BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE HANNIBAL LECTER ANTHOLOGY

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11.09.2009

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STUDIO: MGM/20th Century Fox
MSRP: $69.98
RATED: R
RUNNING TIME: 369 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
Manhunter
•Theatrical Trailer

Silence of the Lambs
• Inside The Labyrinth
• Scoring The Silence
• 1991 Making-Of
• Page To Screen
• Deleted Scenes
• Theatrical Trailers/TV Spots
• Breaking The Silence PiP-track

Hannibal
•Theatrical Trailer


The Pitch

Hey, did you hear the one about the cannibal who got out of jail by buttering up the authorities?


The Humans

Manhunter: Michael Mann (dir.), William Petersen, Tom Noonan, Dennis Farina, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Frankie Faison

Silence of the Lambs: Jonathan Demme (dir.), Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Ted Levine, Scott Glenn, Frankie Faison

Hannibal: Ridley Scott (dir.), Julianne Moore, Anthony Hopkins, Gary Oldman, Giancarlo Giannini, Ray Liotta, Frankie Faison




Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ wants all the money in the bag, right now, and no one gets hurt.


The Lowdown

If I were Michael Mann, Jonathan Demme, or Ridley Scott, I’d be a little insulted this thing is called the Hannibal Lecter Anthology. Well, first I’d take a bath in a big cauldron of money, and make another movie where someone gives Anne Hathaway a sponge bath, but right after that, I’d make an angry phone call to Fox/MGM. The only “Hannibal Lecter” film in this set is the eponymous one, and to slap that label on the other two is a disservice. But, I blame the marketing department for that one and move on.

The only series (and I really use that term lightly when it comes to this “anthology”) in recent memory with such a gulf between what your average moviegoer has come to expect and what the films in question actually are is Alien. And that’s far from the only similarity: obviously, the presence of Ridley Scott; the game-changing second film; a beautiful curveball of a third film; a well-cast failure for a fourth go around (Alien Resurrection, Red Dragon); a useless fucking appendage of a prequel (AVP, Hannibal Rising).
 
The two series part ways on one crucial matter, however. The worst things about the latter Alien movies can be blamed on uncreative people wanting too much to be James Cameron. The worst things about the latter Lecter films can be blamed on uncreative people not trying hard enough to be Jonathan Demme.
 
Naturally, that’s true for every film in the series except Manhunter. No, Manhunter manages to do bad all by itself.


New On Blu-Ray: All new deleted scene where Clarice helps the lab boys beat Super Mario Land.


I know there’s a small, fervent cult out there who have already handed out the Kool-Aid and white outfits and convinced themselves Manhunter‘s a good movie. And bless you guys, I do understand, because Manhunter sounds like a fantastic movie on paper. The reality, however, is that despite the Michael Mann factor, and some killer performances from William Petersen, Brian Cox, Tom Noonan, and Iron Butterfly, the movie as a whole has not only dated horribly, but just comes off quite sterile and procedural. Inevitably, the Thomas Harris card gets pulled on that complaint, where someone says that’s what the book was like. That person is a filthy liar. Will Graham is a cold character in the book, and again, Pedersen’s a bright spot here, keeping that hardassed nature interesting. Harris’ CSI-style prose is sometimes quite dry, grinding that book to a halt. But at the very least, when characters meet in the book, when civilians meet civilians, they feel like conversations. Every conversation in Manhunter, on the other hand, is a psychoanalysis. That’s strictly Michael Mann’s doing, and it’s a flaw he’d eventually learn to mask much better later on down the road. Here, though, all it does is bumrush the audience aside, disengaging us until Pedersen decides to kamikaze through a window at the end. To both its credit and detriment, that coldness is a problem the Brett Ratner version of this story doesn’t have. Ratner doesn’t have the chops to be as ruthless and gritty as some parts need to be, but that softness of direction compared to the depth of his actors does create a nice balance in spots, especially as far as Reba and Francis Dolarhyde are concerned.



“It’s been seven hours and fifteen days….”



The big point of contention with Manhunter, of course, Brian Cox’s portrayal of Lecter, and the only reason it’s a point of contention is because of Anthony Hopkins. Fact is, divorced of his replacement, Cox does fine work here. It’s sedate, but it’s the kind of sedate that makes you believe this guy could shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die. Cox is calm, still, and calculating of every move before he opens his mouth, the kind of guy who makes you nervous even though all he’s done is ask you the time of day. Hopkins may be the definitive Hannibal Lecter, but Cox is certainly the more believable one. There’s no preternatual smirk on his face, no obvious evil. there’s simply stillness. Stillness, and venomous insight.
 
More thought and prose has been poured into analysis of Silence of the Lambs than I’m sure Thomas Harris poured into that book, possibly all his books combined at this point. No need to waste anyone’s time saying what better writers have said ad nauseum, except to simply add it’s still a fantastic film, dripping with subtext for those who care to look beyond the liver eating, lotion rubbing, and rampant mangina on display, with not a weak performance in the bunch. You can count the number of better made films of its type made since its release on one hand, and anyone denying that is either shrooming, or David Fincher, and that’s only because he made two of ‘em.
 
What is worth discussing at length here is Hannibal, the most interesting and most misunderstood film in this set.



What Dr. Chilton expected: Hannibal Lecter, mincing, seething, psychologically abusive.
What he never expected: Hannibal Lecter belting out “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”



What’s different about Hannibal is that it wasn’t (back in 2001, anyway. Now, on the other hand….) sequel after mindless sequel that burned us out on Hannibal Lecter, but how much of a tired old joke he had become through media. We, as audiences, ruined Lecter, not Anthony Hopkins, much in the same way we ruined bullet time after The Matrix. Hannibal‘s not a perfect film. It has a stilted, weird structure that doesn’t do the film any favors during its runtime. But Hannibal absolutely triumphs in that it explores the only fertile ground that Thomas Harris and Ridley Scott could possibly explore in a world where Hannibal Lecter is a household name, and the one loose, beautiful subtext Jonathan Demme kept vague; that is, Clarice and Hannibal as psychological lovers. The Monster and his bride for the 21st Century.
 
To this day, I have no idea why so many people show such a distaste for Hannibal whenever it’s brought up. For the most part, all Ridley Scott delivered was what people expected from Hannibal Lecter the next time they saw him on a screen. They wanted a new millenium vampire, hobnobbing in plain sight, cultured, wizened, and free, ready to unleash horror upon those for whom he finds a distaste without repercussion. I’m pretty sure we all saw the same movie in that respect. On a base level, Ridley made a truly modern, Grand Guignol, gothic horror movie, with Anthony Hopkins not playing the cliche Lecter we’d all parodied him into since 1991, or the scenery chewing cliche we saw in Red Dragon, but a beast content, fat, happy, but loveless, and that’s fascinating.



Picture snapped exactly 13.7 seconds after Julianne runs into Mark Wahlberg again for the first time in 11 years.



The true greatness of that movie, however, lies in the romance. Thomas Harris completely blew it in the 12th round in the novel, betraying most if not all of what made this love story interesting prior. Scott’s film, however, keeps both Hannibal and Clarice at a moral distance, slowly bringing their complex emotional foreplay to a head* at Paul Krendler’s house. It’s a strange, unorthodox series of events that close this film, but it is also endlessly compelling to watch unfold, and if I had my way, this would have truly been the end of the Lecter Anthology. Instead, we get a mediocre do-over from the auteur behind Rush Hour, and Hannibal Lecter Does Batman Begins. After those two, surely, watching Anthony Hopkins disembowel Italians, and eat Ray Liotta’s brain while trying to mind-fuck Julianne Moore can’t be that horrendous, can it?
 
That’s ultimately the rub with this series. There’s always something far more interesting than just having a cultured, proper cannibal running around beneath the surface of these films, and if anything else, one can be glad that three of the best and most diverse can be purchased in one neat little package. It serves as quite the touchstone for what this character became over the course of 20 years.
 
The sad part is that it’ll probably serve the lamentable purpose of allowing some jackass who missed the point the opportunity to drag out some 20 year old Fava Bean/Chianti joke.
 


The year: 2189. America elects its first Satanic president. Inauguration is held in front of the Lincoln Memorial, followed by virgin sacrifice and a ceremonial goblet of panther blood imbibed in Arlington Cemetery. Democrats call it “a chilling omen for years to come”. Republicans call it Thursday.


The Package
 
Video
 
The catchphrase for the technical end of this set is “Mixed Bag”. Silence looks the best of the bunch. It’s not a flashy transfer, but it’s also not a flashy film. It’s been subtly remastered so that weird green hue that was on the first editions of the DVD is gone, and the colors are much deeper and rich than before, but it’s not exactly the movie I would pull out to demo my TV. Manhunter looks good, though inconsistently so. There are sections that are stunners (sidenote: I hadn’t realized just how many times Michael Mann shoots the sun rising or setting in that flick till now), and some bits are just faint bumps in quality above the DVD.
 
I’m hoping, next time someone from this site interviews Ridley Scott, he’s lounging around his home in L.A., sipping a Seabreeze with his foot surgically grafted up a Fox or Paramount executive’s ass. That’s twice in the same year one of his films has gotten beaten by the ugly DNR stick on Blu Ray, and there’s no excuses for it. The colors are lush, and anything in the foreground does have a fair bit of fine detail, but depth of field is zilch, and some shots look like Toxie Emil from Robocop wiped his mouth on the print. The more you realize how much of this movie takes place in one of the most beautiful, visually sumptuous cities on the planet, the more it just angries the blood.
 
Sound
 
Manhunter‘s the weakest link here, but at least for a logical reason. The dialogue and music on the DTS-MA track are pretty crisp, but the sound effects and ambience are very much products of their time, and although spread out nicely, sometimes come off chintzy. Silence is, again, not demo material, but crystal clear throughout. Howard Shore’s score shines a lot more here than on the DVDs. The good news is that Hannibal‘s actually kind of great here. The film is mostly dialogue based, but there’s some showstopping moments that are a treat to the ears (the opening shootout, the opera, when Mason Verger wants to hear how his pigs are doing).  Probably the one truly tangible positive in that disc’s favor.
 


With enough time and drugs, it will be impossible to tell whether Nick Nolte is aging well or not.

Bonuses
 
The big fat failure of this set. Silence ports over everything that was on the previously released standalone Blu Ray. It’s missing a couple of tidbits from previous DVDs (Including that Foster/Hopkins commentary from the OOP Criterion set that everyone keeps forgetting exists), but fairly comprehensive for what it is. Manhunter gets nothing, Hannibal has some random trailers. Basically, you’re left with a fancy double dip of the Silence of the Lambs Blu Ray, treating both Manhunter and Hannibal as perks. Kindly go screw.



Manhunter: 4.5 out of 10

Silence of the Lambs: 8.0 out of 10

Hannibal: 5.5 out of 10

Anthology: 6.0 out of 10


*-Fuck you, I lol’d.



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