July 10, 2016

Blu-ray Review: Manhunter (1986)

"The world of Hannibal Lecter, by way of Miami Vice."

(aka Red Dragon.)
Release Date: August 16th, 1986.
Country: USA.
Rating: R.
Written by: Thomas Harris and Michael Mann.
Directed by: Michael Mann.
Starring: William Peterson, Dennis Farina, Tom Noonan, Joan Allen, Kim Greist, Brian Cox, and Stephen Lang.

You're either going to love this movie, or wonder why you wasted two hours watching it. Most of us here at THC grew up on this movie, so we definitely have a sentimental love for it, but we also understand why some people would say "This sucks, where's Anthony Hopkins!" and then dismiss it out of hand.

Different strokes.

Francis Dolarhyde is a Serial Killer who murders families on or near the full moon. He's been nicknamed The Tooth Fairly because he leaves abnormal bite marks on his victim's bodies, but really, he's The Great Red Dragon, because a painting told him so. Also, he's insane.

Will Graham is a former FBI profiler who retired after he nearly died at the hands of the cannibalistic Serial Killer, Hannibal Lecter. He lives on a beautiful, quiet beach with his family, and loves his life... until Jack Crawford comes calling, and asks him to take a look at the case file for The Tooth Fairy. No one can get inside the head of a killer like Graham can, and if he doesn't help catch this son of a bitch, more families are going to die. Of course, he accepts.

Feeling a bit rusty, Will goes to visit his old nemesis in prison; he's hoping that Hannibal will help him get his old instincts back, and maybe even help him out with the case like he did in the old days. Of course things don't go quite as planned, and it's not long before Will Graham is not only racing against time to stop The Tooth Fairy before he kills another family, but to save the lives of his own. And that blind chick. There's also a tiger.

Intense profiling ensues.

Manhunter is not the best "Hannibal Lecter" film (not by a long shot), but it is our favorite of them. There's just something about the way Michael Mann brought everything to life and made it tick that thrills us every time. The way he sets up his action and dramatic moments, and gets every beat perfect, is so ultra slick that it's almost too stylish for its own good, but it's that visual flair that ultimately makes it such a great damn movie. It all feels very much in the vein of Miami Vice, which is appropriate since Mann created that iconic show.

You have to know that this movie is not very heavy in the Hannibal Lecter department. This is Will Graham's story, and to a lesser extent, the Tooth Fairy's, so if you go into this thinking that Hannibal is going to be anything but a minor player, you're going to be disappointed. That's alright though, because Will Graham is so interesting, and William Peterson played him so damn perfectly, that you'll barely notice that Dr. Lecter is in absentia throughout most of this one.

We really loved Hugh Dancy in the Hannibal TV show, but William Peterson is the definitive Will Graham for us. He played the role with equal parts intensity and vulnerability as if it had been written just for him. Dennis Farina (who was still a real life Cop when he shot Manhunter) is his usual excellent self here, and Steven Lang (who plays the creepy old dude in the upcoming Don't Breathe) is delightfully skeevy as Freddy Lounds.

And for our money, Manhunter boasts the best portrayal of a villain in the Hannibal Lecter universe. As good as Ralph Fiennes and Richard Armitage were when they played Francis Dolarhyde, Tom Noonan's portrayal of him here was on some next level, brilliantly creepy shit. He doesn't show up until nearly an hour into the movie, but once he does, it's pretty much his show until the end. He's terrifying.

It's tough watching Brian Cox playing the role of Hannibal Lecter. It's no fault of his own, because he's an excellent actor, but Anthony Hopkins made the role so iconically his with Silence of the Lambs, that it doesn't feel like it's the "same" Hannibal at all. Because it's not.

Then again, Mads Mikkelsen played Hannibal just fine in the TV show, so moot point.

Hopkins or not, this movie could have used a bit more Hannibal in it. That's one of the things that the 2003 remake, Red Dragon, got right; it upped the Hannibal game, because by that point, the series was all about Anthony Hopkins playing the good doctor.

The level of violence and gore in Manhunter is far less than anything else that features Hannibal Lecter, especially the TV show. The bloody crime scene, a slashing, and some gun violence are all we get.


There are so many great lines (and moments) in this movie, that we can't list them all. Here are our faves.

  • "Do you see?"
  • "No. Not Francis. Francis is gone. Francis is gone forever."
  • "It is in your nature to do one thing correctly: Tremble."
  • The entire sequence where Will goes to visit Hannibal is brilliant, especially the "You're insane" exchange.

Scream Factory has done a great job with this 2-Disc set. Visually, the movie has never looked better. There are some instances of digital noise here and there, but for a film that is powered by its visuals, this is a beautiful transfer. *The previous versions of Manhunter that we've owned on disc have always felt darker, and this was the first time that the ending sequence was truly "visible" to us.

As cool as it is to have the Director's Cut included on a separate disc in this set, it's not very visually impressive at all. The film elements that Scream has added into the DC are in rough shape, so if you want to watch the whole cut, you'll have to do so in standard def. The theatrical cut is better anyway, so no big loss.

As far as the Special Features go, this set boasts some great interviews (both old and new) with cast and crew, the best of which is Tom Noonan's 22-minute talk where he recalls what it was like to play Dolarhyde.

Overall, if you love this movie, you absolutely have to own this disc. Just don't expect too much out of the Director's Cut.

If you've never seen Manhunter, you're missing out on one of the best Cop/Serial Killer Thrillers of the 80's, and of all-time. It's an excellent film on its own, but for us, it pairs up perfectly with Silence of the Lambs, and gives the Hannibal TV show some extra context. Or maybe the show gives the movie better context...

Either way, this is an excellent movie, a great disc from Scream Factory, and should be a part of any respectable Horror Blu-ray Collection.


Manhunter is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD.


It's not easy finding high quality pictures of Kim Greist, but we tried!


  1. It's the same transfer as the MGM. Here's proof



  2. To read that we will be able to feast our eyes on a brilliant transfer exites me very much. I loved Manhunter that much which made Red Dragon a bit painful to sit through. I was extremly disappointed about Edward Norton's portrail and people disliked that movie for the wrong reason: Ralph Fiennes was still damned hot with those scars around his mouth and deemed the wrong choice. Actually, I liked his Tooth Fairy and loved the blind woman. But Will Graham and his wife plus their tragedies were wasted on me.
    For Anthony Hopkins, I think he deserved the Awards for Silence of the Lambs but the HYPE was annoying.

    The series Hannibal was great and it's a pity that it had been cancelled.

    1. Agreed on all points. Except the Ralph Feinnes thing. He's not our type :)

      I love Ed Norton, but he was just not Will Graham. Not after Petersen Manhunter.