Manhunter (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Optimum Releasing
Review written by and copyright: Adrian Busby (25th September 2011).
The Film

Press Release: 2011 is the 25th Anniversary of the original release of Michael Mann's stylish thriller MANHUNTER, the first film adaptation of Thomas Harris's 'Red Dragon', thus also the screen debut of the infamous Hannibal Lecktor, as played here by Brian Cox.

Will Graham (William Petersen) is persuaded to return from retirement by his colleague Jack Crawford, who convinces him that his ability to understand the thoughts of a murderer can help them to capture elusive serial killer, 'The Tooth-Fairy'. Facing the desperate and grisly task, Graham employs the help of old foe Hannibal Lecktor and thus puts himself at the mercy of a ruthless and sinister genius. But as Graham opens himself up to the mind of a killer, just how far is he willing to fall back into the old life he promised his family that he had left far behind...?


I first watched Manhunter on VHS many years ago having already seen The Silence Of The Lambs and realising that the both films are based on novels by Thomas Harris. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Having been primed by the violence and gore of The Silence Of The Lambs, Manhunter was slow, very talky and, frankly, boring.

But what would I know! I was young and craved horror having been introduced to the genre via Halloween and The Evil Dead. My expectations were for a psychological slasher and that's not wholly what Manhunter is about. Psychological - yes, slasher - no.

Having never watched the film since, I was presently surprised. Some have suggested that Brian Cox's performance as Hannibal Lecktor (note the different spelling here) is the definitive interpretation but, try as I might, I can't be convinced that that is the case. His style is certainly different. He doesn't seem to attempt to appear as totally evil and ruthless in the same way as Hopkins does. Lecktor is clearly insane but the fact that Cox plays him so 'normal' is still very chilling, but not in the same way as Hopkin's performance of the role.

Anyway, that's where my comparisons are going to stop. It's not fair for one, Lecktor doesn't actually feature very much in the film and I don't believe many readers are interested in a comparison of the roles by me in any case!

I really enjoyed the film. William Peterson makes an interesting, if largely understated, Will Graham and it was interesting to see Joan Allen in the pivotal role of blind Reba McClane. She gives a great and credible performance in some of the scariest and thought provoking scenes of the film. How would you feel in her shoes? Tom Noonan is wonderful as the psychotic but as sad and pathetic Tooth Fairy. It's interesting that these latter attributes lead to some sympathy for the character when you start to consider his social ineptitude. But then that sympathy is totally at odds with the murders he commits. Thought provoking indeed!

I noticed jump cuts within the same scene on at least 3 occasions. It's unclear if these were artistic decisions or the unfortunate result of post production editing. The fact that a killing at the film's climax has several in a couple of seconds suggests that at least some are intentional.

Video

Both the theatrical and director's cuts are presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. However, the theatrical cut is presented 1080p but the director's cut is only standard definition.

The theatrical cut presents a wonderful looking picture. Some of the beach scenes are a real visual treat. I didn't notice any issues at all except for some minor grain in a number of the darker scenes.

The director's cut is another matter entirely. Very grainy, lacking contrast and washed out it's clearly been sourced from material in a much poorer state with, I would assume, no effort to clean it up. To be fair, the director's cut, along with the commentary, is marketed as an extra, so it would be unfair to judge too harshly (hence my overall very good score for the video). I do wonder why Optimum Releasing / Studio Canal didn't use the HD source for the majority of the film and only insert the director's cut scenes where relevant as I would have preferred that to what's presented here.

Audio

There are 2 audio options for the theatrical cut: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English LPCM 2.0 Stereo. I watched the film with the DTS-HD track on. It was clean and clear with no noticeable issues. Dialogue levels were good throughout the film. There was very little use of the rear speakers other than for elements of the 80s musical soundtrack but, given the film was originally released in stereo, that was just fine by me. I briefly tried the LCPM stereo track too which also sounded fine.

The director's cut is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (as is the commentary track with director Michael Mann).

There are also English subtitles included on the theatrical cut.

Extras

The extras begin with the Director's Cut which is accompanied by an Audio Commentary by Director Michael Mann. I only dipped briefly in and out of the commentary track but it did seem sparse with extended periods of silence. It also felt quite dry and I would probably struggle to listen to it all the way through. There were some informative comments, including specific detail of the Director's Cut, but only for anyone who doesn't already know the background of the film. All too often he's telling us what's happening on screen and what the character's are thinking - something an intelligent audience doesn't need to be told. I'm sure a 2nd collaborator, or even better a well researched moderator, would have helped to liven up the track.

Inside Manhunter is next and is a featurette which runs for 17:24. It dissects the film's production into the following segments:

- Casting,
- Research,
- Lecktor/Graham,
- Michael Mann,
- Francis Dollarhyde The Tooth Fairy,
- The Shoot
- The Aftermath

William Petersen, Tom Noonan, Joan Allen and Brian Cox are all here with short and sometimes interesting anecdotes and analysis of the film.

The only other significant extra is a 2nd featurette called The Manhunter Look A Conversation with Dante Spinotti which runs for 10:12. Dante was the film's Director of Photography and he reminisces about how the got the job, how he worked with Michael Mann and how they decided on some of the stylistic and creative choices used in the film. He certainly makes you appreciate just how much thought, effort and time goes into the process. There is also a suggestion that some of the jumpy editing which I've mentioned above was indeed the result of the decision by Mann to use multiple cameras running at different speeds.

The final extra is the Theatrical Trailer which clocks in at 2:07. It's a classic example of an 80s trailer - especially the music used. It actually seems a little over long but I guess it wouldn't have been at the time.

Overall

This is a very satisfying film with some interesting extras. It's just a shame that no new extras were commissioned for this 25th anniversary edition.

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: B+ Extras: C+ Overall: B

 


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