Thursday, May 26, 2016

MANHUNTER (1986) (Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review)

Label: Scream Factory 
Region Code: A
Duration: 120 Minutes I 124 Minutes
Rating: R I Unrated
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Michael Mann
Cast: Dennis Farina, Stephen Lang, Tom Noonan, William Petersen, Joan Allen, Kim Greist, Brian Cox

Synopsis: The first film to feature the iconic character Hannibal Lecktor, Manhunter follows former FBI profiler Will Graham (William Petersen, To Live and Die in L.A., CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) 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 (Brian Cox, X-Men 2, Red), 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.

A few years before The Silence of the Lambs (1991) swept through the cinema establishing Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lector as one of the premiere cannibal bogeymen of the ages Michael Mann first adapted Thomas Harris's novel Red Dragon into a '80s drenched slice of thriller cinema starring William Petersen as retired FBI profiler Will Graham who captured and imprisoned Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecktor years earlier. The capture took a toll on Graham, it nearly killed him and drove him insane, and now his FBI superior Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina) has come to him in hopes that the uncanny profiler will advise on a new series of grisly murders, the new killer has been dubbed "The Tooth Fairy" by the press because of the bite marks left on the bodies of his victims. Against the wishes of his concerned wife who knows just how deeply affected Graham was by the Lecktor case, Graham accepts the case and begins down a disturbing path. Those who are familiar with the Hannibal TV show will recognize the influence of this movie on that show, the roots run deep into this movie as it firmly centered on Graham and how the process is hugely devastating on his own psyche. 

Graham begins by visiting the latest crime scene, a horrific blood-spattered home where an entire family has been slaughtered, shards of mirror have been jammed into their eyes. The profiler gets deep into the psyche of the killer but finds that he has lost some of his process through the years, to that end he visits Lecktor in the asylum hoping to pick up the old scent so to speak, and to consult Lecktor about the tooth fairy murders. However, Graham is unaware that Lecktor and the new serial killer have been corresponding through coded messages in the local paper, and are in fact working against him. Things are further complicated when sleazy tabloid journalist Freddy Lounds (an unrecognizable Stephen Lang of Avatar) snaps a pic of Graham emerging from the asylum angering his wife and disturbing Graham, there's a nice side story about Lounds and how he comes to meet the Tooth Fairy face to face, a very memorable scene with a nice payoff. 

The movie makes no attempt to mask the identity of the Tooth Fairy, his name is Francis Dollarhyde (a quietly menacing Noonan) who works at a film developing lab, where he begins a relationship with a blind co-worker named Reba (Joan Allen), whom is not at all put off by his weirdness and the two form a relationship. Just when it seems Dollarhyde's blood lust might be waning things begin to disintegrate for the lovers and the movie erupts into a climatic finale of violence set to the tune of Iron Butterfly's heavy anthem "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", Mann sure knows how to make a thriller, I love this guys work in the '80s. 

Thomas Harris' Red Dragon was later remade with Anthony Hopkins in the role of Lector with a fine turn as Dollarhyde by Ralph Feines but an ill-cast Edward Norton as Graham, which ruined it for me. It is Mann's Manhunter that I return to when I feel the need to revisit the story, there's just something about William Peterson's admittedly blank and underplayed performance that I love. I also love the 80s vibe and synth heavy score, I love the nefarious Lecktor played by Brian Cox, a versatile actor who brings a load of polite menace to the small but pivotal role, and then there's Noonan as Francis Dollarhyde, a sadistic murderer who you actually have some sympathy for despite the violence you know he is capable of, you want him to fall in love but the guy is just too deranged for that too happen, it is just not in the cards and it is tragic.

In a lot of way this is a thriller that celebrates style over substance thriller, but Mann is such a vibrant stylist that I cannot help but forgive it's shortcomings, the way he strays from the book and takes so many short cuts in favor of creating an atmospheric and chilling movie. Silence of the Lambs might be a more cohesive and well-structured slice of cinema this is the Thomas Harris adaptation I return to when I get the urge, partly because of the slick and stylish atmosphere and partly because of the combination of William Petersen, Tom Noonan and Brian Cox, these guys are pure magic onscreen when combined with the style and visual alchemy of Michael Mann and cinematographer Dante Spinotti. 

Audio/Video: Michael Mann's Manhunter (1986) arrives n a 2idisc Blu-ray Collector's Edition from Scream Factory, presenting both the theatrical (120 Mins) and director's cut (124 Mins) of the film on separate discs. The theatrical cuts fares the better with some nice deep color saturation, the deep blue and colored hues really pop in HD, Mann's movie is stylish and artfully rendered and look nice and crisp for a mid eighties movie. The director's cut is in HD with standard definition inserts which to be honest are an eyesore, I do enjoy the director's cut and what it adds, but as an HD presentation it does suffer considerably. As an extra on disc two Scream Factory have also included a standard def version of the movie which make the inserts somewhat less unsightly or noticeable. 

Both versions of the movie have English language DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 and Surround 5.1 mixes with optional English subtitles. The glorious synth-heavy score comes through strong, some might say the mix is overpowering at times, but not for me, I loved it. Dialogue and sounds effects come through nicely balanced and crisp. 

Onto the extras which are spread out over two discs we have The Making of Manhunter which are brand new interviews produced for this release broken down into five interviews with William Petersen (18 Mins), Joan Allen (16 Mins), Tom Noonan (22 Mins), Brian Cox (40 Mins), and director of photography Dante Spinotti (36 Mins) which make for some fascinating viewing. Petersen looks back on working with Mann on a number of films in smaller parts such as Heat and Thief, his turn in William Friedken's To Live and Die in L.A. which wasn't even in theatres when he was cast in the role of Will Graham. Tom Noonan is always a great interview, the actor is a bit odd but that is part of the reason why I love him, he speaks about avoiding everyone on-set he shared a scene with until they filmed the scene, which must just be his thing, I seem to recall a similar statement from him on the Monster Squad Blu-ray extras. 

Fans of the synth score on the movie will ove the 42-minute 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), which s very in-depth. 

The First Lecktor – an interview with actor Brian Cox (40 Mins) is a nice sit-down interview with the actor who first brought Hannibal Lecktor (sic) to the big screen, and to be honest is still my favorite version of the character. Cox speaks at length about what research he did to inform the role and about nearly winding up as Lector in a version of Silence of the Lambs. Disc one is finished-up with a theatrical trailer for the movie and an image gallery of poster artwork, screenshots and behind-the-scenes pics. 

Onto disc two we have the previously mentioned standard-def version of the director's cut which makes the insert shots less jarring, but trust me, just watch the HD version. The extras on the second disc are carry overs from the previous versions of the movie including the audio commentary by writer/director Michael Mann, plus vintage interviews with cinematographer Dante Spinotti and stars William Petersen, Joan Allen, Brian Cox and Tom Noonan totalling about a half hour in length. 

The 2-disc Blu-ray set comes housed in a standard blue keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring the original one-sheet art and a new illustration artists Christopher Franchi which captures the dark neon feel of the movie, that particular 80s Michael Mann aesthetic. 

Special Features: 

Disc 1: Theatrical Version (HD) (120 Mins) 
- NEW The Mind of Madness – an interview with William Petersen (18 Mins) HD 
- NEW Courting a Killer – an interview with actress Joan Allen (16 Mins) HD 
- NEW Francis is Gone Forever – an interview with actor Tom Noonan (22 Mins) HD 
- NEW The First Lecktor – an interview with actor Brian Cox (40 Mins) HD 
- NEW The Eye of the Storm – an interview with director of photography Dante Spinotti (36 Mins) HD 
- NEW 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) (42 minutes) HD
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) HD 
- Still Gallery (8 Mins) HD 

Disc 2: Director’s Cut (HD with Standard Definition inserts)(124 Mins) 
- Director’s Cut (Standard Definition)(124 Mins) 
- The Manhunter Look - A Conversation with cinematographer Dante Spinotti (10 minutes)
- Inside Manhunter with stars William Petersen, Joan Allen, Brian Cox and Tom Noonan (18 minutes)

Scream Factory's Manhunter (1986) 2-disc Collector's Edition is the definitive version of the movie with a sweet A/V presentation and a nice selection of new and old extras. If you only know this story through Red Dragon (2002) I recommend a viewing of Michael Mann's Manhunter (1986), this atmospheric slice of '80s serial killer cinema is a fantastic watch.