Monday 26 September 2011

Blu-ray review: Manhunter

Maybe it’s because I saw Manhunter first (at the cinema, on its initial theatrical release) that I prefer it to Jonathan Demme’s The Silence Of The Lambs, as well as consider Brian Cox’s sublime and scary interpretation of Hannibal Lector (misspelled Lecktor in the Manhunter credits) superior to Anthony Hopkins’ Oscar-winning portrayal.

Released in 1986, Michael Mann’s stylishly haunting adaptation of Thomas Harris’ second novel, Red Dragon, Manhunter revolves around retired FBI profiler Will Graham (William Petersen, years and a beard away from CSI fame) brought back into the game, following a life-threatening injury, to help track down a serial killer dubbed the Tooth Fairy, who’s already slaughtered two families by entering their homes at night and who, investigators believe, is operating on a lunar cycle.

Initially reluctant to put himself at risk again, Graham eventually relents and visits the former psychiatrist turned sociopath, Dr Hannibal Lecktor (Cox), who almost killed him to get what Graham calls “the scent back” in order to hunt down the film’s “main” villain, as played by Tom Noohan. Alas, despite his best efforts, and thanks in no small part of Lecktor’s intervention, Graham is pulled into a maelstrom of violence that puts both his own life and that of his family in jeopardy.

Cox’s Lecktor has even less screen time than Hopkins’ first outing but he makes every second count. Whereas Hopkins’ Hannibal was almost a pantomime villain, a gibbering Grand Guignol cannibal locked away in a dank, dark prison cell in a dank, dark basement prone to lip smacking theatrics, Cox’s subtle, insidious portrayal is a marvel of understatement and all the more chilling for it. In fact, locked in a sterile, all-white room, wearing a white jumpsuit, Cox’s Lecktor doesn’t appear mad when we first lay eyes on him, and it’s only slowly revealed during the following exchange Graham quite how dangerous he is.

Graham: I know that I’m not smarter than you.

Lecktor: Then how did you catch me?

Graham: You had disadvantages.

Lecktor: What disadvantages?

Graham: You’re insane.

The scene is enhanced ever further by Mann’s skilfully framing. He shoots the cell bars between Graham and Lecktor so that as he cuts between the two men, the bars line up exactly.

This Blu-ray release is a joy, spectacularly reproducing both Dante Spinotti’s stunning, colour-coded cinematography with its rich blacks, hot blues and vibrant greens and the film’s hypnotic, synthesized score which has since gone both out and back into fashion. The release also contains Mann’s later director’s cut and while the transfer is better than that included in Anchor Bay’s DVD limited edition release, the picture quality doesn’t compare to that of the theatrical version. Still, it’s well worth watching, as there are some subtle and not so subtle changes throughout, with Mann’s tinkering leading to the reordering of certain scenes, as well as the inclusion of several entirely new sequences. It’s also the version that includes a Mann commentary track. For a more through examination of the differences click here.

Given the relative failure of Manhunter on its original release, producer Dino DeLaurentis reputedly allowed the film rights to Harris’s literary sequel, The Silence Of The Lambs, to be sold to another party. Several years later, having missed out on the Silence success, DeLaurentis tried to make amends by remaking Manhunter under its original title, with Hopkins back as Lecter under the direction of Brett Ratner. The result reworked the same material into a mostly lifeless and visually inert movie devoid of the flair, energy and power Mann brought to Harris’ novel. An essential purchase.

Special Features:

• Director’s Cut
• Director’s Cut Commentary
• Inside Manhunter featurette
• The Manhunter Look featurette
• Theatrical Trailer

Thursday 22 September 2011

Dark Shadows cast photo

Entertainment Weekly has the exclusive first look at the cast of Dark Shadows.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

The Thing red band trailer

When I saw John Carpenter's The Thing for the first time I was a mere slip of a boy, managing to sneak into X (now 18) films with my mate Frank who looked far older than I did. I knew little about The Thing beyond it was a remake of an old black and white horror/science fiction movie which I'd seen on TV and was directed by the guy who'd made Halloween, The Fog, Dark Star, Escape From New York and Assault On Precinct 13 and who I was a massive fan of at the time. This was in the pre-internet days when my film info came mainly from the pages of Starburst and Starlog magazines. Pretty much all the pre-publicity I'd seen for The Thing amounted to a small black-and-white photo of Kurt Russell with an icy beard. That was it. I mean, I knew Rob Bottin has done the creature effects, but I didn't have a clue what was in store for me. Maybe Kurt Russell was the monster?

Settling down to see The Thing in a packed cinema on opening night, the film began with a spaceship heading towards earth, followed by the cool title sequence, and then a Husky racing across the ice pursued by a helicopter, accompanied by Ennio Morricone's pulsing electronic score.

"Was that the thing?" the audience began whispering.

Boy, were we wrong.

I mention this only because the red band trailer for The Thing prequel has gone online and, as is the form with trailers nowadays, it shows EVERYTHING. Creature shots, transforming characters, the lot. I gave up after 20 seconds, fearing every surprise being spoiled for me.

Watch it if you want here. I'll wait for the movie.

Saturday 17 September 2011

[REC]3 teaser

You may remember I was a big fan of [REC], although I was less keen on its sequel. This, however, looks it might get the series back on track...

Friday 16 September 2011

I've been watching...

Manhunter (1986)

Batman Returns (1992)

Thursday 15 September 2011

Mouth Taped Shut

For those, like me, eagerly awaiting David Fincher's upcoming adaptation of Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, may I direct you to a cool Tumblr blog that has, thus far, posted some intriguing behind-the-scenes photos and videos from the production. At the moment it's all tease, tease, tease. But expect more substantial goodies as the December release date draws near.

Check it out at

The Awakening trailer

I love a good ghost story and I love the spooky vibe emanating from this trailer. Great cast. too.

Tinker Tailor Q&A

Had the pleasure of hosting a Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Q&A at the BFI Southbank last night and sharing the stage with the very talented quartet of Gary Oldman, John Hurt, director Tomas Alfredson and screenwriter Peter Straughan. Seemed to go well.

We Bought A Zoo trailer

It's been a while, but Cameron Crowe's back. We get his Pearl Jam doc, PJ20, later this month and this adaptation of Benjamin Mee's non-fiction book in late December.