Under the Radar

DVD Review: Manhunter



Fans of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation may not realize that Gil Grissom was supposed to become a huge movie stars back in the '80s. After a star turn in William Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A. (truly one of the greatest films of that decade), William Petersen next starred in Manhunter, Michael Mann's adaptation of Red Dragon, Thomas Harris' first Hannibal Lector novel. Manhunter has just been released as a single-disk Blu-ray.

Previously available only in a Blu-ray three-pack with Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, the film isn't really served well by comparisons to the popular series starring Anthony Hopkins. Manhunter was made at the height of Mann's Miami Vice success and it plays as more of a crime procedural than the film-school take on horror movies that Jonathan Demme rode to such great success with Silence.

What's interesting is how low-budget the whole thing looks and how much time Petersen's Will Graham time spends talking to himself, dictating crime scene notes into a handheld tape recorder. This stuff is incredibly slow but CSI fans might be interested in watching what now looks like a primitive dry run for the future Gil Grissom.

This film was a flop when it came out and Petersen's career never really regained momentum until his tv series launched in 200o.

Brian Cox is good as Hannibal Lecktor (note the bonus "k") but he can't really compare to Anthony Hopkins in the part. Avatar and Terra Nova's Stephen Lang looks incredibly young in a standout role as a sleazy tabloid reporter who sports a stylish new romantic haircut  and meets a spectacular end in a parking garage. Southerners will appreciate a scene where Atlanta's High Museum appears as a psychiatric prison.

Weirdly, the Anthony Hopkins/Edward Norton remake Red Dragon was showing on cable when I finished watching this DVD and everything looks a million times better with a full budget and it's hard to appreciate anyone besides Hopkins as Lecter.

Miami Vice fans and CSI fans might enjoy this. The transfer looks great but there are exactly zero bonus features on the disk.

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