The Hannibal Lecter Collection (1986) [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Action / Crime / Drama / Horror / Thriller
MGM || R - 369 minutes - $69.98 || September 15, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-10-04


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

B L U - R A Y
.:: EXCLUSIVES ::.

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Michael Mann, Jonathan Demme, Ridley Scott
Writer(s): Thomas Harris (novels); Manhunter: Michael Mann (screenplay); Silence of the Lambs: Ted Tally (screenplay); Hannibal: David Mamet and Steven Zaillian (screenplay)
Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, William Petersen, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Dennis Farina, Giancarlo Giannini, Ray Liotta, Gary Oldman


Theatrical Release Date: NA


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Documentaries
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Outtakes
  • Trailers


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Widescreen
  • English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

Over the now 23 years since Manhunter, Hannibal Lecter has been seen on screen 5 times, unfortunately since there are 3 studios involved (MGM, Universal, The Weinstein Company), we will never see a complete, and true, “Hannibal Lecter Collection” spawning from his childhood (Hannibal Rising) through his later years facing off with his Starling (Hannibal). So, this is going to have to be the next best thing...

MANHUNTER (1986) — **** / *****

Michael Mann’s Manhunter is a bit of a conundrum for me... and has always been since I last saw several years ago. On the one hand, I like the quiet suspense but utter creepiness of the film. There’s not much in the way of gore — just the aftermath of the gruesome crimes in fact — yet it still made me uneasy especially with the opening shot in which the killer, Francis Dollarhyde (Tom Noonan), is watching the homeowners sleeping in their bedroom when the wife wakes up, sees him when it was too late. We don’t see the actual crime but seeing the crime photos and the outcome is just as effective, perhaps even more so.

The film centers on FBI Agent Will Graham (William Petersen) who is still trying to get over a brutal attack by one Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox). Not shown on screen – which is the one drawback I have and a reason I do prefer Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon over this version –, when Graham discovered Lecktor had been killing college girls, Lecktor attacked him, sending Graham to the hospital in critical condition, though in the process, he did manage to still get Hannibal locked up.

Now Graham must face Lecktor as Dollarhyde, dubbed “The Tooth Fairy”, has killed two families and shows no signs of stopping as he evolves into something more, at least in his sick fantasy. Graham follows the clues while Dollarhyde falls for the beautiful and blind (i.e. non-judgmental) Reba McClane (Joan Allen) and Lecktor helps him out by providing information/tips including Graham’s home phone number and address which Lecktor ingeniously obtained.

I’m of two minds with Manhunter. Given it was filmed in the mid-80s, you’re going to have the typical neon colors and hideous wardrobes, two things that are hard to avoid but will set aside. Strictly looking at this film and not comparing it to the “remake” or its better known, Oscar-winning sequel, I thought this was a well made, toughly suspenseful film. It had some issues with the editing during the climatic sequence (mainly jump cuts) and while I guess it could’ve been a stylistic choice on Mann’s part, it was a little jarring.

Editing aside, the performances are strong especially from one of my personal favorite actors, the underutilized William Petersen (mainly in motion pictures), while Dennis Farina, Joan Allen and Tom Noonan all were excellent. Again, not to compare this with Silence of the Lambs, but Brian Cox gives a nice understated performance as Hannibal Lecktor, a far cry from Anthony Hopkins. Some find Cox’s interpretation to be superior to Hopkins’s campiness but I see both actors doing fine interpretations in their own way and interpretations that fit in nicely with the tone of the respective films. In his own right, Cox manages to be menacing but not over the top, a performance that I have grown to respect over the years.

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) — ***** / *****

After the failure of Manhunter, producer Dino De Laurentis had no interest in making The Silence of the Lambs and so gave the rights away to Orion Pictures... for free! I know there is some debate amongst fans about which film is better: Silence or Manhunter. Personally, I found this one to be 20 times better but that is not to take anything away from Manhunter, which was in itself a good, if not significantly different, thriller.

Where ever you place this movie as the first of Hopkins’s Hannibal Lecter movies or a sequel that merely recast the characters, there is no doubt The Silence of the Lambs is one of the best suspense thrillers of the 20th century... yes, right there with some Hitchcock’s greatest like Psycho and Rear Window. Hell, there have been many thrillers released in the past few years that do not hold a candle to this Jonathan Demme classic.

In this entry, FBI cadet Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is enlisted by FBI agent Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) to interview Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) about his knowledge of the serial killer nicknamed “Buffalo Bill” (Ted Levine), although she is kept in the dark about this purpose and is only there to build a rapport since Lecter refuses to speak with anyone else at the FBI.

Through desperation to catch the killer and an odd attraction with Lecter, Agent Starling tries to fit the puzzle pieces together before Buffalo Bill kills his latest victim: the daughter of a United States Senator. This leads to one of the most suspenseful finales I probably ever seen and all without the use of an overbearing score (Howard Shore does a great job throughout the rest of the film, although I can’t say it’s all that memorable, but still effective with the film’s dark tone).

The Silence of the Lambs is primarily remembered because of Anthony Hopkins’s Oscar winning performance and while indeed it is one of the reasons for the film’s longevity over the 18 years since its release, the film as a whole just works and unlike other Oscar winning Best Pictures, is one that not many would want to take away (see: Shakespeare in Love or Crash).

No doubt about it, this is a modern classic almost in the vein of Hitchcock with a much darker tone with shocking images but replaces massive amounts of gore with an uncomfortable vibe of Jonathan Demme’s direction as he would often put the audience in the character’s point of view; meaning, while Starling is interviewing Hannibal, Hannibal is looking right at us, and it is oh so creepy... and that’s before he says a word.

HANNIBAL (2001) — **¾ / *****

The long awaited return, after 10 years, of Hannibal Lecter came to fruition with Ridley Scott’s psychopath character study, Hannibal. There’s a good reason this was not called The Silence of the Lambs 2. Yes, you’ve got the same characters (more on the actor’s in a bit) but the stories and even tone are completely different, and in my opinion, for the worse.

This outing finds FBI Agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) heading a task force to arrest a drug dealer but the situation goes awry – despite trying to call if off – after a local detective tries to take down the dealer and in the process an ATF agent is killed along with five drug dealers. This includes the target with a baby strapped to her chest and under a hail of gunfire, Starling takes down the subject but saving the baby... however, she also receives bad press from it.

At the same time Lecter’s fourth victim, Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), has been buying up Hannibal memorabilia from Barney, the guard at Lecter’s old and now closed prison, and has revenge on his mind for the man who made him carve off his own face and feed it to dogs. Through a tip by zealous and greedy Italian Inspector Renaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Gianni), Verger learns that Lecter has been living in Rome and lures him back to the States after Lecter learns (though he always knew) of Pazzi’s betrayal, by getting Starling on suspension for withholding evidence planted by Justice Department hack and ex-boyfriend Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta).

Hannibal actually isn’t a bad movie in fact Ridley Scott presents a dark atmosphere so nothing really wrong with his direction. The problem lies with the screenplay, based on Thomas Harris’s novel, by David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross) and Steven Zaillian (American Gangster). Obviously both individuals are talented enough, though Mamet had to give up his trademark dialogue, but the story itself just was not that interesting.

First, you have Hannibal Lecter out in the open and while he is cunning and extremely dangerous, I never really felt the threat like I did in Silence of the Lambs, caged but still deadly. Then you have the unusual relationship dynamic between Hannibal and Clarice. This might’ve worked if only Jodie Foster had come back but instead we get the capable Julianne Moore, but she never was convincing as Starling. She tries to keep the Southern accent but even that didn’t work combined with her own problems within the FBI. So, it’s not Moore’s fault but I don’t think she was the right choice to take over the role.

Overall, aesthetically Hannibal isn’t too bad of a movie to look at, but the story unfortunately never quite gels up through a finale that was more gross and disgusting rather than shocking. If there was one reason to see this film, it would be for Anthony Hopkins. Yes, the character isn’t as effective as he was in Silence (or Red Dragon for that matter), but seeing Hopkins back in action with this character after 10 years, it was cool to watch.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

MANHUNTER — 0 / *****
HANNIBAL — ½* / *****

Well, both Manhunter and Hannibal come with zero extras pertaining to the actual movies (the one does have trailers for other MGM titles). I can understand why Manhunter may be empty as those extras belong to Anchor Bay, but Hannibal had some decent extras, why not port them over?

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS — ****¼ / *****

Most everything (side from a photo gallery) from MGM’s release earlier this year are on the disc. Breaking the Silence is a PiP feature – along with pop-up/slide-in trivia track – where the cast (Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, etc.) and crew talk about the making of Silence of the Lambs. It begins with Foster discussing the script and her character.

Understanding the Madness (19:35) – A featurette focusing on profiling, the Behavioral Science Services unit at the FBI. While we get technical info from experts (retired agents) in the fields of psychopaths or other disorders, once in a while we get PiP footage from the movie that concerns what they are talking about.

Inside the Labyrinth: Making of The Silence of the Lambs (66:28) – This is an expansive making-of featurette made in 2001 but still is worthwhile for those interested in the film. It features interviews with many members of the cast, crew and critics talking about the script, filming and other aspects of the production. Auspiciously missing, however, is Jodie Foster (outside of archive interview footage).

I decided to group the last few documentaries as each aren’t all that interesting but you do glean some info about the production: The Silence of the Lambs: Page to Screen (41:17), Scoring the Silence (16:00) and the Original 1991 “Making Of” Featurette (8:07). Page to Screen, hosted by Peter Gallagher, is probably the best one of these.

Next up are 22 deleted scenes (20:29) which aren’t that great but certainly make you appreciate the video transfer job they’ve done with the film; some outtakes (1:46) which includes a funny impersonation of Sylvester Stallone by Hopkins; Anthony Hopkins Phone Message; and lastly some promotional material such as TV Spots, the Theatrical Trailer and Teaser Trailer.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

VIDEO
MANHUNTER — **** / *****
Given the film’s age, Manhunter doesn’t look too bad in 1080p high-definition (on a 50GB Dual Layered Blu-ray Disc). The movie is presented with a 2.35 aspect ratio and all in all, the film looks like, well, film. There is a good amount of film grain but I thought the picture was well defined with some nice detail level throughout. Mann’s use of neon yellows and pinks (i.e. “Miami Vice” kind of look) allows the picture to pop a little more and thus makes it a solid addition to one’s Blu-ray collection.

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS — ***¾ / *****
Silence of the Lambs is presented with its original 1.85 aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer (on a 50GB Dual Layered Blu-ray Disc). Although it’s not an amazing looking picture, it doesn’t look too bad either. Again, there is a certain amount of graininess throughout the entire film and black levels are not at its best. That being said, for the film’s age, it is still an impressive transfer and probably the best yet.

HANNIBAL — **½ / *****
The movie is presented with a 1.85 aspect ratio and a 1080p high-def transfer (on a 25GB Single Layered Blu-ray Disc). This transfer looks the worst of the bunch as the picture is very soft all through the film; there is very little in the way of details and there is still some graininess. The best I can say for the transfer is that black levels do look good but everything else is just plain bad.

AUDIO
Note: All three movies come with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 in French and Spanish.

MANHUNTER — ***¾ / *****
The movie is of course 20+ years old and all around, it’s are not too bad of a track. As with the video presentation, the audio isn’t going to blow you away but it’s certainly still pretty good. Dialogue was probably the weaker aspect as it was inconsistent. Some scenes it sounded crisp and clear while others quite heavy and louder than others even in the same scene. I chalk this up to inadequate sound design rather than a poor audio transfer.

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS — **** / *****
This track is a tad better as dialogue is more consistent while Howard Shore’s score gives the appropriate ambience without being overbearing. There’s not a whole lot of action scenes to really give the track a good workout but overall, it’s a good track highlighted by not only the dialogue but the blood-curdling screams (be it from the victims or psychopaths in with Lecter.

HANNIBAL — ****¼ / *****
The strong audio track of the bunch, Hannibal does sound better and a little richer as there is more to test. First you have a quiet opening sequence with Verger and Barney before going into a semi-chaotic and jarring opening credit and finally Starling’s (re)introduction in an action sequence as she and her team try to arrest a drug dealer. Each channel gets a good amount of use such as when Lecter is in Rome, you can hear ambient noise quite well.



.::OVERALL::.

As much as I love The Silence of the Lambs and appreciate the work Michael Mann did on Manhunter, I have a hard time recommending this set. It’s not because of Hannibal as the film has as many fans as detractors, but instead I can’t recommend it due first the lack of extras and secondly an average to poor video transfer of Hannibal. If you can grab this at a decent price, then by all means, it might be worthwhile.