Film Length: 125 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
Before the Silence, there was the Dragon
Dr. Hannibal Lecter, psychiatrist, philosopher,
culinary artist and gentleman extraordinare. The
serial murderer created by author Thomas Harris
has captured the public’s fascination like no other
fictional character in recent years. He scoffs at
weak human emotions and senses exactly what you fear,
and can easily exploit it.
He scared the bejeezus out of us in Silence of
the Lambs. He ate a human brain in Hannibal.
But what many people may not know is that Silence
of the Lambs was not Hannibal Lecter’s first
venture into cinema history. In fact, Anthony Hopkins
was not the original Hannibal Lecter. The character
was first realized in director Michael Mann's
original 1986 film called Manhunter.
Technically, Red Dragon can be classified as
a remake of Michael Mann's powerful 1986 Manhunter.
Both films are based on Thomas Harris's chilling
novel, Red Dragon, which turns out to be the
film's biggest flaw. There is no convincing artistic
reason for Red Dragon to exist. It was done so well
16 years ago that you can't expect this almost exact
remake to stand up to the original -- and it doesn't.
Red Dragon begins in Baltimore in 1980 with
the capture of noted psychologist Hannibal Lecter
(Anthony Hopkins), who frequently consults the FBI
for psychological profiles. The agent who captures
him, Will Graham (Edward Norton), suffers some serious
wounds during the arrest and ends up retiring to a
peaceful life in Florida with his wife Molly (Mary
Louise Parker) and son Josh (Tyler Patrick).
Two brutal murders later bring FBI Chief Jack
Crawford (Harvey Keitel) to Graham's door in an
effort to beg his former master profiler to return
to work on a temporary basis to shed some light on
the case. Graham reluctantly agrees to return to his
work, promising his wife he'll stay in the background.
Investigating the crime scenes, Graham is able to
discover some clues as to the nature of the killer
but is unable to gain the insights needed to solve
the case. Graham soon realizes that the most
effective way to catch the serial killer, Francis
Dolarhyde (Ralph Fiennes), is to go back to the
incarcerated Lecter and seek his help in getting
into the killer's mind. But Lecter has his own
agenda. 'Tooth Fairy' who calls himself 'Red Dragon'
and Lecter are formidable adversaries.
The original 1986 Manhunter was a gruesome,
graphic and just plain gripping film. Director
Brett Ratner has taken Red Dragon in a slightly
different direction, giving us a more stylish yet
lukewarm thriller that creates tension out of the
things we don't see. Of course, the real draw here
is to see Hopkins step into the shoes of the
charming, intelligent, and sophisticated Hannibal
'The Cannibal' Lecter. Hopkins does not disappoint
here in a role that he has certainly perfected after
all these years. He is a man who can send chills
through your body just by opening his mouth.
How is the transfer?
Universal has given us an absolutely pristine
transfer that looks magnificent thanks to its
attention to detail and black levels that provide
an overly strong presentation. Colors are perfectly
accurate, contrast is excellent, and you'll find dark
scenes sporting fine detail. What more can I say?
This is a great-looking transfer.
The 5.1 Dolby Surround track can best be described
as an aggressive and enveloping mix. Most noteworthy
here is Danny Elfman's score that is full of
percussion, chilling vibes and electronic sounds
that effectively surround the listener. Elfman's
dramatic and tension-hyped string rhythms really add
a chilling presence to the film. The rears do an
exceptional job of adding some eerie ambiance which
will send chills down your spine, particularly as
you walk down the corridor that leads to Lecter's
prison cell for the first time. The quality of the
sound is exceptional, coming across the fronts with
Universal has released Red Dragon in no less
than three different versions. There's are separate
Full-Frame and Widescreen releases,
followed by a 2-disc Director's Edition, which
I am proud to be reviewing for you today.
The Director's Edition has a wealth of supplemental
extras that seem to be equally divided across both
discs. Let's begin with Disc One....
Up first is a full-length commentary by
director Brett Ratner and screenwriter Ted Tally.
It begins with Brett talking about receiving
Ted Tally's screenplay of Red Dragon, and
wondering why someone would think that this director
could pull such a dark project off. Ratner admits
he immediately fell in love with the script, and
for that reason, readily accepted the project. The
next step for the director was to meet Dino De
Laurentis who was totally unfamiliar with Brett's
previous work. Though the director had some big
shoes to fill following the efforts of Michael Mann,
Jonathan Demme and Ridley Scott, Brett was anxious
to bring his own unique style and tone to the film.
Screenwriter Ted Tally talks about his often long
conversations with the film's production designer,
contributing his ideas on what the design of the
film should look like. There's a funny story about
how Ted casted this film, hiring one actor in order
to get someone bigger. This is a quite a pleasurable
commentary thanks to the fact that both Brett and
Ted are very upbeat throughout, often having a grand
time talking about what it was like not only to
revisit this film again, but to work with such a
distinguished cast of actors.
You need to dig around a little to find this --
especially since it goes unadvertised on the cover
specs -- there is feature commentary by
composer Danny Elfman. From the bits I heard, I
found this to be more of an isolated score track
with occasional input from the director on how he
staged his music to affect the mood of a particular
Lecter's FBI File and Life History is a
rather interesting read. We are presented with
Hannibal's CONFIDENTIAL records that takes us
from his devastating childhood through his later
years as the world's most notorious serial killer.
Inside the mind of a serial killer introduces
us to FBI agent John Douglas whose interests lie in
behavioral science. He talks about his experiences
visiting various penitentiaries where he was confronted
by hardened criminals (such as Richard Speck and
Charles Manson) who often agreed to talk to him.
Douglas talks about his creation of criminal profiling
that is used to aid law enforcement authorities. He
also takes us on a journey through the mind of
Hannibal Lecter. Quite fascinating!
(length: approx. 8 minutes)
Anthony Hopkins: Lector and Me gives further
insight into the Lecter character from the actor that
portrays him. Hopkins begins by talking about first
realizing in Silence of the Lambs that Lector
would become an important cinematic character -- but
not quite being prepared for the phenomenon that
followed. Not only do we learn why director Jonathan
Demme first chose Hopkins for the role as Lector, but
we also learn that the actor is quite obsessive about
the way he reads a script. You'll be quite amazed
when you hear how many times he reads a particular
script. Very nice interview, but sadly, too short.
(length: approx. 4 minutes)
The making of Red Dragon is the sort of usual
promotional fluff-piece narrated by someone with a
dramatically deep voice. It's basically short
interviews with the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Edward
Norton, Mary Louise Parker, Ralph Fiennes and Emily
Watson who talk about their individual characters.
There are also interviews with filmmakers Brett
Ratner and Dino De Laurentis. Intertwined with all
of this are clips from the film as well as behind-
(length: approx. 14 minutes)
There are 7 deleted scenes, 4 alternate
version of scenes and 3 extended scenes
included for your enjoyment. I'll let you discover
all of these yourself, and simply let you know that
you can play them with optional commentary from
director Bree Ratner, writer Tedd Tally and editor
You'll love the clever format of the Production
Notes that are presented across the pages of
a serial killer's diary. It is here you will learn
the history of Hannibal Lector and the four films that
have told his story. There is also a cast and
filmmaker page that gives you some very nicely
laid-out extensive biographies of the principal cast
members and various individuals involved with the
making of the film.
I had a tough time locating actual DVD-ROM
content, though the disc's description hints at
the fact that most of it is website related.
Let's move on to Disc Two that contains
nothing but additional supplemental material....
A Director's journey: The making of Red Dragon
is the kind of first-rate "making of" featurettes that
we WANT to see, rather than those made for cable
promotional yawners. In anticipation of the DVD
release, a film crew followed director Brett Ratner,
capturing every aspect of the entire journey of
making of this film from pre production through its
theatrical premiere. You'll walk with the director
as he scouts locations and argues with Dino De
Laurentis over why he can't burn one of the featured
homes. You'll sit in on an injury effects meeting,
as well a stunt meeting. You'll watch various
wardrobe tests, set walkthroughs and even the
application of tattoos to Fienne's backside. What
you will see the most here is Brett Ratner directing
his cast, often listening to and taking advice from
his actors. It's also obvious that Ratner is not a
very confident director, nor does his cast seem very
confident in him, often questioning him on his every
decision. It's also kind of shameful to see that
Ratner disregards advice not to place his actors in
a burning room with heat so extreme that it can
readily burn them.
(length: approx. 39 minutes)
Brett Ratner's untitled student film is the
very first film the up-and-coming director made at
New York University. Do yourself a favor and save
three minutes of your valuable time by skipping
over this silent B&W effort. It's pretty awful.
Visual Effects is a rather short montage of
many "before" and "after" shots featuring digital
additions and removals as well as several explosion
elements/composites sequences. The problem with this
piece is that it is poorly presented without any
sort of narration that would help explain what was
actually done to these scenes.
(length: approx. 4 minutes)
Screen and film tests shows us many of the
various tests that the director put his actors
through. These include tests on hair, wardrobe,
film blood and even the dentures, tattoos and mask
that Ralph Fiennes wears. Director Brett Ratner,
Director of Photography Dante Spinotti and Special
Makeup Effects Artist Matthew Mungle talk us through
the entire sequence.
(length: approx. 11 minutes)
Even though there's a warning about how graphic this
may be, we are going to show you a picture of it
anyway! Makeup application shows us how
a gelatin appliance was first applied to the eyes
of an actress to protect her from the shard of mirror
placed above it. Narrated by director Brent Ratner
and Makeup Effects Artist Matthew Mungle.
(length: approx. 45 seconds)
Burning Wheelchair takes us on location as
we watch how Stunt coordinator Conrad Palmisano staged
the fiery wheelchair sequence.
(length: approx. 3 minutes)
Leed's House crime scene introduces us to
Homicide technical advisor Lt. Ray Peavy who makes
sure that the bloodied crime scene depicted in the
Leed's household looks as authentic as possible.
Makeup Effects Artist Matthew Mungle gives us a look
at how mirrors were added to the eyes of the victims.
(length: approx. 3 minutes)
There are four Storyboards to film comparisons
that put windows on top of each other, giving you a
direct look at how the original concept of a scene
looked compared to the final filmed version.
Finally, the film/s original theatrical trailer
as well as a teaser trailer are presented here.
Let me give some praise to the really cool menu
designs that were done for this DVD release. Filled
with eerie corridor walkthroughs and an endless
assortment of Lector sound bytes, the menus really
shine here! Excellent job to the folks that designed
The big decision for many of you is whether to
buy the standard DVD or 2-disc Director's
Edition. From quickly glancing at the specs
of both DVD editions, it seems that Disc One
is identical on both versions (but be sure to check
for yourself first). For an additional $6-$7 you
get a 2-disc edition with the supplements I described
above. Personally I think Universal should have saved
their efforts and money and just released the 2-disc
edition as I think it will be the one most people will
opt to purchase.
Despite the fact that this film comes too close in
remaking the original Manhunter, a project
that should have been let be, Red Dragon is
as polished, well crafted and entertaining as anyone
would have any right to expect. Most fans of Hannibal
Lector will not walk away disappointed.
Release Date: April 1, 2003
All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality