There’s nothing like a scary movie for great monologues, especially around Halloween. I still remember Vincent Price’s ‘I was commanding legions’ speech as Dracula. It lasered itself into my brain, even though I was hiding under a blanket on my parents’ sofa at the time.
Sadly, I couldn’t find that speech anywhere – all I could dredge up on Mr. Price was a camp made-for-tv schtick.
However, in my search, I came across some horror movie monologues that are masterpieces of speechcraft. I’d like to share two of those with you as a Halloween treat.
Quint’s Indianapolis Speech in Jaws (1975)
Captain Quint, played masterfully by Robert Shaw, is a crusty, dark character in this horror classic. He’s clearly a troubled man, with a hair-raising backstory. One evening, while the three protagonists are awaiting their fate aboard Quint’s boat, he tells the tale.
It’s a bloodcurdling one. Even more chilling, it’s based a true story. In 1945, Quint recounts, he was a sailor on the Indianapolis, a ship carrying the ‘Little Boy’ atomic bomb that would soon be unleashed on Japan. After delivering the bomb, the Indianapolis is struck by a Japanese torpedo and goes under in 12 minutes. 1,196 sailors jump into the Pacific at midnight. Four days later, 317 sailors are rescued, making this the single greatest loss of life at sea during the second world war.
Those are the facts. But Clint’s telling lifts the story to another level.
“Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into her side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. We’d just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes.
Didn’t see the first shark for about a half-hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that in the water, Chief? You can tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn’t know, was that our bomb mission was so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin’ by, so we formed ourselves into tight groups. It was sorta like you see in the calendars, you know the infantry squares in the old calendars like the Battle of Waterloo and the idea was the shark come to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin’ and hollerin’ and sometimes that shark he go away… but sometimes he wouldn’t go away.
Sometimes that shark looks right at ya. Right into your eyes. And the thing about a shark is he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn’t even seem to be livin’… ’til he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then… ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’. The ocean turns red, and despite all your poundin’ and your hollerin’ those sharks come in and… they rip you to pieces.
You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don’t know how many sharks there were, maybe a thousand. I do know how many men, they averaged six an hour. Thursday mornin’, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boson’s mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water, he was like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he’d been bitten in half below the waist.
At noon on the fifth day, a Lockheed Ventura swung in low and he spotted us, a young pilot, lot younger than Mr. Hooper here, anyway he spotted us and a few hours later a big ol’ fat PBY come down and started to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened. Waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went into the water. 316 men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945.
Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”
Although it seems like a bit of buzzkill to dissect this masterpiece, there were a few techniques I found very share-worthy:
- From factual to personal. Quint sets the stage before he talks about his own personal experience. This brings his audience closer – his listeners want to hear about his role in this historic event.
- Bringing others into the story. Quint talking about himself is great. But bringing in the anecdote of Bernie Robinson helps widen the circle of experience. We can relate to Bernie from Cleveland, an everyman like us.
- Creating a false resolution. Yes, the PBY rescued the men. But it’s the time between the PBY’s arrival and Clint’s actual rescue that becomes the most terrifying. He can see salvation, but the invisible sharks may snatch it from him.
Hannibal’s Rube Speech in Silence of The Lambs (1991)
It’s a chilling moment. Hannibal Lecter may be behind the cage, but he has total control over FBI agent Clarice Starling.
Not only does he psychologically strip her bare, but he reveals his own insanely intelligent nature. He is a master of language, both aggressive and intuitive at the same time.
With those cold eyes. Anthony Hopkins delivers the monologue with such confidence that he immediately makes this film his own.
“You know what you look like to me with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste.
Good nutrition has given you some length of bone, but you’re not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you Agent Starling? And that accent you’re trying so desperately to shed – pure West Virginia. What was your father, dear? Was he a coal miner? Did he stink of the lamp?
And oh, how quickly the boys found you. All those tedious, sticky fumblings in the back seats of cars, while you could only dream of getting out. Getting anywhere. Getting all the way to the F.B.I.”
As with Quint’s monologue, it seems a shame to dissect Hannibal’s speech, or highlight techniques worth copying. But there is one technique that – if delivered properly – can rivet your audience. The rapid-fire delivery.
Listen to Hannibal. It’s clear his mind is working at extremely high speed, and his delivery is an aural assault that barely leaves us time to breathe. It’s the combination of highly intelligent insights and fast, monotone delivery that amplifies this speech’s dramatic quality.
It’s a difficult technique but used properly, can disrupt the pace of your speech and knock your audience out of their comfort zone.
Study the Greats
Quint’s and Hannibal’s speeches are the tip of the classic horror monologue iceberg. I would highly recommend digging into more of the greats if you’re looking for something to shake up your presentation style this Halloween.
And if you find that great Vincent Price Dracula speech, please do send it my way.
As a brand strategy expert, successful entrepreneur, founder of Your Ultimate Speech, and award-winning author, Marc Stoiber uses simplicity and creativity to help people discover what’s awesome about their business… then helps them tell the world. For more on creating an effective speech for your company, connect with Marc and Your Ultimate Speech on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and sign up to his monthly newsletter.