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Manhunter (Blu-ray Review)

Years before Hannibal Lector was to grace us in three (four, if you include Hannibal Rising), Michael Mann had already introduced us to the Lecter-verse.  That film was called Manhunter. Most people didn’t even realize that, including yours truly, mainly due to the fact that Hannibal Lecter was not played by Anthony Hopkins in Mann’s version.  Brian Cox was the original, and some say the best, Hannibal Lecter.  Is that true?  I’ll let you know what I think of the film and this Blu-ray release, so come with me into the darkness that is Manhunter.  

 

 

 

Film 

Will Graham (William Petersen) was one of the best FBI profilers that Langley ever produced.  Will no longer works for them, but just when he thought he was out, they pull him back in.  There is a serial killer out on the loose that is killing his victims (entire families) in horrific ways, and the FBI need Will’s expertise to help catch the killer who seems to be striking during the various lunar cycles.  Time isn’t on their side, so Will must go to one of the most unlikeliest of sources for help:   Hannibal Lecter.

Lecter (Brian Cox) is locked up in solitary confinement, and Will reluctantly agrees to interview him, because he knows that when he takes that road, there will be no coming back from it.  The serial killer, Francis Dolarhyde (Tom Noonan) has been nicknamed “The Tooth Fairy” by the media.  Unbeknownst to Will and the rest of the investigators, Lecter and The Tooth Fairy begin a secret correspondence through ads in magazines.  It’s the double edged sword that will pose the question of: Which serial killer is more dangerous?  The one behind bars or the one running around on the loose?

Having never heard of Manhunter until about 10-11 years ago, I went ahead and purchased the standard dvd that was packaged with tons of extras and some of the best insert artwork I had ever seen in a dvd package.  It was great!  I watched the film then and really liked it.  I had seen it a couple of more times in the years that followed and now I can add the Blu-ray to my re-experiencing of the film.  Does it still hold up 10-11 years after I first saw it?  You better believe it!  More so!

Oh, and as far as the crummy title goes, Mann had nothing to do with that.  The producers felt that the Red Dragon title would be too confusing for audiences.  They claimed that the audience would have thought that Red Dragon was a martial arts picture or something.  Go figure.  Michael Mann wrote and directed Manhunter with such expert precision that it ranks as one of the best films of the 80’s, in my opinion.  Brian Cox’s portrayal of Hannibal Lecter is on point, and even though he’s in the film in a limited capacity, there are some people that say he was the better Lecter.  Tom Noonan as Francis Dolarhyde, The Tooth Fairy, is equally chilling.

The blood and violence in Manhunter is very high and being that it was the 80’s, not that surprising. It was almost appropriate considering the subject matter.  Manhunter is a layered work of art, because you’ve got a great script, great direction, and a great cast of characters played by some great actors.  William Petersen was just coming off of his amazing performance in To Live and Die in L.A., Tom Noonan, Dennis Farina, a young Stephen Lang, and Joan Allen would round out the exceptional cast.  All the stars seemed to have aligned for the project.  It sucks that Brian Cox was not able to reprise his Lecter.  Ah, well.   Manhunter needs to be experienced if only for the classic encounter between Will Graham and Lecter.  You can cut the tension with a butter knife.

 

Video 

Manhunter is presented in 1080p, widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  For being a mid-80’s release, and on the Blu-ray format, Manhunter does fare pretty well, in my opinion.  Mann used a lot of different techniques, so some of video may or may not look “up to snuff,” because it’s all aesthetics.  This is evident in the ultra grainy opening of the film, and in the jump cut finale.  As far as everything else goes, Manhunter goes the distance in the picture department.  Colors are bold and vivid, especially in the scenes in Lecter’s cell where it’s bleach white all except for Will Graham’s pastel blue tie.  There are several scenes like that throughout the film where color is subtly used as a weapon.  Grain levels stay balanced for most of the film with the exception being the beginning and end of the film.  Sharpness is dead on, and I did not detect DNR over usage.  A little bit of black crush here and there along with minor instances of edge enhancement were also spotted, but they were all minimal distractions.  Manhunter has never looked better than on this Blu-ray.  

Audio 

Manhunter is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  Yes, the soundtrack is extremely dated and synth influenced, but that’s the best part!  Dialogue sounds clean and crisp, as do the tunes.  It’s a front driven film, so the channels that do suffer would be the surround channels.  Considering Manhunter is such an engrossing and compelling film, I doubt that the lack of ambient sounds would be that much of a worry.  Then again, with Blu-ray, we all want the best possible presentation for our films.  That being said, Manhunter on Blu-ray still sounds pretty good.  The best scenes in the film would have to be those that use the big number music cues, like the ending.  Trying not use spoilers there.  😉

Special Features

None.

Final Thoughts 

Once the whole Hannibal Lecter popularity train kicked into high gear in the 90’s-00’s, a remake was ordered with Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Anthony Hopkins in the leads and Brett Ratner in the director’s chair.  There are some great moments in the newer version, but it pales in comparison to Manhunter. In fact, that’s my preferred version of the film in the Lecter chronology.  This Blu-ray is fairly adequate with regards to the tech specs, but sadly there are ZERO special features included.  Manhunter is a great film, because Lecter isn’t even the focus.  He probably has a total of 6-7 minutes of screen time and that’s it.  It adds a lot to the overall dread factor of the film by having him pop up so sparingly, because Hannibal Lecter may be locked up, but that doesn’t mean he’s not free.

 

Order Manhunter on Blu-ray!

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

4 Responses to “Manhunter (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Nicely written. Manhunter is pretty awesome and nice shout out to To Live and Die and LA. William Peterson was the man back in the 80s. Hopkins obviously made the Lector role iconic, but Cox had an interesting take on him as well.

  2. Gerard Iribe

    Thanks Aaron. I can watch this flick over and over now. Love the soundtrack…which gives me an idea. 😉

  3. Sean Ferguson

    Nice job Gerard! I still haven’t seen this but after reading your review I will have to bump it up on my list of movies to see.

  4. Bob Ignizio

    I actually saw this in the theater when it first came out. Had no idea what I was in for, but it definitely made an impact. I don’t know if I would say it’s the best of the Lecter films, but it’s at least in a tie with ‘Silence’ for me.