Hannibal Lecter is back. Both of him. As a reminder to viewers who insist that only Anthony Hopkins could play the suave and savage madman, Anchor Bay Entertainment has released "Manhunter" on DVD in a limited-edition, two-disc set, timed to coincide with the "Hannibal" hype. In Michael Mann's stylish 1986 thriller, Brian Cox appears as the original Lecter, who is seen here in a supporting role.
Hannibal Lecter is back. Both of him. As a reminder to viewers who insist that only Anthony Hopkins could play the suave and savage madman, Anchor Bay Entertainment has released “Manhunter” on DVD in a limited-edition, two-disc set, timed to coincide with the “Hannibal” hype. In Michael Mann’s stylish 1986 thriller based on Thomas Harris’ “Red Dragon,” Brian Cox appears as the original Lecter, who is seen here in a supporting role.The “Manhunter” set is enhanced for 16×9 televisions and contains both the theatrical and director’s versions (each is available separately on VHS). Its collector’s booklet (photos and a short history of the film) is cleverly wrapped in a fake police folder, complete with scribbled names and faux case details. Released in August 1986, “Manhunter” grossed only $8.6 million domestically. But it has become a homevid favorite, due in large part to Mann’s career trajectory and the success of the 1991 “The Silence of the Lambs.” With a style that compares to the helmer’s work at the time on “Miami Vice” (as director and exec producer), “Manhunter” is as much about forensics and technique as it is a basic mystery in which an FBI agent (William Petersen) pursues a serial killer (Tom Noonan). While DVD aficionadoes will appreciate the attention paid to the overall packaging, they certainly will miss the one thing this “Manhunter” doesn’t have: Mann himself. Usually a given on every DVD title — from insignificant comedies to classics — a director’s running commentary has become an expected extra. But Mann is AWOL here, instead letting a director’s cut — on a separate disc — stand in for his analysis. Both cuts are presented in widescreen format (2.35:1). Mann’s “certified” cut is longer by only a few minutes and contains nothing integral. Some scenes — cops on patrol, investigation site sequences — are extended by a few frames, but without his remarks to explain the inclusion, their existence ultimately is uninteresting. The biggest problem with the director’s version, however, is the rough transfer, which contains a poor sound mix. It’s bound to throw some viewers off who are expecting something more polished. One of the DVD’s two documentaries, “The Manhunter Look,” addresses the “process” in a 10-minute interview with d.p. Dante Spinotti. Having worked with Mann several times since ’86 (“The Last of the Mohicans,” “Heat,” “The Insider”), the vet cinematographer recounts his challenges working for a new director and explains many of his shot selections, night filming and the minimalist prison cell set. The DVD’s other docu is a traditional “making-of” short with interviews of the stars, including Petersen, Cox, Noonan and Joan Allen. Most interesting bits are the list of thesps who also were up for Lecter — Brian Dennehy, Mandy Patinkin and John Lithgow read for Mann — and Noonan’s insistence that nobody could talk to him during the shoot because he wanted to stay within his “creepy killer” mode at all times.