neither teach nor announce themselves in any way at all, but live apparently ordinary lives and help other sentient beings by stealth. In light of this, it is not incongruous for Butch to appear to us to behave as if he does 'not know' that he is a bodhisattva.

As an aside, Butch Coolidge could be taken to correspond to the "Man with No Name" from director Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy movies. The gold watch in Pulp Fiction would then correspond to the pocket watch from For a Few Dollars More, the second movie in the trilogy.

a. Wikipedia, 'Bodhisattva'. Web, n.d. URL =
b. The Diamond Sutra: The Perfection of Wisdom. Trans. and commentary Red Pine. New York: Counterpoint, 2001. pp. 3, 5, 8-9, 17.


1) In certain instances it has been determined that the creators of some of the productions analyzed on this blog, and/or the creators of source material(s) used in the making of these productions, may be making negative statements about certain segments of society in their productions. These statements should be taken as expressing the opinions of no one other than the creators.

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