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Worth a Look
2.5 stars
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Overall Grade
2.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3 Stars
Supplements
1 Stars
High-Def Extras
0.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Worth a Look

The Hannibal Lecter Collection

Street Date:
September 15th, 2009
Reviewed by:
Nate Boss
Review Date: 1
October 26th, 2009
Movie Release Year:
1986
Studio:
MGM/UA
Length:
369 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Manhunter

There was a Hannibal Lecter before Anthony Hopkins took on the role, earning awards as one of the greatest film villains...just five years before. Brian Cox, before his face got plump and his hair turned gray, took on the role, and his performance, as well as the film it was in ('Manhunter'), has been forgotten by many. Did he just not do a good job with the role? Was it the film's fault?

Will Graham (William Petersen) is the man who put Lecter behind bars, ending his spree of sadistic murders, exposing the cruel and vile circumstances behind them. After putting himself in the same mindset as the villain to attempt the capture, in addition to being savagely attacked by the killer when exposed, Graham quit the FBI, and even spent some time in a mental facility to cleanse the demons he welcomed into his mind.

Years later, a new serial killer is on the loose, and the FBI is stumped. Brutal family slayings in Atlanta and Birmingham have forced Graham to give the force one more go round, to capture the man dubbed "The Tooth Fairy" (Tom Noonan). Graham seems stumped on the case, and enlists the best mind he knows to help get a lead before another family is slain: the mind of the man he imprisoned, Lecter.

Modern film fans will recognize the plot here instantly, as the film 'Red Dragon' capitalized on the success of Hopkins in the infamous role to remake the 'Manhunter' tale (both of which are adapted from the 'Red Dragon' book by Thomas Harris, the man behind the story of each Hannibal film that has hit the big screen). While the story is the same between films, for the most part, there are some serious differences between films that may polarize a viewer, especially if they've seen 'Dragon' first.

The film picks up on the beach, with the Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina)/Graham conversation about joining back up, rather than showing the capture of Lecter and the injury to Graham. The villain of the film receives much less screen time, basically dropping in from the sky after being constantly referred to. The conditions of Lecter's cell are much cleaner, creating a continuity issue between 'Manhunter' and 'Silence of the Lambs.' The entire Reba (Joan Allen)/Francis story line is rushed, making the tiger sequence feel a bit odd. We don't understand why the blind girl wants to feel the lion, as the lines explaining that are dropped, as the two characters are first together that very same day. Most dramatically, the portrayal of Lecter (the one mainstay in all the films) is different, a bit slower, more methodical, less dangerous and in your face, and more cruel and vindictive. This isn't a man wanting to play games, he seemingly only operates on revenge. No wonder people forgot about him!

'Manhunter' has its flaws, not just compared to the other films in the series, but as a standalone effort as well. The whole lunar cycle defining when the Red Dragon kills is a bit convenient, setting an arbitrary timeline for Graham and Company to crack the case. Anyone who's seen this kind of film knows that the closer the deadline gets, the more answers and revelations the good guys uncover, creating a last minute confrontation. Performances can be a bit off as well, with Petersen giving very stale line readings, then getting far too emotional and overblown, and the banter between Cox and Petersen comes off as more bi-polar than Dollarhyde himself. The interaction between the duo is supposed to set the pace for the film, but there's too rapid a cut between characters and their words, creating an unnatural feeling conversation...not to mention Petersen runs like a little girl when it's all said and done.

Most importantly, the Tooth Fairy is not intimidating in any way. He looks old and frail, weak in body and mind. The only way he could look any weaker would be if he borrowed a pair of Graham's John Stockton hotpants/shorts. His development is stunted, with no explanation as to why he goes so batty. The only thing we get is his insistence on reading dirt rags and showing house guests homemade slideshows. The final confrontation, naturally between Graham and Dollarhyde, is so horribly cut together (with characters changing position in the middle of scenes due to new takes or cuts to change to stunt doubles) that it becomes humorous, which is not the emotion a viewer should have towards that kind of fight.

'Manhunter' holds a place in the hearts of those who haven't forgotten it, but I can never take the film seriously. It is easily trumped by 'Red Dragon,' and considering the gaping flaws in 'Dragon,' that's truly saying something. No other Hannibal film is so stuck in the era in which it was filmed, as Dollarhyde's modern art deco home full of '80's furniture just doesn't let off an air of intimidation or insanity that such a man would possess. I may be in the vocal minority on this one, but 'Manhunter' has to be the worst film in the series. Film Score: 2/5

The Silence of the Lambs

Only a handful of films in the history of the Academy Awards have won the big five (winning Best Actor, Best Actress, Best screenplay, Best Picture, Best Director). Well, less than a handful...three. It Happened One Night, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs. While these recognitions hardly represent cold hard facts, or the views of the public, there are times when the Academy get things right (and times when they horribly get things wrong, *ahem* 'Crash' *ahem*), and their recognition of Silence is definitely one of the times when the award show got things right.

A serial killer is on the loose, dubbed by authorities as Buffalo Bill. He kidnaps women, prepares for a few days, and butchers them, carving out chunks of their flesh. The FBI is on the case, but aren’t making much progress. The situation takes a turn, putting the investigation into the spotlight when the daughter of a US Senator is taken, with all the signs pointing to her being the next victim.

The FBI has sent a trainee, Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) to a mental institution that detains one of the ghastliest killers ever caught, Hannibal “the cannibal” Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). She is to analyze him, to gain insight on the serial killer mindset, to try to help in the Buffalo Bill case. Hannibal has devious ulterior motives, and the grilling presented to him by Clarice may give the killer the chance he needs to escape the hellhole he is stuck in.

To say that 'Silence of the Lambs' is anything less than Anthony Hopkins’ tour de force would be flat wrong. Hopkins puts on a clinic as the mad doctor, portraying a truly evil, disturbed, yet civilized and educated maniacal killer. The mindgames that Lecter must perform on Starling are done amazingly by the veteran actor, from his unusual speech patterns and sounds, to his evil taunting. Hopkins is fully immersed in this role, and the result is a fully believable monster who rips people to shreds just with a single glance, destroying their upbringing and culture. He’s a higher class sort of villain.

Perhaps what also helped Silence succeed was the modern treatment of criminals like celebrities. Much like the Rammstein music video for Ich Will depicts so boldly, there is a modern obsession with criminals (like murderers and thieves), and this is even somewhat explored in the Hannibal films. In this entry, there are numerous clippings of Lecter’s accusations, his trial, his punishment. Buffalo Bill gets the same treatment, even in his own home. Hannibal is shown in his self titled bastardization of a film to be somewhat of a celebrity, his mementos fetching large amounts of dough. The Ed Gein inspired cannibal is as revered in his fictional world as he is in ours.

Thomas Harris, the writer of the novel, has the corner on the Hannibal market, penning the original appearance of Lecter in his Red Dragon (which was adapted originally as Manhunter, with Brian Cox in Hopkins’ now signature role) and 'Silence,' again ten years later with Hannibal, and shortly after, Hannibal Rising, the *gasp* prequel that ruins the mystique. It is safe to say that the power of the story has devolved with each entry, but 'Silence' is Harris at the top of his game, easily, his peak, his dark pinnacle. Film Score: 5/5

Hannibal

I can never get why Hollywood feels every story that is left open has to be further explored.  Sure, stories like ‘Star Wars’ have to go through the films for the full narrative arc, but what’s the point in not allowing us to dream, to imagine what happens next to characters?  Why do we have to be spoon fed continuation after continuation, and then the requisite prequel to boot when a story can’t be further extended?

‘Hannibal’ is one of those kinds of films, an unnecessary sequel, doomed to failure due to the massive success of its predecessor.  Perfection could not be outdone, but why not cash in on the name?   Why let one of the great film villains, the genius psychopath as portrayed by Hopkins, go down as a one and done role?

Ten years after the events of ‘Silence of the Lambs,’ Hannibal the cannibal is still on the lam, hiding in plain sight, taking in all the cultural sights and sounds he was denied for those years in captivity.  A surviving victim of his attacks, Mason Verger (an unrecognizable Gary Oldman), has placed a bounty on the man who disfigured him, pitting a greedy Italian detective (Giancarlo Giannini as Inspector Renaldo Pazzi) against a man who can and will outwit him at every turn.  Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore, replacing Jodie Foster) is also back on the case following a public disgrace.  Can Hannibal’s psychological warfare against his favorite “tornado bait white trash” FBI agent still succeed when he’s the prey rather than the hunter?

‘Hannibal’ fails on many fronts.  First, comparing to the previous Hopkins as Hannibal release, there is really no comparison.  The pacing is off, the tension is gone, the interaction lame, like a child saying neener neener.  Next, as a stand-alone film, ‘Hannibal’ leans far too much on the previous film to get across why the villain is so dangerous.  We don’t get to see the brutal mind games and hidden clues.  The search for Lecter is overwrought with stupid inter-agency bickering of sorts, with Paul Krendler  (Ray Liotta) and Starling playing mouse and mouse to Lecter’s cat, bickering over who gets to be eaten first.  The focus on Verger is all too short, but his villain still doesn’t compare to Buffalo Bill, or even the Tooth Fairy.  Sure, he’s manipulative, dedicated, and cruel, but he’s about as effective as a slingshot against a grizzly bear.

The plot meanders, and tries to show the artistic and cultured side of the brilliant killer’s tastes, but a certain person named Ray Liotta adds a flavor of trash to the proceedings, acting as a physical manifestation of inner turmoil for Starling.  No amount of literature, opera, or historical references can remove the stink of bad Liotta performances (that is, to say, most Liotta performances).  Perhaps a touch of class and a touch of trash was the intention for the film, who am I to say, but it comes off as bi-polar in the worst of ways, much like this film.

'Hannibal' cannot overcome the loss of Foster, with Moore providing an incredibly odd performance, making Starling half her own, and half an imitation of Foster.   Fitting, really, of a film that is half its own, and half an imposter of 'Silence of the Lambs.' Movie Score: 2/5

Vital Stats

The 'Hannibal Lecter Anthology' contains only the MGM distributed films, so 'Red Dragon' and 'Hannibal Rising,' which are products of Universal and The Weinstein Company, respectfully, are not included. The set comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with a flip tray, much like 'The Dark Knight' or 'Speed Racer.' The version of 'Manhunter' in this release is the authentic theatrical release, a different cut than either found on the Anchor Bay two disc release of the film.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Manhunter

'Manhunter' is presented with an AVC MPEG-4 encode at 1080p, spread out across a BD50 with no other supplements, easily looking the best of all three films in this release. I remember watching the "director's cut" of the film on the Anchor Bay release, and being astonished at how horrendous it looked. This transfer wipes that painful memory aside.

Colors are amazingly bold and rich, and nowhere near as neon as I remember. This may be due to some changed color timing, but the result is much more befitting of the film, especially in the series. Skin tones are natural throughout the entire film, and facial features boast amazing clarity and depth, with pores and blemishes leaping right off the screen, begging for some astringent.

Detail is sharp, both in clothing patterns and fabrics and in foreground environments (backgrounds remain a bit out of focus), an amazing development considering how strong (though amazingly stable) the grain level is. Edges are sharp and clean, DNR doesn't appear to be an issue ever, and aliasing is also absent, even in Lecter's slicked back black hair. Artifacts are nowhere to be found, either, but there are some scenes littered with noise.

Blacks are amazingly deep, with about average delineation (nothing to write home about, or cry foul over), while whites remain clean. Shots of sunsets are the lone remnant of the neon coloring in the film, and stand out as such, like the sky were clubbin.' Video Score: 4/5

The Silence of the Lambs

From the start, there’s a bit of grain/noise and a fair sheen in this 1080p MPEG-2 encode. The opening credits, the big black letters with white outlines, have a bit of a jaggy feel to them. There is a small bit of dirt, debris, or scratches in some scenes. Loose hairs don’t have a pop, like in many other films. There is a bit of a detail upgrade, that can be easily spotted in some shots, such as the lower cells of the institution, where you see the streaks and clumps of paint on the bars, and the bricks look realistic with multiple shades, rather than as a monotone lump.

There is some great improvement over the DVD versions of this film. You can see light brown streaks in Starling’s dark brown matte, the subtle fade of Lecter’s greying, and some great depth in his wrinkly face. The Mag-Lite Clarice borrows is clearly readable around the rim. The close-up of Starling, during the Martin TV interview addressing Buffalo Bill, is amazingly deep and sharp, so sharp you can see a bit of upper lip peach fuzz. The blood splatters left in the makeshift cell, on the floor, and on Lecter’s shirt, stick out nicely. Still, despite the upgrades, the picture is far from great. Blacks are a bit crushy, and detail doesn’t always pop, as the picture can be very muddy at times.

Despite the flaws that this transfer has (and it does have flaws), there is something that has to be said: the DVD releases of this film were quite ugly, and that is an understatement. Even the Criterion release (this may be better worded as ESPECIALLY the Criterion release) of the film was hideous. This Blu-ray release quantifies as a serious upgrade in quality, despite it’s flaws, that fans will easily note. Video Score: 3.5/5

Hannibal

'Hannibal' arrives on Blu-ray in the states for the first time in this set, previously being available as an import, through Germany and the UK. While I cannot comment on the quality of the import releases, the 1080p MPEG-2 transfer afforded 'Hannibal' is less than striking.

Skin tones were a bit problematic, with black characters in the opening raid being very difficult to distinguish features on, while white characters often looked washed out. The entire color scheme is drab, with no real color getting a dominant treatment over the others.

There are issues with the video from the opening scenes, with the picture that enlarges to fit the entire screen. Aliasing and artifacts are present in this sequence, but are not limited to that brief moment in the film, as both pop up in quite a few other scenes. The picture is constantly flat, lacking a true three dimensional feel, and numerous shots in the film lack definition, sporting a fuzzy/dull/murky aesthetic. There's a bit of digital noise from time to time, and the grain level fluctuates in darker sequences. In short, this is a problematic transfer. Video Score: 2.5/5

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Manhunter

While 'Manhunter' is easily the best looking disc in the set, I'll be damned if it doesn't sound quite pedestrian. Presented by way of a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, the film's sound design is as limited by the source as the film is by the acting. Ouch.

The proceeding is almost entirely focused from the front channels, focusing primarily on a clean presentation of the dialogue and soundtrack elements. The dialogue comes off very sharp, though nowhere near engaging, while the '80's rock and pop can sound a bit blurry, blended into itself, losing a bit of clarity, especially in the Strong as I am song from The Prime Movers. There's a nice bass element in the music for the film, but nowhere else, while the use of surround speakers could say the same, with a very light soundtrack bleed hitting the rears, but nothing else save for a brief moment of a helicopter throwing air through the channels. Audio Score: 2.5/5

The Silence of the Lambs

There is much less to talk about on the audio side of things. 'Silence of the Lambs' is presented in a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, that shows it’s age. The bass is incredibly muted throughout, to the point that it is nearly non existent. This is good, as the film doesn’t rely on sound scares, but it is sorely lacking. There are discrete effects every now and again, and a fair amount of ambiance noise, though the sound design is far from great. Even in the firing range shot, there is no echo or bass roar. In a moment with a helicopter passing by, there is no motion effect. The sparring scene (with the pads) is about the best the surround presence gets throughout the entire film. Dialogue is clear and audible, without ever having to adjust volumes, which is important in this word heavy film. This is an acceptable track, but it isn't anything special. Audio Score: 3/5

Hannibal

While I wasn't a fan of 'Hannibal's' video qualities, the audio (by way of a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix) for the film is nowhere near the same quality, trumping the previous DVD release handily, justifying the jump to Blu-ray.

I was particularly impressed with the active use of every speaker in this mix, from the opening gunfight that had realistic gun pops, superb movement, bass, and directionality, to the random bits of atmosphere that would find themselves locating in the rears often, with birds passing through channels like they were the aforementioned bullets. Discrete effects are going on at nearly all times, through every speaker, creating a fully immersive environment that didn't feel forced in the least bit.

Dialogue is prioritized, though occasionally has a bit of a hiccup or hint of feedback that prevents them from being perfectly clear. Bass is clear, though never dominant, and somewhat soft, really. Scenes that jump between phone conversations play the volume card nicely, jumping up when the speaker is on screen, and getting muted and muffled when they are only present through the other end of the phone. Televisions use this effect nicely, as well. Crowds can be a bit underwhelming, at times, sounding nowhere near as active as the screen portrays, though late in the film, the Hannibal/Clarice chase has great activity from the randoms. A great, though not perfect, mix here, the headliner of this disc. Audio Score 4/5

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

And here's where things get ugly. 'Hannibal' is only graced with a few trailers, while the only extra on 'Manhunter' is chapter selections, and a still frame menu with a picture of Petersen as Graham. There isn't even any music to this menu, which is among the cheapest and worst I've seen on a Blu-ray. Before the "menu," there is an outdated trailer for Digital Copies. Hey, great. Couldn't have lived without that.

'The Silence of the Lambs' has hit LaserDisc and DVD a number of times, with many diverse features. Though the previous MGM special editions probably trump the Criterion LD and DVD efforts in terms of sheer volume, the old Criterion had an audio commentary (with Jonathan Demme, Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins) that was stellar. It's not included here, though the breadth of documentaries and featurettes remains pretty substantial. Video material is presented in 480i/MPEG-2 only.

  • Documentary: "Inside the Labyrinth" (SD, 57 minutes) - Originally produced for the 2001 DVD, this doc is problematic. On one hand, it touches on all the basic points of the film's development and production, as well as the controversies that surrounded its release, and its eventual success and Oscar windfall. On the other hand, two key players are missing from the interview roster: Demme, and Foster. Though we do get Hopkins, plus Ted Levine, Anthony Heald, screenwriter Ted Tally and others, it often feels as if the doc is scraping the archives to make up for the lack of Demme and Foster. Still, it's a pretty nicely paced and rather informative doc.
  • Featurette: "Scoring the Silence" (SD, 15 minutes) - A very nice visit with composer Howard Shore, who isn't really discussed much in the other supplements. His score remains quite identifiable, and though this featurette relies perhaps a bit too much on clips, his interview is informative.
  • Featurette: "1991 Making-Of " (SD, 8 minutes) - This is the film's original promotional EPK, and only enjoyable for nostalgia's sake. Plus, we get Foster wearing some really, really bad hair and early-'90s fashion.
  • TV Special: "Silence of the Lambs: Page to Screen" (SD, 42 minutes) - Originally produced for the Bravo network, "Page to Screen" focuses on the development of 'Silence of the Lambs' from novel to screenplay, and takes a look at author Thomas Harris' quest for authenticity in terms of the FBI and technical methods used in the story. The interviews are mixed (we get mostly archive stuff with cast & crew, plus newer stuff with technical advisors, and even Gene Hackman), and there's a lot of film clips. The special is broken into two parts: "A Wealth of Talent" and "Preparation and Authenticity."
  • Deleted Scenes/Outtakes (SD, 23 minutes) - Next up are about 20 minutes of deleted scenes, totaling about 22 segments. There is nothing here revelatory, but lots of scene extensions. Alas, there's no commentary or text to explain the deletions, and the video and audio quality is pretty poor. Also included here is a short 2-minutes of outtakes, plus an amusing 30-second phone message from Hopkins.
  • Theatrical Trailers/TV Spots (SD) - Rounding out this long list of extras, we get the film's original theatrical teaser and full trailer, plus six TV spots.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no high def exclusives on either 'Hannibal' or 'Manhunter.'

Strangely, MGM is not promoting that there is a considerable new exclusive on this Blu-ray...

  • Breaking the Silence - Lo and behold, there is a new picture-in-picture slash trivia track created for 'The Silence of the Lambs.' Although Jonathan Demme is not present, there are new interviews here with Jodie Foster, Scott Glenn, Anthony Heald, Anthony Hopkins, and screenwriter Ted Tally. Mixed in are very short production and FBI factoids, which appear as on-screen graphic pop-ups. The interview material is solid -- it's especially nice to hear fresh perspective from Foster and Hopkins. Unfortunately, there is zero behind-the-scenes footage, and the pace is slow -- sometimes minutes go by with no PIP present. I wish MGM had included markers (as Universal does with its U-Control features), but there's good stuff here, if you're patient.

Final Thoughts

I really am at a loss with this "anthology." I get why 'Red Dragon' and 'Hannibal Rising' are not included, but since MGM knows there have been other Hannibal films, to call this an anthology is deceptive. It is also flawed beyond belief, with no extras on either 'Hannibal' or 'Manhunter,' despite how many were included on their respective DVD releases over the years. Of the two new (previously unreleased on Blu-ray) films in this set, 'Hannibal' feels like an old disc that never went out for sale, while 'Manhunter' was given the proper treatment, yet an archaic, ridiculous menu. An obvious cash grab by MGM, who is reportedly in terrible financial shape, just plopping any ol' disc out there that was made but not yet on the market, forcing fans to rebuy 'Silence' to boot.

Technical Specs

  • 3 Disc Set
  • 2- BD50 Dual Layer Discs
  • 1- BD25 Single Layer Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080P/MPEG-4 ('Manhunter')
  • 1080P/MPEG-2 ('The Silence of the Lambs,' 'Hannibal')

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1 ('The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal')
  • 2.35:1 ('Manhunter')

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (all films)
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 (all films)
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (all films)

Subtitles/Captions

  • 'Manhunter'- English SDH, Spanish
  • 'The Silence of the Lambs'- English SDH, Spanish, Spanish Text, French Text, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, Thai, Thai Text
  • 'Hannibal'- English, Spanish

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