Manhunter Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Review

Much more than Hannibal Lecktor's first appearance on film. 4 Stars

Michael Mann’s cult thriller Manhunter not only introduced audiences to Hannibal Lecktor (as spelled in this film), but also to the use of FBI forensics and the use of profiling to help identify a suspect. Although initially a box office disappointment, thanks mostly to a bad marketing campaign by the film’s ill-fated studio, Manhunter has garnered much respect and a rather loyal following through cable broadcasts and home video.

Manhunter (1986)
Released: 15 Aug 1986
Rated: R
Runtime: 119 min
Director: Michael Mann
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Cast: William Petersen, Kim Greist, Joan Allen, Brian Cox
Writer(s): Thomas Harris (novel), Michael Mann (screenplay)
Plot: Former FBI profiler Will Graham returns to service to pursue a deranged serial murderer named "the Tooth Fairy" by the media.
IMDB rating: 7.2
MetaScore: 78

Disc Information
Studio: Scream Factory
Distributed By: Shout! Factory
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: R
Run Time: 2 Hr. 0 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: 2-disc Blu-ray keepcase with outer sleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 05/24/2016
MSRP: $34.93

The Production: 4/5

Two seemingly unconnected mass murders have occurred across state lines, the only things in common are that they were committed during a full moon and the suspect left very distinct bite marks on his victims, thus dubbing him the Tooth Fairy. Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina) is heading the FBI’s investigation team, and desperately asks his old friend and fellow FBI investigator Will Graham (William Petersen) to come out of retirement and consult on the case. Graham is best known for catching serial killer Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox) by getting into the killer’s mind, leaving Graham with some deep psychological scars that ultimately forced him to leave the bureau in the first place. But Graham convinces his wife, Molly (Kim Greist), that he’ll only be looking at evidence and offering advice, and won’t be heavily involved in the investigation. That facade ends rather quickly, when after meeting with Atlanta Police and finding the Tooth Fairy’s fingerprints on the victims’ eyeballs, Graham and Crawford run into tabloid journalist Freddy Lounds (Stephen Lang), who stalks Graham and photographs him outside the building where Lecktor is incarcerated, posting the photo on the front page of The Tattler. Graham is using Lecktor to get his old mindset back to find the Tooth Fairy before the next full moon, but Lecktor has a few tricks up his sleeve, as well, secretly playing pen palls with the Tooth Fairy in the personals section of The Tattler, and ultimately placing Graham’s family in danger. Graham and Crawford use Lounds to hopefully lure the Tooth Fairy into a trap by agreeing to be interviewed in The Tattler, a tactic that backfires tragically when Lounds is kidnapped and the audience finally gets to meet the Tooth Fairy, aka Francis Dollarhyde (Tom Noonan). At his job at a film processing plant in St. Louis, Dollarhyde meets Reba McClane (Joan Allen), a young, attractive blind woman that he invites to a veterinary office at the zoo to experience a tiger up close and personal as he’s prepped for oral surgery (a truly mesmerizing, hypnotic, and beautifully photographed scene), and then invites home for dinner. Reba finds him very interesting, and possibly tames the monster inside a the full moon approaches. It all leads to a showdown between Graham and Dollarhyde at Dollarhyde’s secluded suburban home.

Manhunter was adapted from the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, and if any of this sounds vaguely familiar, producer Dino De Laurentiis made the film a second time in 2002, this time using the original title and casting Anthony Hopkins in the role that earned him an Oscar for Silence of the Lambs, with Brett Ratner in the director’s chair (and an all-star cast that included Edward Norton and Ralph Fiennes). Mann’s film is the superior version, with Petersen laying the groundwork for his role as Gil Grissom on CSI, and writer-director Mann placing the main emphasis on Graham and his obsession to stop the monster in his tracks before he kills another innocent family. The film has many of 1980s Mann trademarks, particularly its stylized Miami Vice look and synth-heavy sound (Mann was executive producer of the series). As good as an actor as Ralph Fienes is, Noonan’s performance as Dollarhyde is unforgettablly creepy and horrifying.

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

Manhunter has had a very strange and rocky voyage on home video. It was first released in a horribly framed full-screen transfer on both VHS and Laserdisc by Lorimar Home Video. Mann shot Manhunter in Super35, and in those early full-screen transfers, boom mics are clearly visible in several shots and the framing is sometimes just odd. This was rectified when Warner Home Video, which acquired Lorimar, began re-issuing that back catalog on laserdisc in widescreen, correcting the odd framing and cropping out those pesky boom mics. Mann had also tinkered with the movie several times, creating a “director’s cut” for The Movie Channel, and even NBC aired the movie, re-titling it Red Dragon: The Curse of Hannibal Lecter to cash in on the box office success of Silence of the Lambs.  When DVD arrived, the rights had reverted to StudioCanal, who had licensed their catalog to Anchor Bay, who released the film in two or three different cuts: a so-called theatrical cut (which differed from the Lorimar and Warner releases), a “director’s cut,” and an “ultimate director’s cut.” MGM then released a barebones Blu-ray in 2011.

This all leads to this new Collector’s Edition from Shout! Factory imprint Scream Factory. The 1080p transfer used for the Theatrical Cut appears that it may very well be the same one used on MGM’s barebones release, albeit with a few tweaks in regards to color timing and image cleanup. Colors are consistent and natural, with realistic flesh tones throughout most of the feature, and never appearing oversaturated. Film grain is apparent, and fluctuates throughout dependent on the lighting of each scene, with darker scenes containing more visible grain, although it is never overly distracting. Contrast is quite good, with deep blacks that provide some nice shadow detail. Fine detail is also very good, particularly in facial textures (in Farina’s face, especially). The print does sport some very minor specks of dirt hare and there, but nothing to be overly excited about. There is also some banding issues in the opening sequence that is supposed to be Super 8mm footage shot by the Tooth Fairy as he walks up the stairs to kill the latest family and then transferred to videotape, and is likely intentional. As for the Director’s Cut, see my notes in the Special Features section below.

Audio: 4/5

Shout! Factory has included both 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo mixes in DTS-HD Master Audio for both the Theatrical and HD version of the Director’s Cut. The 5.1 mix has a deeper low end, thanks to a dedicated LFE track, and some discrete surround effects used rather sparingly. Dialogue is clear and understandable, but does sometimes get drowned out by the score. The 2.0 stereo track is more representative of the film’s original Dolby Stereo soundtrack, lending a more balanced mix between dialogue and music, but never quite having that low end oomph found on the 5.1 mix. The Standard Def version of the Director’s Cut has a 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack, encoded at 192 kbps.

Special Features: 4.5/5

Disc One, also labeled as the Theatrical Cut, has all of the newly created bonus material for this release.

The Mind of Madness: Interview with actor William Petersen (1080p; 18:16): Petersen discusses his early experiences with Michael Mann on Thief (he played a bartender), getting cast in the film, his preparation for the role, and working on a Dino De Laurentis production.

Courting a Killer: Interview with actress Joan Allen (1080p; 15:54): The actress discusses working with Michael Mann on only her second film (after Peggy Sue Got Married), her memories of shooting the tiger scene, and her preparation for her role as a blind woman.

Francis is Gone Forever: Interview with actor Tom Noonan (1080p; 22:03): Noonan discusses his career prior to being cast in the film, the decision to cut himself off from the rest of the cast (especially Petersen) to better prepare himself for the role, and shooting his monologue scene with Lounds.

The Eye of the Storm: Interview with Director of Photography Dante Spinotti (1080p: 35:56): The cinematographer discusses working on Manhunter, including many of the stylistic and artistic choices made on the film.

The Music of “Manhunter” (1080p; 42:22): Michel Rubini, Barry Andrews (of Shriekback), Gary Putnam (of The Prime Movers), Rick Shaffer (of The Reds), and Gene Stashuk (of Red 7) discuss their contributions to the film’s score.

The First Lecktor: Interview with Brian Cox (1080p; 40:29): The actor speaks at length about working on the film (and being recommended by Brian Dennehy, who was also up for the role of Lecktor).

Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 2:05)

Still Gallery (1080p; 8:28): A collection of international posters and production stills.

Disc Two, also labeled as the Director’s Cut, contains bonus materials ported over from the previous Anchor Bay DVD releases.

Manhunter: Director’s Cut (1080p*; 124:09): Michael Mann’s “official” director’s cut, taking the 1080p transfer of the theatrical cut and intercut with sequences from the standard definition director’s cut. This additional or alternate footage is of differing quality, ranging from acceptable (likely taken from a 1″ broadcast master) to barely watchable (taken from the director’s own VHS copy). Much of the added footage doesn’t really add anything to the movie, and in some cases disrupts the pacing.

Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Michael Mann: This commentary track accompanies the HD hybrid version of the director’s cut, as Mann discusses various locations used in the film, some of the research he completed while writing the screenplay, making a film on a tight schedule and budget, and other various issues he had with the production. Mann also notes that, due to the studio’s bankruptcy, many of the original trims used in the director’s cut have been lost forever.

Manhunter: Director’s Cut (480i; 124:09): The director’s cut as it appeared on the previous Anchor Bay release, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

The Manhunter Look: A Conversation with Cinematographer Dante Spinotti (upscaled 1080i; 10:04): An archival interview from the Anchor Bay DVD.

Inside Manhunter (upscaled 1080i; 17:17): An archival documentary from the Anchor Bay DVD, featuring interviews with William Petersen, Joan Allen, Tom Noonan, and Brian Cox.

Reversible Cover Insert: Choose between Scream! Factory’s new artwork, or the film’s original movie poster.

Overall: 4/5

For fans who have been holding on to their Anchor Bay DVDs of Manhunter, this new release essentially replaces those discs by porting over those special features, plus adds new interviews and a look at the creation of the music score. This is likely about as close as we will get to a definitive edition.

Published by

Todd Erwin

author,editor

16 Comments

  1. Thanks for the review, Todd! I haven't had a chance to watch it yet but it sounds good (even with the director's cut being at the mercy of SD) and it looks like Scream Factory was lucky enough to score some pretty big names for interviews.

  2. I had just moved to Los Angeles when this film was released and ended up being gifted a giant wall sized poster for the film that is made of some sort of plastic material that looks a lot like celluloid. I believe it was meant to be mounted in a huge light box in a big theater…so that it had light shining through it from behind. I did have it mounted on a wall, it took up the entire wall, in the house I was renting in LA but now it is rolled up and stored in a big cardboard tube in my attic. My friends and I went to see this film several times in the theater, we all loved it, and I watched the film many times over the years. I have never really kept track of all the changes in the different versions but I know the "Director's Cut" has that additional ending tacked on to it which personally I felt was better left out of the film. However, there is one sequence that I know appears in some versions and not in others and that is a brief dialogue exchange between Will Graham and Jack Crawford where Crawford says in reference to the killer  "You really feel for this guy?" and Graham says something along the lines of "As a child my heart bleeds for him. Somebody took that kid and turned him into a monster. As an adult I want to blow him out of his fucking socks."I liked this sequence because I felt it both illuminated Graham's relationship with Crawford and also his relationship and connection to the serial killer and deepens our understanding of the killer as well. It's been a while now since I have seen the film and I don't recall if this is in the theatrical cut or if this was an addition to one of the later cuts of the film. I feel like I saw this sequence in the theater so I think it was in the theatrical cut. Anybody watch this new blu-ray and know if this appears in either or both of the cuts of the film? This is the one sequence of the additions or subtractions over the years that I always felt belonged in the film. I have the new blu-ray but have house guests coming for the long weekend and so won't be doing much movie watching while they are here. So, I won't be able to check this out until sometime next week.

  3. "There is also some banding issues in the opening sequence that is supposed to be Super 8mm footage shot by the Tooth Fairy as he walks up the stairs to kill the latest family and then transferred to videotape, and is likely intentional."  This footage appears pristine in the weird hybrid cut that Anchor Bay released as the "theatrical cut" (incidentally, this is the cut of the film that streams in "HD" on Amazon and other places), but has always looked very rough in other versions.  I'm assuming Mann did indeed intentionally downgrade the footage to make it look more like a home movie for the final film, possibly by transferring it to SD-video then back to film, hence the banding.It's also very odd that the dialogue referenced by Reggie W. has been removed from the Director's Cut, because Mann discusses this dialogue in his commentary and how important it is!  He also specifically discussed this dialogue during the Q&A he did at BAM in Brooklyn some months back.  If this dialogue is so dear to him that he talks about it whenever he discusses MANHUNGER, why on Earth did he remove it from his director's cut?Vincent

  4. I gotta wonder. Ever since the deleted scenes from Blue Velvet (another film whose assets got trashed by DEG allegedly) turned up, is it possible that a better source for Mann's DC might still be out there?

    Guess we'll never know.

  5. I can verify it's in the theatrical cut but NOT the director's cut.

    I had just moved to Los Angeles when this film was released and ended up being gifted a giant wall sized poster for the film that is made of some sort of plastic material that looks a lot like celluloid. I believe it was meant to be mounted in a huge light box in a big theater…so that it had light shining through it from behind. I did have it mounted on a wall, it took up the entire wall, in the house I was renting in LA but now it is rolled up and stored in a big cardboard tube in my attic. My friends and I went to see this film several times in the theater, we all loved it, and I watched the film many times over the years. I have never really kept track of all the changes in the different versions but I know the "Director's Cut" has that additional ending tacked on to it which personally I felt was better left out of the film.

    However, there is one sequence that I know appears in some versions and not in others and that is a brief dialogue exchange between Will Graham and Jack Crawford where Crawford says in reference to the killer  "You really feel for this guy?" and Graham says something along the lines of "As a child my heart bleeds for him. Somebody took that kid and turned him into a monster. As an adult I want to blow him out of his fucking socks."

    I liked this sequence because I felt it both illuminated Graham's relationship with Crawford and also his relationship and connection to the serial killer and deepens our understanding of the killer as well. It's been a while now since I have seen the film and I don't recall if this is in the theatrical cut or if this was an addition to one of the later cuts of the film. I feel like I saw this sequence in the theater so I think it was in the theatrical cut. Anybody watch this new blu-ray and know if this appears in either or both of the cuts of the film? This is the one sequence of the additions or subtractions over the years that I always felt belonged in the film.

    I have the new blu-ray but have house guests coming for the long weekend and so won't be doing much movie watching while they are here. So, I won't be able to check this out until sometime next week.

  6. Thanks for the review, Todd! I haven't had a chance to watch it yet but it sounds good (even with the director's cut being at the mercy of SD) and I'm impressed that Scream Factory was able to get some pretty big names for interviews.

    I thought the disc had the director's cut in both HD and SD.

  7. This is still my favourite adaptation of Thomas Harris' Red Dragon, and my favourite portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. I didn't care for the Edward Norton version, and while Hopkins is solid as Lecter, the level of menace is just that much higher with Brian Cox as the "good" doctor. Mads Mikkelsen was great for the series, but Hannibal (the series) sometimes suffers from drawing things out to the breaking point. When it was working from original material featuring Harris' characters, it was great, but when it began adapting both Red Dragon and elements of Hannibal, I just wanted them to move along with it and not linger over every detail. House of Cards is also guilty of this; the UK series is far superior in every way.

  8. I just noticed I have four different DVD releases of this film.  Is there any reason why I should keep any of them in my film library with this new BD release?

    For some reason I can't recollect I purchase two different DVD releases from 01-30-01.  One is the Limited Edition with the Theatrical and Director's cut.  The second DVD release from 01-30-01, with just the Theatrical cut.

    Next, I bought another DVD release from 07-15-03, which featured a Restored Director's Cut.

    The fourth DVD release I bought was released on 01-30-07, with the Theatrical Cut.  Why I bought this release is bugging the hell out of me.  Perhaps there were reports about improved PQ.

  9. I just noticed I have four different DVD releases of this film.  Is there any reason why I should keep any of them in my film library with this new BD release?

    For some reason I can't recollect I purchase two different DVD releases from 01-30-01.  One is the Limited Edition with the Theatrical and Director's cut.  The second DVD release from 01-30-01, with just the Theatrical cut.

    Next, I bought another DVD release from 07-15-03, which featured a Restored Director's Cut.

    The fourth DVD release I bought was released on 01-30-07, with the Theatrical Cut.  Why I bought this release is bugging the hell out of me.  Perhaps there were reports about improved PQ.Since Michael Mann likes to tinker with his movies on video, this is kind of complicated. I have the Limited Edition with the theatrical cut and the director's cut (from 01/30/01) and I have the Restored Director's Cut disc (from 07/15/03). And knowing Anchor Bay, I feel very safe in assuming that the Theatrical Cut disc (also from 01/30/01) is the same disc as the one in the LE set but since I don't have it, I can't state that as a fact. I don't have the 2007 release so I can't comment on that.

    Comparing the two DVD releases that I have to this Blu-ray, the Limited Edition DVD (with the director's cut and theatrical cut- from 01/30/01) says it's the theatrical cut but it is not exactly the theatrical version as it has some revisions to the movie. Check out the alternate versions on the IMDB for more details on that. The Limited Edition's theatrical cut (from 01/30/01) runs 2:01:38 but the theatrical cut on this Blu-ray runs 2:00:04. My understanding is that this Blu-ray presents the actual theatrical cut of the movie while the LE is just an alternate version of the theatrical cut.

    The Restored Director's Cut (from 07/15/03) is the same as the director's cut that is presented on this Blu-ray. However, they don't port over all the photo galleries and the DVD-ROM content (with the screenplay) from that disc if that's important to you.

    In short, this new Blu-ray does not contain the 'alternate' theatrical cut of the movie that was on the LE (01/30/01) and some minor special feature content from the Restored Director's Cut disc (07/15/03) didn't make the Blu-ray either.

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