THE HANNIBAL LECTER COLLECTION
MANHUNTER is the film that introduced the movie going public to the character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter (spelled Lektor here) and there has been some debate as to which incarnation of "Hannibal the Cannibal" is best. I am not going to add any fuel to the fire since both actors bring something unique and frightening to a character that is as close to true evil as we are ever likely to find on the big screen or in print. In MANHUNTER, Brian Cox is quite chilling as Lektor, a brilliant madman who wears a face of complete reserve, which hides the horror that is lurking just behind his eyes.
MANHUNTER is based upon the novel by Thomas Harris, which tells the story of Will Graham (William L. Petersen), the physically and emotionally scarred FBI profiler who captured Lektor and almost lost his life in the process. At the behest of Agent Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina), Graham returns to work to help capture a new serial killer dubbed "The Tooth Fairy" because of the markings he leave on his victims. The Tooth Fairyís crimes are timed to the lunar cycle, which gives the FBI a short period of time to find the killer before he can slaughter another family of victims. When The Tooth Fairy makes contact with the incarcerated Dr. Lektor, Graham is forced to face all of his personal demons, including "Hannibal the Cannibal," so that he can track this unknown assailant before time runs out. MANHUNTER is a solid and very entertaining thriller that is enhanced by director Michael Mannís stylized visuals, which are reminiscent of the TV show MIAMI VICE that Mann executive produced. All of the performances are quite good, with Petersen gives a deep and involving portrayal of a man battling inner turmoil, while trying to avert a tragedy. The solid supporting cast of MANHUNTER also features Kim Greist, Joan Allen, Stephen Lang and Tom Noonan.
THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
The first time I saw THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS was on the old pan and scan Image Entertainment Laserdisc, and for the life of me, I couldnít figure out why everyone made such a big fuss over this film. Years later, when I finally had the opportunity to watch THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS in wide screen on DVD, I came to appreciate the intensity of this particular film. All I can say is, what a difference a presentation makes. Now, the proper aspect ratio, coupled with a high definition presentation, only enhance my appreciation for the complexities and subtleties of this Academy Award winning police procedural, whose murky appearance and clinical detachment had left me cold, when it first appeared on Laserdisc.
Based on the novel by Thomas Harris, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS tells the story FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), whose ambition is to go into behavioral science. An instructor at the FBI Academy gives Clarice the task of interviewing cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), who is currently institutionalized in a facility for the criminally insane. Using Clariceís charm, the FBI hopes to gain Lecterís insight into a new serial killer that the press has dubbed "Buffalo Bill" because of his penchant for skinning his victims. At first, Lecter isnít interested in helping the FBI, but he become intrigued by Clarice, and so he begins a cat and mouse game with the FBI trainee that will either lead her to "Buffalo Bill" or to a horrible end. Both Foster and Hopkins shine in their Academy Award winning roles, with Hopkinsí Hannibal Lecter becoming one of scariest screen villains/monsters of all time. The cast of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS also features Scott Glenn, Anthony Heald, Ted Levine, Frankie Faison, Kasi Lemmons, Brooke Smith, Paul Lazar, Dan Butler, Lawrence T. Wrentz, Stuart Rudin, Diane Baker, Roger Corman, Charles Napier, Chris Isaak, Daniel von Bargen and an uncredited George Romero.
It took a decade for a sequel to the multi Academy Award winning THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS to come to the silver screen, and Iím not entirely sure that the film adaptation of Thomas Harrisí novel HANNIBAL is exactly what fans were expecting. For cinematic reasons, the film has changed certain aspects of the book, as well as toning down some of the more gruesome violence that would have been impossible to depict in an "R" rated movie. Still, HANNIBAL remains a rather grisly and violent film, although the "over-the-top" climax teeters precariously close to black comedy.
The plot of HANNIBAL picks up the story Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), who managed to escape from the authorities at the end of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. For a decade, Lecter has manger to stay off everyoneís radar by laying low. As the film opens, we find Lecter living in Italy under the guise of Dr. Fell, a Dante scholar who hopes to become the curator at a historic library. Meanwhile back in the States, Clarice Starling (now played undeniably well by Julianne Moore) is a full fledged FBI field agent, whose career still carries the baggage of her involvement with Lecter- who happens to top the bureauís most wanted list. Unfortunately, Clarice is made the scapegoat of an ill-fated FBI operation by Deputy Assistant Inspector General Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta), who makes sure that she is taken out of the field. Deskbound, Clarice begins searching for new leads in the still open case file of Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
As it turns out, Lecter isnít only wanted by the FBI- a disfigured billionaire by the name of Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), who was one of the Lecterís victims, is also looking for the good doctor. When Verger discovers Lecterís whereabouts, due to the efforts of Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini), the billionaire sets in motion a plan to capture Hannibal, so that he may extract more than a pound of flesh from the man who destroyed his life. Because of Vergerís involvement in the search for Lecter, Clarice finds herself in a situation where she must save her own worst nightmare from a fate that many would consider poetic justice.
Director Ridley Scott does a good job with HANNIBAL, but the movie is somewhat less involving than the majority of his other films. Perhaps Scott was suffering from burnout after making GLADIATOR. Of course, Scott makes HANNIBAL a visually interesting film, and he continues to push the envelope of digital trickery, something that was so much a part of GLADIATOR. However, I canít help but feel that the intensity of ALIEN, BLADE RUNNER and even GLADIATOR is missing from this HANNIBAL. On the plus side, Anthony Hopkins is having a ghoulish good time portraying Hannibal "The Cannibal" once again. No Oscar here, but I enjoyed watching Hopkins serve up a bit of ham, to go along the human flesh that his character seems to crave. As I stated above, Julianne Moore does a great job substituting for Jodi Foster, who wanted nothing to do with this sequel. Moore took on this thankless role and gave it an "A" caliber performance. The cast of HANNIBAL also includes Frankie Faison, Francesca Neri and Zeljko Ivanek.
MGM Home Entertainment through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made the three films that comprise THE HANNIBAL LECTER COLLECTION ($70) available on Blu-ray Disc in presentations that have been encoded onto the discs with the AVC codec for the first, and MPEG-2 codec for the latter features. MANHUNTER is offered at 2.35:1, while THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and HANNIBAL are framed at 1.85:1. All three 1080p presentations offer marked visual improvements over their standard definition counterparts. No surprises, HANNIBAL is the best-looking film of the bunch, as it is the newest, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS isnít as polished, as it is an older film, while MANHUNTER appears the least polished, as it is the oldest. That being said, none of these Blu-ray presentations were disappointing in the slightest. Each movie demonstrated good levels of sharpness and image detail, for films of their individual vintages. Color reproduction is good across the board, with each producing fairly natural hues, despite the differences in age and production technique. In all three cases, blacks are accurately rendered, as are the whites. Contrast differs by stylistic aspirations, but there are no complaints. Shadow detail is similarly affected by photographic style. All three presentations are taken from film elements in very good shape, without any significant signs of age or damage. Grain levels are appropriate to each of the films.
The films that comprise THE HANNIBAL LECTER COLLECTION are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. Again, age is the distinguishing factor, with the oldest track being the thinnest and least engaging, while the newest is up to modern standards, coming across in the most detailed and complex manner. Not surprisingly, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS falls between the two extremes. Implementation of the outlying channels follows accordingly. The lossless encoding enhances all three films, with the newest receiving the greatest benefit. As all three films are, at heart, talky police procedurals, so sonic pyrotechnics are limited to instances of gunfire. Bass is solid enough, but none of the tracks are particularly ground shaking. Additional soundtrack options include French and Spanish. Subtitles are provided in English and Spanish.
The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the extras. Nothing really on MANHUNTER or HANNIBAL, but THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS does port over the DVD supplements. A making of Featurette entitled Inside The Labyrinth is provided. The filmís original Featurette from 1991 is here, as are Deleted Scenes, and amusing Phone Message featuring Anthony Hopkins in character.
THE HANNIBAL LECTER COLLECTION isnít a definitive release, but it is worthwhile for those interested in seeing this batch of films in high definition.
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