Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scream Factory - MANHUNTER on Blu-ray ""

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Scream Factory - MANHUNTER on Blu-ray

MANHUNTER (1986; Michael Mann)
Michael Mann's movies are often dripping with stylish shots. He and director of photography Dante Spinotti can bathe a room in blue light like nobody's business. They are one of the better director/cinematographer duos out there and they've bright some gorgeous images to cinema (and MANHUNTER was their inaugural collaboration). I think my favorite from them is still THE INSIDER (which has gotten to be less talked about these days, despite its brilliance). MANHUNTER is a great movie though and it not only  acts as a perfect predecessor to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, it also shows the kind of razor sharp filmmaking that Mann is capable of. It is, at its core, a police procedural, but one that finds its main character having to go to some very dark places to help him figure out what's going on inside the killer's head.
The movie puts a lot of weigh on the Will Graham character's shoulders and William Petersen really delivers. He gives a complex performance and illustrates the duality of personality that he is battling with as he sinks deeper and deeper into the case of the terrifying serial killer who has been nicknamed "Tooth Fairy". Said serial killer is played by Tom Noonan, who is one of my favorite character actors out there. He had made a few films prior to this, but MANHUNTER truly helped establish him and his acting talent. He is really understated and scary as Mr. Dollarhyde (aka The Tooth Fairy - who gets that nickname for leaving bite marks on his victims). Noonan is an interesting contraction in that he is extremely tall (close to 6 foot 6" or so), but speaks in a quiet and gentle voice most of the time. He is often calm just before he explodes into violence moments later on several occasions throughout the film. This makes the viewer extremely uneasy any time he is on screen. When he befriends a blind woman (played by Joan Allen), it becomes increasingly more tense as they get to know each other. Noonan has a face that is haunting somehow and when he puts on that stocking mask, he creates one of the more indelible serial killer images in movies.
The other standout  actor in the film is Brian Cox. He does a delightful job as cinema's first Hannibal Lecktor. He's not quite Anthony Hopkins exactly, but his take on the character is quite eerie and potent. It's different enough to be iconic it its own way. Simple things, like the way he kicks his feet up on the wall of his cell when he is talking to Will Graham on the phone pointedly exhibits his comfortability in his own psychopathic skin. Without ever going over the top (as Hopkins does a bit in SILENCE), Cox displays the immense intellect and intimidation that Lecktor carries with him each time he interacts with another person. I think Wes Anderson may have cast Cox in RUSHMORE based on his turn MANHUNTER, and that makes good sense when you see what he is capable of. 
I will say this - for a thirty year old thriller, this movie still creeps me out enough to make me want to double check that  all  the doors and windows in the house are locked before I go to sleep. This is a credit to the filmmaking of Michael Mann and how he slowly builds the tension throughout the movie, while maintaining an air of creepiness from end to end. His style is sometimes flashy, but never took me out of the story and mostly just made me marvel at the craftsmanship and the thought that he seemed to put into each and every shot of the film. He uses light, angles and architecture to create an overall mood that serves the movie well. There are at least a couple compositions that will likely make you say "wow", quietly to yourself as you are watching. What's neat about MANHUNTER is that- as cold as it can be - it is still very much grounded in human emotion. I would say that this element never leaves Mann's films, but I found it to be quite prevalent here. It's really about people trying to connect with each other and I liked that about it.
Special Features:
Scream Factory has done a solid job of assembling a pretty definitive edition of this fan favorite. The set includes both the Theatrical Cut (on disc 1) and the Director’s Cut (in HD With Standard Definition Inserts on disc 2) as well as a host of extra features (a lot of them new to this edition). The HD transfers look good, but I was not able to to an A-B comparison between this disc and the old MGM Blu-ray, so I cannot speak to any differences between the two. That said, the movie looks good (though it takes some getting used to seeing the SD material cut in in the Director's cut) and the supplements are quite nice:

-"The Mind Of Madness"– A New Interview With William Petersen.
-"Courting A Killer" – A New interview With Actress Joan Allen.
-"Francis Is Gone Forever" – A New Interview With Actor Tom Noonan.
-"The First Lecktor" – A New Interview With Actor Brian Cox.
-"The Eye Of The Storm" – A New Interview With Director Of Photography Dante Spinotti.
-"The Music Of MANHUNTER" – Including Interviews With Composer Michel Rubini, Barry Andrews (Shriekback), Gary Putman (The Prime Movers), Rick Shaffer (The Reds) And Gene Stashuk (Red 7).

-Audio Commentary By Writer/Director Michael Mann on the Director's Cut of the Film.
-"The Manhunter Look" - A Conversation With Cinematographer Dante Spinotti.
-"Inside Manhunter" With Stars William Petersen, Joan Allen, Brian Cox And Tom Noonan.

MANHUNTER can be purchased on Blu-ray here:


C Chaka said...

I always thought Brian Cox's Lecktor was a bit more chilling than Hopkins' Lecter. Hopkins was brilliant, but his Lecter had an air of menace and danger about him. Cox played him like someone you would never suspect was a monster, until he turned on you.

beamish13 said...

I love how Kim Greist is too busy with her thriving career to have consented to an interview. I saw Tom Noonan at a screening of his directorial debut What Happened Was... My god, what a fantastic film! He owns the rights to it and has practically begged Criterion to release it on DVD.

Rupert Pupkin said...

I love WHAT HAPPENED WAS... I really hope Criterion comes around!