Manhunter – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

ManhunterThis May 24 from Scream Factory comes Manhunter – Collector’s Edition, a killer Blu-ray release of one of the most unnerving serial killer movies ever made. With more than 5 hours of bonus content, including over 2 hours of new interviews, this greatly anticipated release is a must-have for fans.  Tom Noonan (Heat, Robocop 2), Joan Allen (The Bourne Legacy), Dennis Farina (Get Shorty), Kim Greist (Brazil) and Stephen Lang (Avatar) co-star in this gripping thriller from director Michael Mann (Heat, Miami Vice) and adapted from the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris.  This edition includes the new interviews The Mind of Madness – an interview with William Petersen, Courting a Killer – an interview with actress Joan Allen, Francis is Gone Forever – an interview with actor Tom Noonan, The First Lecktor – an interview with actor Brian Cox, The Eye of the Storm – an interview with director of photography Dante Spinotti, and The Music of MANHUNTER – including interviews with composer Michel Rubini, Barry Andrews (Shriekback), Gary Putman (The Prime Movers), Rick Shaffer (The Reds) and Gene Stashuk (Red 7).

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The first film to feature the iconic character Hannibal Lecktor, Manhunter follows former FBI profiler Will Graham as he reluctantly returns to his old job to track a horrific serial killer known as the “Tooth Fairy.” But in order to get into the mind of this maniac, Graham must face another: Lecktor, the imprisoned psychiatrist whose own insanity almost cost Graham his life… and whose insights into the “Tooth Fairy” could prove as dangerous as the killer himself.

Still to this day, I think there are probably many people that either aren’t aware of this film’s existence or its connection to Hannibal Lecter.  A film that didn’t land upon its release, and failing hard enough that Dino de Laurentis pawned over the rights to the follow up (The Silence of the Lambs) to other for production, it has achieved a very deserved cult status.  Maybe in 1986 people weren’t ready for it.  Or was it too heavily stylized for them to go along with.  It also features a cast that is well recognized now, but was full of people who were just taking off.  Its a fun note that this film is the first adaptation of Red Dragon, could essentially be the predecessor to a Silence of the Lambs soft reboot or stand along as its own entity.  Whatever your thoughts on how to view it, its still on overlooked masterpiece that continues to enlighten today.

Michael Mann pulls from Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, the first novel to introduce us to Hannibal Lecter (Here in this film he is “Lecktor”).  But, Mann is making “his” film with his own vision and his own idea of where he wants to take this story.  There are liberties taken and the ending is changed, but every move Mann makes is suiting to the film he’s crafted.  Its a complete and full vision, from script to cinematography.  This film not only carries one of the greatest and most engaging horror/crime stories of all time, but it also is a marvel to look at.  Every shot, camera movement, set, light is put in place for a reason.  Its all carefully calculated and deliberate.  Many scenes could be freeze framed and just gazed upon as a work of art.

Enhancing the visuals in the film is the score and soundtrack for the film that accompanies.  Yeah, we all will come away humming “Inna Godda Davida” by Iron Butteryfly after we finish the film, but the rest of the songs and pieces work wonders in creating the world Mann has set out to capture on celluloid.  There are some clothing styles and home decor pieces that quickly announce that this is the 1980s.  The music is no different, but in the film’s aging process has sort of become even more of a strength.  It makes the film very unique and adds a much stronger personality to cinematography that is already a confident bit of a soul in its own right.

We’ve now had 3 renditions of this cast from film and television, but the one assembled here is arguably of the finest.  William Petersen didn’t really take off with his first two led films in a financial sense, but he’s gotten to see a legacy grow with this and To Live and Die in LA.  Petersen is a wonderful blank slate as Will Graham.  You see his drive and determination in the case as well as a hesitancy to full immerse himself.  On the other side of things, the amazing Tom Noonan is by far my favorite Francis Dolarhyde.  Noonan is incredibly unnerving, creepy and forceful without even having to resort to physical violence.  The man gives you a chill down your spine without even saying a word, just by his presence.  The late Dennis Farina is a great Jack Crawford, giving some lifelike credentials and weight to the role as he had previously been a police officer.  Joan Allen is also quite good here with her small screen time.

I used to not care or think much of Brian Cox turn as Hannibal Lecktor.  And it was likely because I was so enthralled with Anthony Hopkins portrayal that something incredibly different wasn’t acceptable to me for a while.  But, here, what we have is Hannibal Lecktor as a human being rather than a theatrical movie monster for heightened entertainment.  This is the only adaptation that also lets Hannibal be just a part of the story and give him opportunities to steal scenes, rather than trying to embellish him and make more on him than he really is in this story.  With Cox’s performance, you can still see and sense that there was a relationship with Graham and while behind bars is still analyzing it and interested in where he goes and what decisions are made.  Cox doesn’t overtake this movie in a way that Hopkins did (wonderfully, don’t think I’m taking away from him), but fits his piece into the puzzle as intended.

The Silence of the Lambs may have won Best Picture and gets listed in the greatest horror films of all time lists.  Deservingly so, I must add.  Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon may have been a more commercial film, included Hopkins with an A-List cast.  But, when it comes for the Thomas Harris film adaptation that I may be more eager to reach for to sit down and watch, I think it’s Manhunter.  Overall, who cares if its the best, its the one that’s most interesting and seemingly carries a rewatch value in the area of noticing different nuances you didn’t see before or giving a different feel than the previous watch.  Its a terrific film and one of the best from its decade and one of the best “heavily stylized” visions of all time.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail:  I looked on the press release and saw nowhere touted that this would be a new transfer of the film or that it was the same as the previous Blu-ray release.  However, I felt more impressed watching this one’s look than I was of that one.  Maybe my eyes have changed, I dunno.  The director’s cut of the film uses SD inserts with the HD transfer for the theatrical cut.  There is a noticeable dip in picture and audio quality when they happen, but its only distracting in one brief scene that looks like it could have been ripped from YouTube.  Regardless, its still awesome to have the director’s cut and if consistency is everything, then they have the full standard definition version available as a bonus feature.  The HD stuff looks quite impressive, looking tight and having great detail like dust on the lens of Dolarhyde’s home projector or the beads of sweat off the glass Joan Allen is drinking from.  If you watch the director’s cut of the movie, when you see the switches between SD and HD you’ll note quickly how good the image is.

Depth:  Some good depth work on this 30 year old film.  Establishing shots outside look pretty impressive.  With the master camera work on display it makes it easy to translate spacing between actors, objects and backgrounds.  Movements are cinematic and run smoothly.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and can be very consuming.  There richness is lovely in scenes, but also can tuck away some details.  There is no crushing and detail on clothing, hair and surfaces comes through best in a more close up shot than anything with distance.

Color Reproduction:  The film is oozing with color, but isn’t bleeding vividly either.  Lots of filters are used, Mann particularly going for a green look.  There are some good blue and red filters that look rich as well.  Impressively there is a great palette of whites in the film that come across a thing of art in this transfer.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are a hint cooler and have a look that stays consistent throughout the entirety of the film.  Facial details are terrific in close-ups, and there are plenty of those throughout the film.  Medium shots lose a little detail but still come across solid with wrinkles, cleft lips, stubble and lip texture.

Noise/Artifacts:  Some grain and specs with the HD stuff.  I won’t bother to comment on the SD inserts/version of the director’s cut.

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  I’m pretty sure this is just the same mix from the previous release carried on over.  And that’s perfectly fine as that mix got the job done and then some.  Manhunter has a lot of procedural scenes to it and isn’t demanding of much power from your system.  In the moments it does require them (There are plenty), the film comes through.  Music especially sounds great here and is kind of its own star in this 5.1 mix.  Effects are really good as well, as stuff like Freddie Lounds burning to a crisp sounds rip roaring and rich.  All in all, turn this thing up because its gonna rock out.

Low Frequency Extension:  This isn’t the biggest punch of a subwoofer presence, but it does manage to do the trick where needed.  Aside from giving the music an added bounce, there are gunshots that pop, flames that roar and glass windows that burst right into your living room or viewing area.  Yes, that slow-motion Will Graham action shot in the finale packs a good punch.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Where the surround sound makes its biggest impact is the score of the film.  It comes to life in a whole big way in the 5.1 symphony.  The climax with “Inna Godda Davida” is a monster all its own in this track and also gives the feel that you are listening to it in someone’s house with their stereo cranked.  Also a bit of maestro’ing comes from its presence in the woods as Will Graham is sneaking around upon Dolarhyde’s residence.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is a hair lower in the mix, but is constantly crisp and clear (aside from the SD inserts in the the director’s cut).

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Manhunter – Collector’s Edition is a 2-disc set that features reversible cover art showcasing the film’s original theatrical poster.  The first disc features the Theatrical Version of the film. Disc 2 houses the Director’s Cut.

Disc 1

The Making of Manhunter

  • The Mind of Madness (HD, 18:16) – An interview with actor William Petersen.  The clean shaven Petersen discusses the roots of his relationship with Michael Mann, whom he compares to Bill Belicheck (From a small part in Thief to prepping for Heat before Manhunter came to the forefront), to the production of his second film.  He’s got a good memory and passion for the film and to hear recall the film.
  • Courting a Killer (HD, 15:54) – An interview with actor Joan Allen.  She discusses the part, and having not read the book.  How she knew a lot of her cast from the Chicago theater scene.  Allen also goes into her preparations for playing a blind person.  And yea, she talks a little about the scene with the tiger too.  She also likes Manhunter better than Silence of the Lambs, which is no surprise.
  • Francis is Gone Forever (HD, 22:03) – An interview with actor Tom Noonan.  He goes over his methods to acting and how he approached the role, with his onset persona of not meeting anyone he didn’t share a scene with and not meeting people until he was in the scene with them.   Noonan also finds Brian Cox to be the best person to take on the Hannibal role.
  • The Eye of the Storm (HD, 35:56) – Interview with director of photography Dante Spinotti.  This is an incredibly detailed look at many scenes and shots of the movie filled with explanations of the inspirations for shots and the like.

The Music of Manhunter (HD, 42:22) – This new featurette includes interviews with composter Michael Rubini, Barry Andrews, Gary Putnam, Rick Shaffer and Gene Stashuk.  A very in depth look at the creation, inspirations, executions and stories behind pretty much every piece of music in the film, from the score to the songs that play in it.

The First Lektor (HD, 40:29) – An interview with Brian Cox.  The actor sits in a theater filled with plaid seats as he recalls how he thinks he got in the film.  Most of this is a study of the psyche of the character he played as well as the relations and research on other serial killers in preparation for the role.  He also discuss he and Petersen’s backgrounds as theater “animals”, using that to perform and craft their scenes.  At the end he touches on his thoughts and what he knows on the background of getting Silence of the Lambs together.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:05) 

Still Gallery (HD, 8:28) – Poster from all different countries, promo shots and scene stills.

Disc 2

Audio Commentary

  • With Writer/Director Michael Mann

Director’s Cut – Standard Definition (SD, 2:04:12) – You can choose to just watch the film in standard definition as opposed to the HD version with uses SD inserts for scenes not found in the theatrical cut.

The Manhunter Look: A Conversation with Cinematographer Dante Spinotti (HD, 10:04) – An archived interview with the cinematographer from a previous release of the film.

Insider Manhunter: With Stars William Petersen, Joan Allen, Brian Cox and Tom Noonan (HD, 17:17) – An archived featurette from a previous release of the film that has the cast recalling the film.  There are some repeated anecdotes and stories here that are in the new interviews as well.

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I’ve come to love Manhunter a lot over the years.  As mentioned before, this is one I’ll reach for more often than The Silence of the Lambs, not because of whether or not its a better film, but its a more fascinating watch for me particularly due to the heavily stylized nature of it.  This Blu-ray from Scream Factory gives us the definitive edition to add to our collections and toss away the bare bones’d edition we already had.  A terrific transfer with great audio accompanied by some outstanding interviews and other bonus features (Including old ones ported over from DVD) make Michael Mann’s inaugural Hannibal “Lecktor” cult classic one of the best releases of the year.


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