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MANHUNTER ($25) 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.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has done quite a good job with their DVD presentation of MANHUNTER. The new THX certified transfer totally blows away my old Laserdisc copy of the film, which looks horribly grainy and soft in comparison. In this incarnation, MANHUNTER is properly framed at 2.35:1 and the 16:9 enhanced transfer is crisp and fairly well detailed. Sure, MANHUNTER doesnít look as good as a film just coming off theatrical release, but it certainly holds its own for a modestly budgeted 1987 release. The new transfer still shows evidence of film grain throughout, but here it is nowhere near as objectionable as it was on the Laserdisc. The film element used for the transfer displays occasional blemishes, but is otherwise in good shape. Colors generally display natural saturation, although under the filmís stylized lighting there are long sequences where the hues appear more intense. There are no problems with chroma noise, nor were there any signs of smearing. Blacks are somewhat off the mark, so the level of shadow detail and the depth of the image isnít as good as one would find on a brand new movie.

For this release Anchor Bay has prepared a new Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. While the new mix is an improvement over standard surround, it seems that the original sound elements had some limitations. Sonically, MANHUNTER does not compare to todayís soundtracks because the frequency limitations of the original recordings prevent the sound from having any significant depth. Despite this, the soundtrack is fairly clean sounding, without any noticeable distortion. The forward soundstage has a good sense of presence, as well as some stereo definition. Surround usage is somewhat limited, which makes the track seem a bit front heavy. Dialogue is fully intelligible, although the original recordings make some of the voices sound a little bit canned. The bass channel doesnít have much of a punch, but then again, it isnít all that necessary. However, the filmís music has its own sense of urgency, which effectively enhances the filmís climatic moments.

The interactive menus have been enhanced with full motion video, animation and sound. Through the menus, one is provided with access to the standard scene selection feature, as well as a few cool extras. The DVD includes two new featurettes produced specifically for this release. The Look Of Manhunter: A Conversation with Dante Spinotti is an interview with the filmís cinematographer, who discusses his work at length. Inside Manhunter runs 18 minutes and features recent interviews with cast members William Petersen, Joan Allen, Tom Noonan and Brian Cox. Of the two featurettes, Inside Manhunter is definitely more enjoyable, since it allows the actors to talk about their characters and their experiences making the film. A theatrical trailer and talent bios close out the DVDís extras.

MANHUNTER is a stylish and intelligent thriller that is well represented on DVD thanks to Anchor Bay Entertainment. If you have been longing to own a copy of this flick, there is no better way than on this good-looking DVD.





DVD reviews are Copyright © 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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