Dir: Michael Mann
Star: William Petersen, Brian Cox, Tom Noonan, Joan Allen
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1986
Format: DVD R2

FBI Section Chief Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina) visits burned out agent Will Graham (William Petersen). Graham is the agent who famously caught Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox), but it cost him most of his intestine as Hannibal tried to gut him and nearly cost him his mind. Crawford begs him to return to the FBI to catch a new serial killer that is being called the Tooth fairy. This killer is viciously murdering whole families taking bites out of them, and he is about to strike again. Will reluctantly agrees and goes to Lector for help. He gets it, but what price has he to pay this time both mentally and physically. Is Lector really helping him and can he catch this new killer before he murders again.

This is first film to feature Hannibal Lector, and not a lot of people know that. Maybe this is because at the time of release it was not a hit, or maybe because they changed the name of the film from Red Dragon (the name of the book), or maybe because it is totally different from the other films. Five years before Anthony Hopkins took the role of Lector Brian Cox delivered this far more chilling portrayal. Although he only has three scenes this are pivotal to the movie and he easily steals the whole film. His interpretation of the bad Doctor is far less over the top, and far more scary then that of Anthony Hopkins. This cerebral performance because of its normality is even more unsettling, and works brilliantly with the character of Will Graham in a who's messing with who sort of way. Brain Cox himself but it best '>Anthony played Lector as mad, I played him as insane'.

Michael Mann produces some of the most stunning visual compositions in his direction of this film. Fresh from his success with the TV series Miami Vice he was still to hit the bit time as a feature film director. But talent shows through and this is a most accomplished piece of work. With the help of director of photography Dante Spinotti each scene is a beautifully lit composition. Great use has been made of colours, shapes and camera angles to give the film a unsettling feel. This works to the advantage of the film making it feel far more terrifying than it actually is.

The biggest difference between Manhunter and Silence of the Lambs / Hannibal is the amount of gore on show. The latter films tend to be gross out splatter fests with faces being removed, brains being eaten etc. Manhunter avoids this completely apart from the crime scenes we see very little in the way of shocking images. However this don't lessen the impact of the film rather than it enhances it. Skillful use is made of what is implied but not shown so that rather then anaesthetise us with graphic, and in Hannibal especially, silly images the few shocks we do get are much more effective.

Apart from the outstanding performance of Brian Cox as Lector we have a good performance from William Petersen. His role seems to work better with Lector than the Starling character of the latter movies. Tom Noonan's giant physical presence adds a really nice touch to his performance as the Tooth fairy. The fact that he did not mix with the cast until his scenes were to be filmed added a lot to all of the performances, enhancing the uncomfortableness of every one around him.

Superb visuals, great script and acting mean a classic right. Well not quite there is rather a Miami Vice residue about the piece. The eighties synth soundtrack is a lot to do with this especially when matched with the fashions on display. This does distract a bit from the film and, courses it to date rather. Despite this the music is effective and the modern setting works rather better than the gothic dungeons of Silence of the Lambs. Fans of the Lector movies should watch this, if only to get a different take on the subject. It may not appeal to all of the fans of the newer films but I think it is far superior. For an interesting comparison why not read our read our review of the remake Red Dragon.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic Perfect picture as this film deserves
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Gets the most out of the synth soundtrack
Features Excellent 64 page book
Look of Manhunter featurette concentrating on Spinotti's camera work
Superb retrospective making of Manhunter featurette with cast interviews
Verdict Great transfer, but limited extras on the disc made up for with the facinating book.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home