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HTF REVIEW: "Red Dragon" Director's Edition (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Mar 11, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Red Dragon

    Studio: Universal
    Year: 2002
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 125 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
    Subtitles: English

    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
    distinct clarity.

    Special Features

    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-
    the-camera footage.
    (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
    Mark Helfrich.

    You'll love the clever format of the Production
    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
    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

    Final Thoughts


    The big decision for many of you is whether to
    buy the standard DVD or 2-disc Director's
    . 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.

    Bon Appetite!

    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
  2. Andrew Chong

    Andrew Chong Supporting Actor

    May 7, 2002
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    Thanks for your frank and detailed review, Ron.
    I'm happy that Danny Elfman's score was included in isolated form with commentary.
  3. Jay Mitchosky

    Jay Mitchosky Producer

    Sep 6, 1998
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    Well done review Ron. Will probably pass on this as a purchase (which will unfortunately be released as something like "Le Dragon Rouge" or such in Canada with our bilingual covers) but it'll be an interesting rent. I haven't seen Manhunter for so long that this would be a fresh experience for me. But I agree with you that it's probably a remake that didn't need to be done.
  4. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

    Jun 30, 1997
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    I for one think that Red Dragon was a film that needed to be made, and that it far surpasses Manhunter by reinstating all the baroque weirdness that made the book so memorable, and which Mann replaced with dreary (but pastel-colored) police procedural. And don't get me started on Manhunter's weak, weak ending. This is a must-purchase as far as I'm concerned.
  5. ChrisMatson

    ChrisMatson Cinematographer

    Dec 14, 2000
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    Sounds like a nice 2-disc set. I personally enjoyed Red Dragon more than Manhunter. I watched the Director's Cut of Manhunter about two years ago and found the 80's score to be distracting. Perhaps the original theatrical version had better pacing, but I found the movie to drag at times. That said, I do want to watch Manhunter again.

    My understanding is that Red Dragon is a new and different take on the book and NOT a remake of Mann's Manhunter.
  6. Bjorn Olav Nyberg

    Bjorn Olav Nyberg Supporting Actor

    Oct 12, 1999
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  7. Dharmesh C

    Dharmesh C Supporting Actor

    Jul 25, 2000
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    Big fan of Manhunter here, so it will be interesting to compare, but somehow I know I will be disappointed.

    Not sure why Universal bothered with 3 DVD versions.
  8. Kenneth Cummings

    Kenneth Cummings Supporting Actor

    Aug 7, 2001
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    I have to admit, I never seen any of the Hannibal movies. I seen only parts of Silence of Lambs, but that it. Maybe I could get started on the "first" movie here and work my way up (even so I heard bad stuff on Hannibal).
  9. Tony Scello

    Tony Scello Second Unit

    Sep 8, 1999
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    I enjoyed both Red Dragon and Manhunter in their own ways. The story is, of course, the same but they both have a very different look, tone and style. I don't believe that because someone enjoyed Manhunter that they must automatically dislike Red Dragon.

    Thanks for the review Ron. I'll be adding this great looking 2 disc director's edition next to my Manhunter:LE in my collection.
  10. Adam_WM

    Adam_WM Screenwriter

    Oct 25, 2001
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    Thanks, Ron. One of my most anticipated April releases.I can't wait to see some of the special effects and make-up featurettes.

    If I may, it is in my opinion that RED DRAGON is the superior film to Manhunter. Let me rephrase. I have read all three books in the Hannibal Lector series and I have found that RED DRAGON was the most entertaining. I rented Manhunter a few years ago and while it seemed to be a "well-made" film, it wasn't a good movie. It was your typical "BASED ON A NOVEL BY Author X" type movie. Parallels could be drawn to something like the first Jurassic Park where major changes were made in order to tell a better story suited for the screen. IMHO, to be honest, I think Red Dragon might as well have said in the credits, "THIS IS AS CLOSE TO 'RED DRAGON' by Thomas Harris AS A MOVIE CAN COME". Brett Ratner and Ted Tally's RED DRAGON did what MANHUNTER did not. It created the true adaptation of Thomas Harris' original book. If these two movies were made in reverse (i.e. Red Dragon made in the 80s), MANHUNTER would not exist. This new version IS Thomas Harris' vision. I think most fans of the novels will agree with me.

    Disclaimer: This is in no way saying Manhunter is a bad film nor is Ron's review bad nor is this meant to crap on the thread.
  11. nicholas_g

    nicholas_g Stunt Coordinator

    Jan 22, 2003
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    Good review.

    I haven't seen Red Dragon yet but have seen Manhunter recently. I have seen many positve views on Manhunter,I thought it was very over hyped. I prefer Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal.

    There has been speculation that the R2 version will have DTS like the R4 rental vesion.

    I will be getting and looking forward to Red Dragon (which region is undecided).
  12. Ed Moroughan

    Ed Moroughan Second Unit

    Mar 10, 2003
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    Star Lake, NY
    Real Name:
    Edward R. Moroughan
    Hey, my first post [​IMG] Anyway, I'll be adding this to my collection come street date. Great Review.
  13. James T

    James T Screenwriter

    Aug 8, 1999
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    I thought Red Dragon was an okay movie. I liked it better than Manhunter. Maybe I'll rent this disc to check out the special features.

    And welcome to the forum Ed.
  14. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Welcome, Ed! This will be your new home - trust me!

    Thanks for the kind words about the review. That
    goes for everyone!
  15. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

    Oct 31, 1997
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    Thanks for the review Ron! I wasn't a big fan of Manhunter (but was of the book) - gasp! blasphemy, I know! - so I look forward to seeing how this one holds up. I'll prolly buy it sight unseen just to complete the "Hopkins as Lecter" trilogy (since I wasn't a huge fan of the original Lecter - gasp! blasphemy again!). [​IMG]

    Glad to see that the 2 disc set will satisfy the film-geek in me! [​IMG]
  16. Nick Graham

    Nick Graham Screenwriter

    Oct 16, 2001
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    I'll be picking this up. I enjoyed Manhunter, but Fiennes elevates this flick to a level Manhunter can't reach.
  17. Richard Waller

    Richard Waller Second Unit

    Oct 24, 2001
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    Here I thought I was the only one who disliked Manhunter. :b

    I watched Manhunter shortly after reading the Red Dragon novel a few years ago and it just didn't seem like a good adaptation to me. Too much from the novel was left out. After reading the review and other comments in this thread, I am really looking forward to this take on the novel.
  18. Tom_Bechet

    Tom_Bechet Second Unit

    May 20, 2002
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    Thanks for the review Ron.
    I will also wait and see what Unoiversal come up with in the UK, concerning DTS.
    Ron, do you think DTS could be any improvement on the Dolby track?

    BTW I thought Universal wasn't sending out review discs anymore :-?
  19. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Not everyone is receiving Universal screeners. I
    have been fortunate for some reason. Probably has
    to do with the size of this site.

    Would DTS be an improvement? Hard to say, but I
    did notice the Dolby Digital soundtrack had many
    of the wide-open uncompressed characteristics of
    what I hear on a DTS soundtrack. Of course, this
    opens up a can of worms as far as Dolby vs. DTS
    debate goes, so forget I said it. [​IMG]
  20. Opi

    Opi Stunt Coordinator

    Jun 21, 2002
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    @Ronald Epstein
    Great review (as always) - I've enjoyed it very much.
    But I have to disagree with your statement : "There is no convincing artistic reason for Red Dragon to exist"

    I was a big fan of the novel "Red Dragon" (in fact it has the best story of all Thomas Harris books) but never of the movie Manhunter which I found rather boring and not faithful to the book. This new movie captures much more of the essence of Red Dragon. Manhunter with its cold muted blue'ish steal colors is miles away from that class, but thats only my 5 Cent [​IMG]

    Greetings from Germany

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