on July 23, 2003
Even though RED DRAGON released last year ...
This adaptation was made four years before SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and was based on the earlier Thomas Harris novel RED DRAGON. They did not call it RED DRAGON, because there was another movie that year with DRAGON in the title that did not do so well...and the studio feared it would get confused with that film. It's driected by Michael Mann who is famous for MIAMI VICE, and yes it shows in this film. But it's a grueling fast-paced reality-based thriller similar to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Big challenge is they had to vocalize Will Graham's thoughts in the book into actual lines in the movie. Sometimes you can tell the film was made on a smallish budget in the mid-80s, but on the whole? It holds up today as a great adaptation of a great book! It's a fun movie, and if you are a fan of the other thrillers like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS this will be right up your alley. Yes, there is a wonderful appearance by Hannibal the infamous cannibal -- though not much is made of his modus operandi. He is never referred to as a cannibal. But Brian Cox's portrayal is strong if brief. The real stars here are the actors portraying Will Graham and the killer. Both give creepy a human edge as they play cat and mouse with each other. And fans of Joan Allen -- her portrayal of the blind Reba is amazingly well done. Sexy and stylish, not too much gore, and very tight pacing. I can't be more effusive about this movie.
DIVIMAX DVD presentation of the film with added scenes before only seen on television showings. The only problem with that is you see a difference in the film quality when they go to these scenes. They really don't add too much, but worth a look. Also in this version is a commentary from Michael Mann. He's not as chatty as some directors, but gives you a good idea of what he wanted out of this thriller.
on July 22, 2003
I know Silence of the Lambs is more popular in the series than this one, but I think this is a better movie. It stars William Petersen as Will Graham, a semi-retired FBI profiler, who is called into service to catch a highly methodical serial killer. Will has the unique ability to get into the killers' mind, see what he sees, understand the motives behind the crimes. Only problem is when he gets so close, lets all those bad thoughts in, it's difficult to deal with them, as they sort of poison his mind. This, along with the physical injuries he sustained on a previous case, forced him to go into semi-retirement/seclusion with his family.
At the time this movie came out, I got the feeling that profiling of serial killers was a fairly new science, and not yet deemed as useful of a tool as it could be. This is represented in the meeting Will attends with a group of FBI agents who are working on the new case, with the killer named 'The Tooth Fairy'. It's not that they derided him when he presented the information in the course of his profiling, but you felt like they looked at him like he was making psychic predictions and his input wasn't all that credible. That was my opinion, and I may be wrong. Anyway, it was amazing to go with Will to the murder scenes and see things they way he saw them, that is to say they way the killer may have seen them. He uncovers clues missed during previous investigations, clues that help to further along the case against the ever elusive Tooth Fairy.
Some really great scenes involve Will visiting Dr. Hannibal Lecktor, played by Brian Cox. While I thought Anthony Hopkins did a great job in the part in the following movies, I will always visualize Brian Cox as Lecktor. He brought such a subtle and sublime presence to the part, and underlying evil that is so evident that his prison walls, while managing to keep his physical being, seems unable to contain his spirit of evil. Will visits Dr. Lecktor, the most recent serial killer he caught and the one that made him leave the work behind, to try and develop the scent, so to speak, get the feeling back, to track this new killer.
Another thing I really enjoyed was the methodical investigation performed by the FBI. They weren't made to look like a bunch of fools, in that clues just fell out of the sky and the case solved itself. The scene where the letter from the killer to Lecktor is scrutinized but different groups within the FBI was really fascinating. It was amazing to see how much they could do with so little information.
Dennis Farina has a great role as FBI section chief Jack Crawford, the person who brings Will back into the world that he tried to put out of his life. He knows Will is the best, even if he doesn't understand his methods. He shows a genuine friendship for Will, concern for when he thinks Will is getting in too deep, but has to travel a fine line between friendship and duty, which sometimes gets blurred and causes conflicts. One of my favorite lines in the movie is when Will and Jack are arguing about it being too late to catch the killer, as the killer operates within a certain time frame, and Will is unwilling to give up, telling Jack "I'll tell you when it's over!" with such conviction. And Tom Noonan does a great job portraying the killer, who always manages to seem a little off kilter with the world around him, out of sync, but sort of hidden from view, like something always in your peripheral vision but never in plain sight.
The scene where the FBI eventually catches up to the killer is one of the most memorable movie moments for me. The music combined with the visuals is incredible. The movie really kept my attention throughout, but the end kept me riveted.
This version looks really good, and I did notice that a few scenes were added, hence the director's cut, and I think they added to the movie. The high definition transfer looks really good. There is also a new commentary by the director, Michael Mann, trailers, promotional stills, advertising materials, and alternate and deleted scenes. On thing I did notice was in some of the pictures, the serial killer has a rather large tattoo on his back, with what looks like wings, but wasn't present in the movie. It looked pretty amazing, and I haven't listen to the director's commentary to see if he explains not using that visual effect, but I would be interested to know why it wasn't used.
This movie will stay with you awhile, and holds up extremely well to repeated viewings. Another really good movie with William Petersen was the one he made before Manhunter, called To Live and Die in LA, which also stars Willem Dafoe. It's not as good as this one, but just as taut and highly intensive viewing, but not on DVD at the time this review was written.
on July 21, 2003
Before Jonathan Demme's Academy Award winning Silence of the Lambs graced the screen with Anthony Hopkins in all of his visceral glory, Michael Mann's little remembered (and seen) thriller, Manhunter presented a very different kind of Hannibal Lector. While Demme's film opted for over-the-top performances and needlessly gory scenes of violence, Mann's film took a subtler, creepier approach to its material. Manhunter is less interested in depicting the actual killings (the main attraction of this genre when it became popular) than in the cerebral and actual legwork required to enter the killer's frame of mind and track him down.
Anchor Bay had previously released Manhunter on an excellent two-DVD "Limited Edition" set that featured a re-mastered work print (which they mistakenly billed as the "theatrical" cut) and a poor looking director's cut taken from video tape. Both versions featured footage not seen in the actual theatrical release or on VHS. Anchor Bay received so much flak for the substandard version of the director's cut that they had Mann personally supervise a re-mastered version of his preferred cut of the movie.
For fans who bought the Limited Edition set, hold on to your copy because this version has none of the featurettes or the creatively packaged booklet that came with that version. Upon closer scrutiny, it also becomes apparent that Mann did not include all of the added scenes in the Limited Edition's Director's Cut (LEDC). For example, on track 7 when Graham goes to meet Lecktor in his cell the LEDC has him meet with Dr. Chilton briefly who tries to bait Graham much in the same fashion as the Atlanta Police. This footage is not in the Restored Director's Cut. This means that this new DVD is yet another version (bringing the total, if you count the old VHS version, up to four).
Having said that, this version is certainly required viewing for fans of Mann and of Manhunter because of the audio commentary that he contributes to the DVD. While there are the occasional lulls, Mann talks at length and very eloquently about the themes of the movie. He points out that that this was one of the first films to feature a main character who is a profiler of serial killers. Both these terms were not as common as they are today. Mann also talks about his admiration for Thomas Harris' novel and explains that in regards to Lecktor's screen time he opted for the "less is more" approach because the psychiatrist was such a charismatic character. However, while Mann does acknowledge the added footage, he doesn't always explain why he put it back in, nor does he talk about some of the footage he has subsequently cut, like an excellent monologue delivered by Graham in regards to his feelings about Dollarhyde.
Also included are a theatrical trailer and a rather sizable still gallery that consists of production stills, deleted/alternate scenes and posters and advertising materials. While the production stills are a welcome addition, the deleted scenes photos and movie posters are nothing new if you have access to the two excellent Manhunter websites on the Internet...
on July 18, 2003
MANHUNTER is the first time that the Thomas Harris's novel, RED DRAGON, was put on film. Written and directed by Michael Mann, made in the mid-80s, the movie has that same feel of Mann's television hit, Miami Vice, while staying true to the book. FBI agent Will Graham (William Petersen) is asked to come out of retirement by his former boss, Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina), to aide in tracking down a serial killer, known as "the tooth fairy" (Tom Noonan). Graham is reluctant to help out because he barely captured madman Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox) and almost lost his life. He agrees to help out, then, it's determined that Dr. Lecter may hold the key to cracking the case.
The release of Brett Ratner's version of RED DRAGON, has taken the attention off of this adaptation, because of the return of Anthony Hopkins in the Lecter role, but I think that thanks to Michael Mann's craftsmanship as a filmmaker, this version has more going for it than some might think. Even though, this movie has 80s all over it, the performance of Petersen rivals Edward Norton as Graham. Tom Noonan as Francis Dolarhyde/"The Tooth Fairy" gives viewers a less sympathetic look at this killer, than Ralph Finnes does in latest film. Cox is also good as Lecter, but, I have to say that's it's hard not to think of anyone else but Hopkins doing Lecter. Mann delivers a very good film on a limited budget.
Normaly, I hate it when the studios release multiple editions of a film on DVD, but in the case of Manhunter: Divimax edition-at least Anchor Bay made sure the new extras warrant the reissue. The extras now include a fine audio commentary by Mann. This is a rarity for the filmmaker, as an admirer of the film, it's a boon over the previous release to hear his thoughts about the movie. This release also boasts a new high-definition transfer approved by the director that allows for a better quality picture over the standard version. Another plus for me is the deleted and alternate scene gallery. It's pretty cool to see what was left on the cutting room floor and the material is fairly meaty. A production still, advertising gallery, and theatrical trailers top off the extras. A much improved edition for sure. I would say that Mann should do more commetaries for his other films
I think Anthony Hopkins as Lecter will always overshadow Manhunter in some way. But both film versions of the Harris novel have their place. It is interesting to "see" another take on the book-- The newest reissue of MANHUNTER on DVD is recommened. **** and half stars.
on June 25, 2003
Manhunter is one hell of a movie, let me tell ya! From beginning to end, this movie had me gripped thanks to its stunning cinematography, creppy atmosphere, dynamite direction, powerful writing and top notch acting. I have never seen The Silence of the Lambs or Hannibal, but today I watched Red Dragon. While I enjoyed it, I didn't feel it even compared to Manhunter.
Manhunter is the story of ex-FBI agent Will Graham (flawlessly played by the unforgettable William Peterson). Graham caught two extremely dangerous serial killers, one of which was Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (in the novels and other movie adaptations, it is spelled 'Lector,' but in this movie it is spelled Lecktor). Lecktor (played here, beautifully, by respected Scottish actor Brian Cox, and not Sir Anthony Hopkins) was murdering women and eating them (though it is never mentioned in the whole movie that he is a cannibal) until he was caught by Graham. Graham discovered he had to think like the killer in order to catch him, and it seriously messed with his brain. Now, years later, Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina) asks Will to come back to catch the mysterious "Tooth Fairy" (Tom Noonan), who has been murdering whole families. Graham is skeptical until he sees pictures of the dead families. He interviews Dr. Lecktor, barely able to tolerate Lecktor's mental games, until he starts thinking like the killer once again. If Graham enters the mind of a killer again, can he ever come back, or will he simply go insane under the ugly and disturbing thinkings of one messed up sicko?
Lord, this movie was good! Of the three Thomas Harris novels involving Lecktor (Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal), Red Dragon was the only one I hadn't read, so I couldn't compare this movie version to the book. From what I've read, the movie Red Dragon follows the book a lot better. That may be true, but Manhunter was quite simply the better film. One thing I liked about Manhunter much more than Red Dragon was that you had to have a brain to figure out the plot, but Red Dragon pretty much spelled it out for you. I like movies that have a brain and trust you to have one, too. I thought Red Dragon insulted the audiences intelligence and the end felt EXTREMELY rushed. And call me crazy, but I very much preferred Brian Cox's subtle, quiet Lecktor to Sir Anthony Hopkins' over the top and hammed up performance in Red Dragon. I'm pretty sure I'll like Hopkins' performance in The Silence of the Lambs, but he seemed to be desperately trying to get a scare in Red Dragon. The best praise I can give to Red Dragon is that it made Manhunter seem even more excellent. It may sound like I'm completely bashing Red Dragon, but I am not. I liked that it developed Dollarhyde's past more, and I thought the actors that played Dollarhyde and Reba were both fantastic, but overall I was dissipointed with it after watching the brilliance of Manhunter.
OK, enough comparisons. Manhunter's acting is perfect, right from Graham to his wife and son to Hannibal Lecktor and the Tooth Fairy. William Peterson did a great job with the depressed and strong character who has a weak side. The Tooth Fairy, played by Tom Noonan, was very scary and yet I felt some sympathy for him, because you could tell he was trying to be a good guy but couldn't get over his urge to kill. Brian Cox was amazing because he made such a large impact in only three scenes and less than ten minutes. Joan Allen also did a great job as the blind woman Reba.
The directing of this film is amazing, and is helped greatly by some unforgettable cinematography. The whole film sports an excellent feel and I was never bored.
As for the DVD well, I love it. I own the Limited Edition, copy #12,697 of 100,000. I read several mixed reviews of this. Some people love it, some people think it's OK, and some people simply hate it. Apparantly, the Theatrical Cut is messed up and has two things cut out and two things from the Director's Cut added. Also, people have complained that the Director's Cut edition has horrible picture quality and messed up widescreen format. Well, yes, the picture is very, very below average, but I think we should be happy to have the Director's Cut at all. I am watching it for the second time in Director's Cut format as I write this (I am on the part were they are studying the note) and feel the picture is not very good at all, but after a few minutes, I get used to it. I wouldn't like it if the Theatrical Cut had such bad picture quality, but forunately it doesn't. In fact, the picture on the Theatrical Cut is absoloutly spellbinding, and quite flawless, in my opinion. I would give the amazing picture quality an A- at the very worse! The two documentaries included are short but quite excellent, and the cheesey trailer is included in anamorphic widescreen. The talent bios are some of the best I've ever read and in a lot of detail. I really feel sorry for Tom Noonan because people seemed to be creeped out of him in real life, simply because he is suh a fabulous actor.
This is a very long review, but the bottom line is: Manhunter is a masterpiece and a movie you must own. The Limited Edition DVD is pleasing and the booklet included is also excellent, but for not so avid fans, the 1-disc version is just fine.
Hope my review helped.
on July 11, 2003
I was a huge fan of Manhunter when it was released in the early 80's but never liked the home video releases. The transfers never did it justice. This new disc finally restores the film to its glory. First off, the new digital transfer supervised by Michael Mann is awesome, crisp and saturated with color, whisking me back to 1986. There are flaws, however. Certain added scenes are not as crisp, making a jarring transition in the middle of the action. One exchange between Graham and Lector is like this, as is Will's visit to the family at the end. Mann explains (in his quirky commentary) that DEG went bankrupt in the late 80s and that the original footage for some of the lost scenes was never recovered. So c'est la vie. One other note: beware that there are NO additional or alternate scenes on this disc, just an alternate scene "gallery" which has stills from some oddities like the Tooth Fairy in full Dragon tattoos. Still, if you like Manhunter, this is the disc to get.
on June 22, 2004
MANHUNTER is the 1986 crime-thriller that began Michael Mann's career as a respected filmmaker. Adapted from the novel "Red Dragon" by Thomas Harris, this film will be remembered as "the film with the OTHER Hannibal Lecter" and will dismissed by many as a good first try, but nothing special. CSI's William Petersen stars as Will Graham, a gifted FBI agent who is working to track down a mysterious killer nicknamed the "Tooth Fairy" before the next full moon. Aiding him in his hunt is the (curiously mispelled) criminal genius Hannibal Lecktor, played by Brian Cox. Being a huge fan of the Hannibal Lecter film series and Harris' novels, I have more to work with than some other people. MANHUNTER was adapted and directed by Michael Mann, who also produced "Miami Vice" - and it shows on the glittering design and stunning soundtrack. The acting is okay, but is great only in the cases of Petersen and Dennis Farina (who also featured on "Miami Vice", as well as certain other people who appear in the film). Mann's direction is the greatest part of the film. Brian Cox's performance as "Lecktor" works fine, but is completely incomparable to that of Anthony Hopkins, who played him in the later films. MANHUNTER has been unfairly dismissed as a piece of crap. It's no masterpiece, I'll grant you that, but the fact that the film is so dated, and the work that people like Mann and Petersen have done, make it a wonderful, "Miami Vice"-esque thriller.
on May 9, 2004
I first rented this movie in the late '80s, and I really only did so to see Chris Elliot's cameo -- give me a break, I was really bored that weekend! Years later, when I saw Silence of the Lambs in the theater, I recognized the name of the doctor and realized that these two works were somehow related, and eventually ended up reading all four of Thomas Harris' novels and seeing all five film adaptations, of which Manhunter is my personal favorite.
Upon reflection, I initially found the film's ending a bit stereotypically Hollywood, and not quite up to the same high level of quality found in the rest of the film. As I later read the novel, I at first found myself liking the book's ending better, but understood how it might have been much harder to film -- that is, until I got past the red herring to the novel's REAL ending, which made Manhunter's ending seem positively inspired by comparison. (Okay, so maybe I'm being a bit too hard on Harris, and giving Michael Mann a bit too much of a pass on this point....)
If you don't like Michael Mann's directorial style, or if you're one of those pseudo-intellectuals who can't look at a film made in another decade without calling it "dated" -- or if you think Anthony Hopkins is the only actor who should ever be legally allowed to play the character of Hannibal Lector --then you might not like this film. Though it often strays from the novel a little bit, and leaves almost all of the exposition regarding the Tooth Fairy's origins out, it all still works. Noonan gives an excellent and economic performance, as does Nancy Allen (and their love scene is one of the more tasteful and romantic in recent memory).
Brian Cox also has a different take on the Lector character than Hopkins, but it is ultimately A) closer to the novel's depiction and B) more realistic and believable. Sorry, Tony, but you have to admit, as great as your performance was in Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal comes off much better when the actor playing him resists the urge to chew scenery -- no pun intended....
But it is William Petersen's portrayal of Investigator Graham that really carries the film, and rightly so. As I said before, the novel gives us much, much more background on the Tooth Fairy than the movie does, but the main focus of the story is on Graham and his own internal struggles. I was especially impressed with one scene in particular that Petersen and Mann really pulled off well, as far as taking a great moment from the novel and translating it into a great movie moment. It's the scene in the middle of the film when Graham is seated at a diner, staring out into the rainy night, playing the answering machine message of one of the victims in his head: "Hi, this is Valerie Leads; I'm sorry I can't come to the phone right now..." because she's been murdered, of course. Absentmindedly, Graham says aloud, "Me too." The waitress passing by asks if he was asking for more coffee, and he tells her no. Turning back to the window, having now made up his mind to throw himself completely into the investigation and see it through to the end, Graham says out loud, as if the Tooth Fairy could hear him, "It's just you and me now, sport." This was a great emotional moment in the novel, and Mann and Petersen (and the music score) also manage to make it a great emotional moment in the movie as well, losing nothing in the translation.
I give the same number of stars to Jonathan Demme's Silence of the Lambs, but let's face it -- Mann's asylum for the criminally insane is much more realistic and believable than Demme's, for instance. Two different directorial styles, two different approaches to Lector, etc., but each quite good in its own right. The "re-imagining" of 2002 on the other hand is another story, and a sad one at that....
If you're in the mood for the original modern police procedural on investigating serial killers, or for a good psycholgical character study about the effects of such work on the investigators themselves, then give this film a try!
PS: Why is it that when most people review books and films on Amazon, A) they seem not to notice that most of what they say has already been said in the hundreds of other reviews previously posted, and B) they seem to feel obligated to recount the entire plot, point by point, spoiler by spoiler, in excruciating detail, instead of just giving the rest of us a simple idea of why we might like or dislike the book or film in question?!
on November 8, 2003
An FBI agent William Graham (William L. Petersen) comes out of retirement to examine a set of bizarre murders of families. These murders are suspected to have been the work of notorious serial killer known as The Tooth Fairy. Interested enough by the case, Graham makes use of profiling, or tries to think exactly like the killer in order to gain clues regarding his various whereabouts. He consults the incarcerated psychopathic psychiatrist that put him into retirement through near-fatal violence, Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox), for further clues. Graham is put into considerable danger when Lecktor warns The Tooth Fairy via phone of the case. It is only a matter of time before The Tooth Fairy will create another victim.
Complicated, well acted, and absorbing, Manhunter is an original thriller that focuses on the unique psychological struggle to catch a heinous criminal.
Note: the director's cut edition has an alternative ending.
If you liked this film, I would recommend you see "Silence of the Lambs", in which Hannibal Lecktor's character is emphasized more.
Overall rating: 4 stars
Rated R for adult themes, sexual encounters, language, and violence.
on July 12, 2003
If you haven't checked out this, the first "Hannibal Lector" (or "Lecktor" as it is spelled in Manhunter) film you are certainly missing a hidden gem of the mid-80s. Why this movie was a box-office bomb is beyond me -- perhaps a limited budget, lesser known (at the time) stars, bad push by the studio, who knows. This film is one of the best in its genre if you go into it without a lot of expectations set by "Silence of the Lambs".
William Petersen has become one of my favorite actors and you can see a bit of "Grissom" from CSI in his portrayal of Will Graham, the FBI profiler protagonist of this film. However, the character is very unique and Petersen, a master of the stage, jumped into this, only his second film, rather well. His portrayal of someone on the edge, someone who becomes disturbed himself by putting himself in the minds of the disturbed is simply amazing. I don't know if Petersen says there's some Graham in Grissom but I would bet he would.
Petersen and Brian Cox are simply brilliant on the screen together and the four fellows I mention above: Petersen, Brian Cox (Hannibal Lecktor), Dante Spinotti (cinematography), and Michael Mann (director) really shine in the Lecktor scenes. First of all, Petersen and Cox have an energy playing off of each other that is simply amazing. These are different characters than "Lambs" and the portrayal is totally unique. Petersen is going where he doesn't want to go, Cox knows it and toys with his prey, Spinotti's use of color and lighting are intense and Mann tops it all off with unique camera angles and use of the geometry of the bars and other parts of the set. This scene from "Manhunter" should be part of any Cinema 101 course if it isn't already. Like other reviewers, I liked Cox's portrayal of Lecktor in a more subdued and subtle fashion. No, there aren't any great catch lines or funny sounds, just great subtle acting, it's the nuances that make the performance stick with you.
Finally, the finale is simply astounding with the use of Iron Butterfly's "In A Gadda Da Vida" both in buidling of tension and timing. It's truly a blazing ending and the editing is equally blazing. The use of quick flashbacks is a gripping portrayal of such a traumatic event and to anyone who's experienced trauma it should seem very unsettling and very real.
"Lambs" was a brilliantly done film but so is "Manhunter" with far less of a budget and star power to go on. The best comparison I can think of to "Manhunter" came from the same time period -- "Terminator" was similar is its brilliance, it's lack of initial box office draw, and its rabid cult following. Both were done on shoestring budgets and both are impressive to watch, mid-80s warts and all. Some reviews I have read on this film have been rather pathetic, criticizing wardrobe of all things. I suppose these same people criticize "Gone With the Wind" for having such an "1860s" wardrobe.
As far as the DVD this review is related to the first one (Aug 2002 release) that is not the Director's Cut or Divamax version. I found the transfer to be splendid, I didn't notice a single problem with it. The sound was better than I expected for a movie of this age and I believe was taken from the film's 70mm soundtrack, though it may have been remastered. The extras are token but nice (I hate gaggles of extras anyway). All in all this is one of the best [money] you will ever spend and will leave you near breathless when it is done. Can't praise this film more, Mann showed Heat was no accident and put himself on the auteur map with this film.