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- Blu-ray: Manhunter Blu-ray
- Rating: R
- Starring: Brian Cox, William Petersen, Dennis Farina, Kim Greist, Joan Allen, Tom Noonan
- Written By: Michael Mann (screenplay), Thomas Harris (novel)
- Directed By: Michael Mann
- Distributor: MGM Home Entertainment
- Original Year of Release: 1986
- Extras: None
Manhunter Blu-ray Review
A Hindsight Review
By Robert T. Trate
October 13, 2011
Brian Cox is Hannibal Lecktor in Manhunter
© MGM/Bob Trate
It is incredibly difficult not to hold any of the Silence of the Lambs sequels or prequels up to the original. The odd thing in this series of films is that Michael Mann’s Manhunter is actually the first film to be made of Thomas Harris’s novels. Having never seen Manhunter (yet having seen most of the “Hannibal Saga”) this review is completely in hindsight.
Manhunter is, in essence, the film Red Dragon (2002). We meet ex FBI agent Will Graham (William Petersen) after a gruesome murder which cannot be solved. Graham’s old boss, Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina), needs Graham one last time to stop this new killer. Graham has a unique insight that enables him to get into the mind of the killer. Where Manhunter really falters is Graham’s portrayal by Petersen. With each and every clue he discovers, Petersen dramatically declares out loud to the killer that he is coming to take him down. The killer, known as “The Tooth Fairy” (Tom Noonan), doesn’t even know Graham is involved. This makes for some terrible over acting by Petersen to the point where it becomes laughable.
It can be easily argued that by not seeing “The Tooth Fairy” right away, it creates a mystery for the audience. Red Dragon supplied plenty of insight and screen time for the character, giving the audience a creepy feeling immediately. Manhunter wrestles with whether or not to give us more time with “The Tooth Fairy” or Graham’s last case Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox). Unlike the remake, Manhunter doesn’t show us the relationship between Graham and Lecktor. It only talks us through it. Cox’s portrayal is different yet unsettling in how he does a lot with nothing. Hannibal is surrounded by emptiness to spin his webs. It makes him even deadlier than Anthony Hopkins. Again it is Petersen who is completely out of element when Lecktor gets under his skin.
Michael Mann has a reputation for being a very demanding director. Much like Stanley Kubrick, what is on screen has to be seen his way. Perhaps this reputation started after Manhunter, because in this film there are continuity errors and bad edits. Mann can frame a shot and supply the perfect piece of music for it to create a moment. However his actors, Petersen and Farina, usually appear to just be reading their lines in beautifully lit scenes.
You won’t miss a thing if you skip Manhunter on your “Hannibal Saga” night. It does have a few little odd occurrences that solely make it worth watching. Frankie Faison (Lt. Fisk) is the only actor to appear in four of Thomas Harris’ "Hannibal" adaptations. He appears as Barney in The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and Red Dragon. The other actor to make at least two appearances in the “saga” is Dan Butler in two different roles. Stephen Lang is billed in the drab opening title sequence however he is in such an unmemorable role that you won’t recognize him. Manhunter is one of those rare occurrences when a re-make was definitely needed.
The Blu-ray Experince:
As mentioned before, Mann clearly knows how to frame a shot. His use of colors, textures and backgrounds is perfectly displayed here in 1080p. The sound, on the other hand, is jarring. The music is either too loud or the dialogue is too soft. There are also numerous jump cuts in the editing. At first they would appear to be glitches on the disc, but the numerous occurrences indicate this was a poorly edited film.
There have been an abundance of Manhunters released on DVD.The 2003 edition featured a director’s cut of the film. It also had commentary by the Michael Mann along with deleted/ alternate scenes. This Blu-ray has none of that. The 2001 edition had interviews, both cuts of the film, and featured Tom Noonan on the cover. This addition doesn’t even contain an original trailer. With a character as big as Hannibal Lecktor and a connection to a huge film series, this Blu-ray has no bite. Even a recycling of special features from the past would have been better than nothing.
Robert Trate writes two weekly columns for Mania the DVD Shopping Bag and the Toy Maniac. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.