Blu-ray: Manhunter

The first screen appearence of Hannibal Lecter proved an important early film for Michael Mann and still ranks amongst his finest work.

In the mid-1980s Mann was coming off an acclaimed debut with Thief (1981) and the most glaring anomaly on his directing CV, the bizarre World War II horror fiasco The Keep (1983).

The critical and commercial failure of that film probably led to him returning to his old stomping ground of network television, where he served as show runner and executive producer on Miami Vice (1984-89) and Crime Story (1986-88).

Both of those shows seemed to recharge his creative batteries and provided a template of sorts for his adaptation of Thomas Harris’ 1981 novel Red Dragon.

Focusing on talented FBI agent Will Graham (William Petersen), it explores his attempts to catch a serial killer known as the Tooth Fairy (Tom Noonan) and the various people he has to deal with as he tries to stop the murders.

These include his superior (Dennis Farina), an incarcerated killer Hannibal Lektor (Brian Cox), a sleazy journalist (Stephen Lang), his long suffering wife (Kim Griest) and an innocent woman caught up in the hunt (Joan Allen).

During the 1980s producer Dino De Laurentiis was not exactly known for making high art, but in 1986 he scored a spectacular double bill by financing by two important films by great American directors.

David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986) was a landmark classic, whilst Mann’s Manhunter was unfairly overlooked and a box office disappointment, despite growing in acclaim in the years since then.

A wonderfully controlled thriller, it anticipates Mann’s future work – especially Heat (1995) – with its stunning widescreen compositions, moody electronic score and portrait of obsessive loners in a criminal world.

Although rightly celebrated for his visuals and meticulous research, Mann also frequently elicits powerful performances from his actors and William Petersen is outstanding as the haunted protagonist.

An unusual character for the cop genre, he is both vulnerable (recovering from a mental breakdown as the story opens) and brilliant – note how much of the film involves Graham sitting around and empathising with a killer, in order to catch him.

Petersen has never been better here and the supporting cast is filled with strong actors: Farina, Noonan, Lang and Allen are all excellent and it was important early exposure for many of them.

It was overshadowed five years later when Jonathan Demme adapted Thomas Harris’ follow up novel, The Silence of the Lambs (1991), which was a major box office and Oscar triumph which saw Anthony Hopkins make Lecter into an iconic screen villain.

There are many intriguing comparisons between the two films: Mann went for a more stylised approach than Demme, with cinematographer Dante Spinotti crafting some beautifully precise compositions that utilise the full frame; Tak Fujimoto opted for a more restrained style, which often favours close-ups and point of view shots.

Compare how differently the directors interpret Lecter being questioned in jail: Mann opts for a white, antiseptic environment, whereas Demme goes for a dirtier, almost Gothic sensibility.

The differing approaches are also reflected in how Cox and Hopkins played Lecter: the Scottish actor exudes a certain blank charm, whereas Hopkins opts for a more mannered approach – like their directors, both are equally effective in different ways.

Another odd legacy of the film is how years later Petersen eventually became the star of the TV blockbuster show CSI (2000- ), which in some ways is a more commercial reprise of his work on Manhunter.

Mann’s emphasis on the procedural aspects of police investigation has also arguably influenced shows such as The X-Files (1993-2002) and films like Seven (1995).

It says a lot about the quality of his 1986 film that it still holds up extremely well: this Blu-ray is taken from the restored version and offers the choice of the original Theatrical Version or Director’s Cut.

The extra footage on the director’s cut was obviously taken from an inferior source – so those extra scenes are a little degraded – so it’s only of interest to those wanting to see some of the scenes filled out a little more.

However, the image quality on the main version is excellent and the special features are also solid.


  • Trailer: The original theatrical trailer for Manhunter. In English, not subtitled. (3 mins)
  • Inside Manhunter: Solid featurette from the DVD version in which various cast members recall their contribution to the film. (18 mins)
  • The Manhunter’s Look: Cinematographer Dante Spinotti discusses the framing, lighting and use of colour seen in the film. (11 mins).
  • Director’s Cut: Option to view the director’s cut of of the film. In English, not subtitled. (120 min).
  • Director’s Cut With Audio Commentary: Director’s cut of Manhunter with an audio commentary by director Michael Mann.

> Buy Manhunter on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> More on the film at the IMDb
> Michael Mann at Wikipedia and MUBi

DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 26th September 2011


Ben Hur (Warner Home Video): William Wyler’s 1959 historical epic was one of the largest productions in Hollywood history. The tale of a Jewish prince (Charlton Heston) in Judea around the time of Jesus, it won 11 Oscars and is filled with numerous set pieces, including the famous chariot race, and an iconic Miklós Rózsa score. This Blu-ray has been eagerly awaited by cinephiles as it has been remastered at 6K resolution from a 65mm negative and is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.76:1, complete with remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Extras include: an extensive documentaries tracing the history of the story, as well as Heston’s career, an audio commentary from film historian T Gene Hatcher and Heston and numerous other production featurettes. One of the essential purchases of the year. [Buy it on Blu-ray from Amazon UK]

My Voyage to Italy (Mr Bongo Films): Martin Scorsese’s 1999 documentary is a revealing exploration of post-war Italian cinema which blends a healthy collection of clips with the director talking about his families immigrant experience. Not only is the director a warm and accessible guide, but he makes shrewd observations about such classics as Bicycle Thieves, Umberto D, Voyage to Italy and La Dolce Vita whilst also pointing out lesser known titles like Senso and Europa 51. An essential purchase for any fan of cinema. [Buy it on DVD from Amazon UK]

Manhunter (StudioCanal): The first film to portray Hannibal Lecter on screen was this stylish 1986 thriller directed by Michael Mann, based on the Robert Harris novel Red Dragon. When a haunted cop (William Petersen) is asked to track down a serial killer (Tom Noonan), he needs the help of an imprisoned psychiatrist (Brian Cox) but the hunt soon brings up demons from his past. Shot around the time of the Miami Vice TV show, this established the distinctive visual look of Mann’s films for the next 15 years and holds up very well today. [Buy it on Blu-ray from Amazon UK]

Airplane! (Paramount Home Video): This ingenious 1980 spoof of disaster movies of the 1970s still holds up as one of the finest comedies ever made. When food poisoning affects a flight crew, a retired war pilot (Robert Hays) has to step in and help save the day despite a ‘drinking problem’. Directed by the David and Jerry Zucker and written with Jim Abrahams, the jokes appear at a rapid rate and the cast features Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges and Robert Stack. The AFI voted it amongst their top 10 comedies in 2000 and the honour is richly deserved. [Buy it on Blu-ray from Amazon UK]


Beverly Hills Cop (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Blitz (Lionsgate UK) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Cannibal Holocaust: Ruggero Deodato’s New Edit (Shameless) [Blu-ray / Limited Edition]
Cat O’ Nine Tails (Arrow Video) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Clear and Present Danger (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Cold Mountain (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Fringe: Season 3 (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Harakiri (Eureka) [Blu-ray / with DVD – Double Play]
Hawaii Five-0: Season 1 (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
House: Season 7 (Universal/Playback) [Blu-ray / Box Set]
Kill the Irishman (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Le Mans: 2011 (Duke) [Blu-ray / with DVD – Double Play]
Nirvana: Live at Paramount (Universal Music) [Blu-ray / Remastered]
Patriot Games (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Shall We Dance? (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Hunt for Red October (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Killing: Season 1 (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Naked Gun (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Thor (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal / Digital Copy]
Tucker and Dale Vs Evil (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Turnout (Revolver Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]

UK Cinema Releases for Friday 23rd September 2011
The Best DVD & Blu-ray releases of 2010