Manhunter (1986)

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Released 23-May-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Inside Manhunter
Featurette-The Manhunter Look
Notes-History Of Hannibal
Biographies-Cast & Crew
DVD Credits
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 121:38
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:14) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Michael Mann
Studio
Distributor

Shock Entertainment
Starring William Petersen
Kim Greist
Joan Allen
Brian Cox
Dennis Farina
Stephen Lang
Tom Noonan
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $34.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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Plot Synopsis

Hannibal Lector "Care to leave me your phone number Will?"

    Manhunter is the movie version of the first of a series of novels loosely based around a central character known as Hannibal Lector (misspelled in the credits of this movie as Lecktor). The original book was titled Red Dragon and written by Thomas Harris who also went on to pen the better-known Silence of the Lambs and a third book Hannibal, both made into movies of the same name. Although Lector is only the central character in the third novel, Hannibal, it is his presence in all three that binds them as a trilogy and adds a level of familiarity.

    The central character in Manhunter (Red Dragon) is William Graham (William Peterson), a retired FBI agent who has been badly hurt, both physically and mentally, whilst apprehending the notorious serial killer, Hannibal Lector. Unfortunately Graham, whose body has mended but whose emotional scars are still visible, is asked to come back to help solve another set of serial murders that is following a lunar cycle. His old boss, Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina), needs his best analyst to catch a serial killer, known as the Tooth Fairy (Tom Noonan in an exceptionally chilling portrayal of a serial killer), who has managed to elude the best efforts of both local and state law enforcement to catch him.

    Director Michael Mann can best be described as a storyteller. His list of movie credits shows this up nicely (The Insider, Heat and Last of the Mohicans) and he rarely delivers a faulty product. Manhunter is a crafted movie, designed to flow as the clues are revealed and lead us to the climatic sequence. Mann's style for this movie was to use lots of long shots, full faces, large spatial separation, or cutting from one character to another in isolation, all with slightly out-of-focus backgrounds. Peterson's character, Will Graham, the focus of much of the movie, is there to dissect the clues and solve the puzzle left by the Tooth Fairy. This nickname is given to the perpetrator due to bite marks, made port mortem, on his victims. Graham is presented throughout the movie in isolation for the most part, with his only solace being his wife (Kim Greist) and his son. He begins to immerses himself into the psyche of the killer in order to track him and you slowly realise how tenuous his hold on reality is. His psychological scars aren't fully mended and it makes for a splendidly flawed hero.

    Another interesting character in the movie is that of Dr Hannibal Lector. Lector is played by a most versatile actor, Brian Cox (Rob Roy, Braveheart amongst a plethora of other roles). It is often difficult when comparing movies of different eras to be objective as to the merits of different actors in similar roles, and this is no different. In all honesty The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal have both garnered much greater critical acclaim with Anthony Hopkins in the role of Lector. He won an Academy Award for his role in Silence.., and he imbued the role of Lector with a delightful malice. Cox on the other hand plays Lector straight up and down as a genuine lunatic whose lunacy is not visible on the surface but lies deep beneath. I honestly wouldn't like to say who was better, since the movies they are in are radically different in many respects, and each has his own strengths and both actors are pure class.

    Again, comparing Manhunter to the other two movies is difficult. It is is an excellent psychological thriller, and more than holds its own against other movies of its genre, with a very stylised format that differs markedly from its successors. Whereas Silence and Hannibal are character-driven, it appears Michael Mann's desire is to make Manhunter centre squarely on the storyline with the characters almost secondary to the plot.

    I personally think Manhunter is a better movie than either Silence of the Lambs or Hannibal simply from the fact that I've watched the movie a dozen times without becoming bored with it. I find different things in the way it is shot to add flavour to each viewing. Of the other two, Silence of the Lambs has been the most enjoyable with Hannibal being a pale shadow of the other two. Anyone viewing this movie may have their own opinions - that's your prerogative, but for me I think I can sum up my liking for the movie in one single scene, where Lector asks Graham:

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Transfer Quality

Video

    When I originally bought this movie, I hadn't even joined the reviewing team but I knew even then I'd seen better, but not why. With what I now know, this was an opportune time to go back over and see what problems are present on this disc.

    The greatest travesty that can befall any DVD is the lack of 16x9 enhancement and this disc is in that category. This transfer is present in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, which is close to the original theatrical release of 2.39:1, but is NOT 16x9 enhanced which is a crying shame.

    Most of the movie has a distinct blurriness to it with edge enhancement omnipresent for the most part. There are many examples of halos on characters (10:56, Graham in isolation has a noticeable white line around him). This and the general lack of sharpness gave the entire movie a muddy and indistinct feeling that didn't diminish over time. Some of this blurriness can be attributed to director Michael Mann's deliberate focusing on objects in the foreground to the exclusion of the background in order to isolate the viewer's attention. Grain was consistent throughout, mostly only light, but readily visible. This dual effect of grain and muddiness affected both the fine and shadow detail which just wasn't present in any appreciable form. Blacks suffer from lack of separation, although there was no noticeable noise present.

    The colour is extremely good in regards to the variety in the palette used. In certain scenes, specifically those dealing with Lecktor, there was excessive white to simulate an antiseptic-type surrounding. Touches of purple, blue and green were added for minor contrast. There is certainly plenty of vibrancy in the colours. Unfortunately, at times the colours appear smudged. 19:42 is a prime example. The green between the blinds radiates out without clear definition. There was no real oversaturation but the whites at times did appear to be blooming. For the most part, skin tones were very natural.

    Every now and again there did appear to be some minor pixelization (10:56 on Will Graham's shoulders). Some very light shimmering was seen at times, but you'd be nitpicking to pick out an example which stood out. There were surprisingly few of the normal film artefacts on display but they were there, mostly black and mostly only visible if you looked for them. Overall, the transfer was extremely good in this regard.

    There were no subtitles offered on this disc.

    The layer change came at 66:14 in a scene transition during Chapter 19. It's a change from a night time scene to a daytime one, which makes the layer change nicely placed, and although noticeable because of a lengthy pause, it should not disconcert anyone too much.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This disc has only one audio track on offer, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track at 192 kilobits per second. It's a huge pity that time wasn't taken to encode this in Dolby Digital 5.1, although from what I've read about the Region 1 release, which does include a 5.1 soundtrack, maybe we aren't missing that much. Still, this is an audio track that deserves better. The sound is heavy through the centre speakers, as you would expect for a dialogue-driven movie, but there are scenes where the music really does drive the fronts nicely. The addition of even surround encoding would have added a real spaciousness to the sound which is sadly lacking on this disc.

    The dialogue was perfectly understandable during the movie, with no problems. There was a noticeable overdub at 96:05 and every now and then there did appear to be some minor syncing issues.

   The music is listed as being by The Reds and Michael Rubini. The final credits list incidental music to Kitaro, Iron Butterfly, Prime Movers, Shreikback and Red7, as well as songs played by Klaus Schulze and Michael Rubini. In typical Michael Mann fashion, there are lengthy breaks in the movie without any music at all. The music itself consists of lots of synthesizer sounds much in the style of early Tangerine Dream or Jean Michael Jarre. This electronic music is played softly throughout the movie allowing the incidental music to add the jarring elements to the film for the best dramatic impact. The music was often the highlight of the movie, especially when In Da Gadda Da Vida was played on the old 8-track at the end. Definitely a different soundtrack, very much in the mode of Miami Vice (which was Mann's main claim to fame at the time). It's just a pity it didn't get better treatment in the transfer.

    There was no surround channel or subwoofer use in this transfer, although there was some minor redirection from my system into the surrounds, but nothing worthy of note or that added significantly to the overall enjoyment of the movie.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    A simplistic menu setup with audio from the movie overlaid.

Theatrical Trailer

    A running time of 1:57 in Full Frame 1.33:1 with the movie clips in 2.35:1 and not 16x9 enhanced. Typical trailer but relatively clean, with slightly more grain than the movie and few artefacts.

Featurette

    Inside Manhunter: With a running time of 10 minutes, this is offered up in Full Frame 1.33:1 and is an interview with the Director of Photography, Daniel Spinotti who was specifically brought in to shoot the movie for Michael Mann. It's a brief, but interesting assessment of the making of the movie with black and white and colour stills and includes details on shooting, framing, lighting and how it all affected the mood of the picture. There is some edge enhancement, but the colour is good. Again, the movie clips are displayed at 2.35:1 and not 16x9 enhanced. This feature was created for the Anchor Bay release of Manhunter in Region 1.

Featurette

    Inside Manhunter: With a running time of 17:14, this is a montage of interviews with various actors from the movie talking about their roles, getting into character, research they did for the part, how they were picked and how they prepared. There are lots of stills (B&W) and some interesting music in the background to enhance the mood. This was another Anchor Bay featurette released on their Region 1 disc.

Notes

    A 17 page essay on Hannibal Lecktor and why Manhunter is better than Silence of the Lambs (in essence).

Biographies-Cast & Crew

    Standard fare on Michael Mann, Thomas Harris and William Peterson.

DVD Credits

    Madman info.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There are currently two different Region 1 discs available (or at least I think they are both still available), from Anchor Bay. The first is a single disc much in the mold of the disc reviewed here, the second is a Limited Edition, 2 disc set with additional features.

    The Region 1 Limited Edition includes the following extras:

    The Region 1 'Theatrical' Release:     Both the Region 1 and Region 1 Limited Edition offer:    All-in-all, the most value for money has to be the R1 standard theatrical release with 16x9 enhancement. It should be noted that the Limited Edition is said to contain copious grain in the transfer.

Summary

    Manhunter is a superb movie badly treated by a sub-standard transfer. This is a different type of psychological thriller with excellent performances by the lead characters, a chilling pair of villains and a solid soundtrack that lacks any real pizzazz.

    The video suffers enormously from the lack of 16x9 enhancement. It isn't the best transfer I've seen, either.

    The audio lacks real power although there is good clarity.

    The extras include a couple of featurettes made for the Anchor Bay release which were a nice addition. The rest is fairly standard, but it's a better package than normal.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Tuesday, October 23, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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