Manhunter: Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)

May 24, 2016 14 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

The Tooth Fairy has started a trail of brutal murders, which doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. But not The Tooth Fairy of legend by any means, this is a vicious serial killer who earned that nickname, thanks to his tradition of leaving bites taken out of his victims. The agents working the case have no real leads, but they do know the killer works on a lunar cycle and unless they solve it soon, time may run out on their chances. So Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina) turns to former agent Will Graham (William Petersen), who tracked down the most elusive serial killer of all time, Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox). But his experiences with Lecktor have left him in poor mental health, which makes the return to duty even harder. But in order to stop this madman, Graham agrees to handle the case and as his first matter of business, he visits Lecktor to ask for his assistance. As usual, Lecktor tries to enter into Graham’s mind and in his current state, Graham will have to hold strong to make it out without even more damage. Can Graham attain the needed information from Lecktor in time to end the killer’s rampage, or will Lecktor have his revenge on Graham after all?

I like Anthony Hopkins and his turn as Hannibal Lecter, but I also have an appreciation for Brian Cox and his work here. Hopkins takes a much more powerful stance with the role, while Cox plays it with an overly calm and rational angle, both of which work out well. I won’t choose a better from the two, as both men approach the role from different sides, so to compare them would be like comparing apples and oranges. Cox is very good here though, even with limited screen time he is able to make a lasting impression on the viewers. He might not be a high profile performer, but once again, Cox proves he is a formidable actor. Other films with Cox include For Love of The Game, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Minus Man, Chain Reaction, and Rushmore. The rest of the cast is also impressive and includes Joan Allen (Pleasantville, The Contender), Dennis Farina (Saving Private Ryan, Snatch), Kim Greist (Houseguest, Brazil), Tom Noonan (Last Action Hero, Easy Money), and William L. Petersen (The Skulls, Fear). At the helm of Manhunter is Michael Mann, who also directed such pictures as The Last of The Mohicans, Heat, The Insider, Thief, and The Keep.

As I viewed both versions of the film, I kept thinking I was missing certain scenes, even in the theatrical edition. I know some scenes were new in the director’s cut and others were removed, but this seems to be the case with the theatrical cut as well. I know Michael Mann likes to tinker with his films, but I don’t know for sure if that is the case here, so I won’t make a case for that idea. But I do think some changes were made and after a scan of some other people’s thoughts, I don’t seem to be alone in that camp, so perhaps this film was altered prior to this release. In the theatrical cut, a few scenes seem to be new, while a few others have been removed, including a very cool section of dialogue, which I missed right off the bat. A quick glance at the laserdisc confirms that some changes were made, but again, I cannot say for sure why they were taken out or who requested the changes. The changes made in the theatrical version don’t amount to much, but when we’re promised a certain edition of a film, I think that is what we should be given.

But putting those alterations to the side, Manhunter is a terrific movie and of course, contains the cinematic debut of Hannibal Lecter (spelled Lecktor here). I love The Silence of The Lambs and think it is the superior of these two films, but I think that is due to the performances, which overshadow the ones found here. Manhunter has the edge on most counts, but with Hopkins and Foster in such fine form, the final nod goes to The Silence of The Lambs. But this is still a powerful and effective motion picture, with solid performances and a very eerie atmosphere. Some aspects seem a little dated, but on the whole, Manhunter holds up well and still packs a lot of punch. From the excellent musical soundtrack to the offbeat photography to Mann’s stylish direction, all the pieces together very well here. I’ve always been a fan of serial killer movies and with so many bad ones out there, it is terrific to have one of the finest genre examples on our beloved format. I have some issues with how this all turned out, but if you’re a fan of Manhunter, then by all means, pick up this release. I recommend the single disc version to most folks, but fans will want this limited edition, even with some flaws on deck, as it is nice to own a permanent copy of the director’s cut.

Video: How does it look?

Manhunter has been given new life (so to speak) with this anniversary release. The theatrical cut is, by far, the superior of the two with the Director’s Cut being presented in standard definition. Yes, standard definition. The colors are vital to this movie, so the rich hues present here are terrific and flesh tones seem natural, while no bleeds or smears seem to surface. I had my doubts about how well the colors would hold up, but this transfer proved there was nothing to be worried about. The contrast is also in fine form, shadows are stark and well layered, while detail is high at all times. There is some grain present here, but that is intentional and as such, is no cause for concern. Once again, Anchor Bay has supplied a gorgeous transfer for a terrific flick, very impressive work indeed.

The Director’s cut of Manhunter occupies the second disc and is also shown in a 2.35:1 standard definition transfer, but the results are much different here. The problem starts with the framing, which is not the same as the theatrical version, at least not all the time. Some sequences do look the same, but a lot of them are cropped much tighter, which throws off the visual composition. I am not sure if this was the intent or not, but I can’t imagine why the framing would be changed here. The image itself is no match for the theatrical edition, but if you can handle bootleg tapes, then you can suffer through this one. Imagine a third generation VHS dub and that sums this transfer up, very soft and fuzzy, not too impressive in the least. The colors tend to bleed and the grain looks much heavier here, but again, if you’ve watched bootleg tapes of this, then you won’t be too surprised here.

Audio: How does it sound?

A newly minted DTS HD Master Audio track is used here, which provides a rich and effective atmosphere for the picture. As you can imagine, this film relies more on subtle audio, for suspense reasons and not powerful audio, so I am pleased this mix is full, but never forced. The surrounds are used more than I expected, but it all seems very natural and in the end, I found this to be a very immersive mix, as you feel drawn into the picture. The musical score is fantastic here and in this mix, it comes off as very rich and expansive, much better than I expected. As far as dialogue, the vocals sound clean and crisp here, even though the volume levels do get low at times, but this is intentional and not a flaw in this track. I am impressed here, as this mix is much more active than I figured and enhances the mood a lot. You can also use a 2.0 surround track and English captions, if you need those elements.

For the director’s cut however, we’re given a 2.0 surround mix, which doesn’t quite measure up in the end. I found this to be a good track, but it lacks some of the fullness of the theatrical edition’s audio presentation. There is still a very rich texture, especially for a 2.0 surround track, but it just doesn’t have the extra kick. But the music sounds good, sound effects are distinct, and the dialogue is sharp and easy to understand. It isn’t as immersive as the theatrical version, but I don’t think there’s enough difference to warrant many complaints.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Theatrical Cut

  • The Making of Manhunter:
    • The Mind of Madness: Interview with Actor William Petersen – A “pre” CSI Petersen talks about his character, his motivations and how it plays a part in the bigger picture.
    • Courting a Killer: Interview with Actor Joan Allen – A much younger Joan Allen essentially does the same thing, though she has some interesting insight on her character.
    • Francis is Gone Forever: Interview with Actor Tom Noonan – A more robust discussion with Tom Noonan, though he pretty stays in tune with what Allen and Petersen say.
    • The Eye of the Storm: Interview with Director of Photography Dante Spinotti – Spinotti discusses his vision, pardon the pun, for the film and some of the various techniques he used to achieve it.
    • The Music of Manhunter
  • The First Lecktor: An Interview with Brian Cox – A very chatty Brian Cox discusses his role of the iconic (though not so much at the time) role of Hannibal. Running nearly 40 minutes, this is a pretty interesting segment.
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery

Director’s Cut

  • Audio Commentary – Writer and Director Michael Mann gives some pretty good commentary tracks and this is no exception, though there are some spots where he doesn’t say that much. Still, if you’ve not had the chance to listen to this it’s informative and incisive. A good listen.
  • Director’s Cut (Standard Definition) – Sadly, this one didn’t get the treatment it deserved, so if you need those extra 4 minutes they’re here, but they’re not pretty.
  • The Manhunter Look: A Conversation with Cinematographer Dante Spinotti – If you watched the interview on the first disc, this is a shorter, more compressed version that says about the same thing.
  • Inside Manhunter – Tom Noonan, William Petersen and Joan Allen give their insight on the film and their respective characters.

The Bottom Line

Who would have thought that three decades ago we’d still be hanging on every word that came out of Hannibal Lecktor’s (Lecter) mouth? This film is the one that started it all and it spawned three more films and a television series. Some might argue that Michael Mann’s film is superior to the 1991 film that won 5 Oscars including Best Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay and Picture. Nevertheless, this is one to see.

Disc Scores