14 February 2008

The First Hannibal Lecter Movie: Manhunter (1986) Review


A superb story where virtually no character development takes place. The characters refuse to budge, which adds to the tension. Well-crafted horror, if dated by the bee-hive hairstyles and the nylon shorts.


Retired profiler Will Graham is lured out of retirement from his deserted island paradise. It would take more than an appeal to my humanity to lure me from my paradise island. In fact, it would take more than two Valhalla-sized halls, one filled with classic guitars and the other filled with Valkyrie-like floozies, heaving bosoms and all. Appealing to my humanity is not very effective.

The profiler is hired to unravel the mystery of the tooth fairy. Named after his elaborate yet ineffective mating habits involving a full moon, shards of glass and bite marks, the tooth fairy is shy. So shy in fact that nobody can find him. The only known variable is the time the fairy is expected to strike – the next full moon. Graham should send Jehovah Witnesses after the fairy. They have a habit of finding people at inopportune places and at inopportune times.

In lieu of Jehovah Witnesses, Graham decides to outsource their effort by contacting Dr Hannibal Lecter. Graham cut his teeth by successfully bringing Lecter to justice, and Lecter cut his teeth on Graham's hide to return the favour. Lecter, however, shares my elusive humanity, if not my palette. He does share my sense of humour, so he sends the fairy to Graham's twice deserted paradise island. And the fairy is not after the fancy cocktails in hollow coconut shells.


  • The first cinematic outing for everyone's favourite culinary delinquent is refreshingly insensitive to political correctness. Expect a few disabled victims. That is disabled before the fairy even found them.

  • No big name Hollywood stars are featured. While Ralph Fiennes, Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore arguably carried most of the subsequent films, all the stars of Manhunter get their screen time. This makes the film more convincing than most Hannibal Lecter films.

  • Hannibal Lecter is merely a plot device, with Will Graham being the main character. This angle makes it different from later films, which focus heavily on Hannibal Lecter's icy personality. Or personalities.

  • Clearly a product of the eighties, the dated fashions enhanced the believability of the story for me. When one considers the lack of IT resources, the teardrop shades and the Brakpan moustached stereotype cops hunching over transparency projections actually make sense.

  • Some fantastic in-your-face murder scenes are pulled off. If you were disappointed by the hype around Hannibal (which had little beyond incredible cinematography in my books), Manhunter might restore your appetite for Hannibal movies. I haven't seen Hannibal Rising yet, so I'll reserve judgement on that one.

  • I managed to get the special edition of the Manhunter DVD. It has a second disk with the director's cut. The first disk has all the extras, so don't despair if you can't find the special edition. Of course I recommend the director's cut!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

But thanks for the title

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