Plot: What’s it about?
In 2003, the American Film Institute named Hannibal Lecter the number one film villain of all time. That is quite an honor, considering all the memorable screen villains, but Lecter richly deserves the praise. He has captivated audiences and thanks to Anthony Hopkins, even earned an Oscar. MGM has given fans of Lecter’s work reason to rejoice, with the release of a collection that spotlights the cannibalistic doctor’s finest moments. The Hannibal Lecter Collection houses the first three screen appearances of Lecter, so you can see how the character has evolved. The journey begins with Michael Mann’s Manhunter, continues with the incredible The Silence of the Lambs, then finishes off with the brutal Hannibal. The discs in this collection house only the films themselves (aside from one bonus on Hannibal), so if you’re not that concerned with supplements, this is an excellent chance to get all three movies at a low price. I have included a synopsis for each film below, so bon appetite.
1. Manhunter- 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?
2. As a vicious serial killer nicknamed Buffalo Bill preys upon young women, the F.B.I. decides the best way to solve the case is to use a rookie agent and the most lethal serial killer of all time. The agent is Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), who is still knee deep in the training program, but must shoulder the heavy burden of this most important case. Her main source of potential help is though to be former master psychiatrist turned serial killer, Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). The authorities believe with Lecter’s complex and incredible mental skills, he can lead Starling toward the killer and end the horrific siege. But Lecter doesn’t like to help people that much and as such, Starling is forced to use her best judgment and reveal some information to Lecter that she shouldn’t have. As Starling works to gain his trust and trade information, Buffalo Bill takes his next victim, this time the daughter of Senator Ruth Martin (Diane Baker). But as she also works to investigate the case in other avenues, Starling is drawn into a game of sorts with Lecter, who loves to hear stories of her troubled childhood. While all these elements swirl around her, can Starling use what information she can muster to put together the solution, before Buffalo Bill can take another life?
3. Hannibal- It has been a while since Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter made headlines, but he hasn’t been forgotten, at least not by everyone. Of course, special agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) remembers him, but someone else also does, but this person has a different perspective on the murderous Lecter. His name is Mason Verger (Gary Oldman) and ever since he met Hannibal, his life has been altered and not for the better. After the two had some drinks, Hannibal coaxed the drunk Verger into cutting off his own face, then feeding it to his dog. Ever since then, Verger has been a scarred mess and has wanted revenge, wanted it in the worst fashion. He has used his wealth to try to track Hannibal with minimal luck, but when he does find him, he has hideous plans for him, without a doubt. As Starling finds herself in another unneeded scandal, she is also interested in some activity in Europe, where it seems a police detective has become quite interested in Hannibal of late. As Starling, this police detective, and Verger’s men all seek out Hannibal, who will be able to find him and after that, who will survive his wrath?
Video: How does it look?
Manhunter is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. 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, so the movie looks quite good.
The Silence of The Lambs is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This edition stacks up very well, due to the enhanced resolution and lessened grain, which was a problem on the Criterion & Image releases. The lifted grain reveals a sharper and of course cleaner image, which is great news in a dark, but detailed movie like this one. The colors remain subdued, as intended, but sometimes perk up, when needed to add to a scene’s visual impact. I saw no errors in terms of contrast either, as black levels were very sharp and detail never misses a beat. I also noted how much cleaner the print used was, as it shows minimal nicks and other wear signs, very impressive indeed. This is the finest visual presentation of this movie on home video, with a much more pleasant appearance than others, so fans should be quite pleased.
Hannibal is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a dark, visually complex picture, but this transfer never falters, even for a second. In one of the best transfer I’ve seen of late, the image here is fantastic and perhaps MGM’s finest work to date. The film’s intended visual scheme is retained and that has some impact on the elements, but it all looks just as it should, without a doubt. The colors look bold and rich, but never err, while flesh tones are natural all at times as well. Even the contrast here is razor sharp and flawless, which is stunning in this case, given the film’s layered shadow depth at times. This is one of the best transfers to come along in a while and as such, I am giving it the full score and trust me, it deserves that and more.
Audio: How does it sound?
Manhunter’s Dolby Digital 5.1 option is more than solid, with a better experience than expected. 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. This disc also includes French and Spanish language tracks, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
The Silence of the Lambs sports a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround option, which enhances the film’s atmosphere, but remains natural in tone, which is good news. Howard Shore’s superb score is well presented, with an immersive presence and rich texture, as it more than deserves. The sound effects are mostly subtle and present to add to the tense environment, but a few spots open up and surprised me, very cool, but still natural within the mix, as intended. The dialogue is crystal clear and sharp as a tack, with no problems in the least to discuss. This mix won’t knock the doors down, but it sounds great and should please fans. This disc also includes audio options in French and Spanish, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Hannibal’s audio is quite dynamic and immerses the viewer throughout. This release includes both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround options, so both camps should be more than pleased. I found both tracks to be excellent and if I were pressed to choose the better, it would be the DTS choice, but not by much. The surrounds are used to effective ends all the time here, whether to add simple atmospheric effects or more impact oriented fare, it all sounds superb in these mixes. The bass is used often also, with powerful and very memorable results. The dialogue is never lost in all this action however, so all the vocals remains crisp and clean, with no errors to report. This release also includes audio options in Spanish and French, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The lone supplement here is Ridley Scott’s commentary on Hannibal, but hey, better this than nothing, right? As usual, Scott provides a talkative and very information session, with little deadwood present. Scott discusses his reasons for taking on the project, his feelings on the cast & crew, and various other topics. His comments are never overly promotional or bland and as such, this turns out to be a terrific audio commentary track.