Posted in: Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on September 21st, 2009
He’s one of the most compelling villains of modern fiction. Disturbing, disgusting and absolutely captivating at the same time, Hannibal Lecter can really get inside your head.You may not have read the novels by Thomas Harris, or even seen all of the films, but I’m willing to bet you’re familiar with The Silence of the Lambs. One of the greatest thrillers in film history, the film in which Sir Anthony Hopkins became Dr. Lecter is the cornerstone of this three-movie set.
The Hannibal Lecter Collection brings together – in chronological order – Michael Mann’s Manhunter, Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs and Ridley Scott’s Hannibal. Film buffs will note the absence of Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon, essentially a remake of Manhunter. Unfortunately for any completists, MGM, the studio behind this set, doesn’t have the rights to Red Dragon, which is a Universal picture. In any case, these three films make a fantastic trilogy.
Manhunter, released in 1986, was our first glimpse at Lecter, played by Brian Cox (The Bourne Supremacy). Lecter doesn’t have much screen time, as the film focuses on former FBI profiler Will Graham (William Petersen, CSI), who’s called back in to hunt down the Tooth Fairy, a serial killer. To do so, he needs to get inside the demented mind of a killer, so he visits Lecter, whom he helped catch years before. The film is a slow burn – a dark, psychological thriller, and its only drawback now is the strong 80’s influence and its synth-heavy score.
Five years later, The Silence of the Lambs won Oscars for best picture, director, actor, actress and adapted screenplay. It’s a perfectly executed thriller, with much more Lecter. Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster, Panic Room) is an FBI trainee who gets an opportunity to help out with a major case. The feds are tracking a new serial killer, Buffalo Bill, and Starling is sent in to get insight from Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins, Amistad), who’s being held in a maximum security nuthouse. The interaction between Foster and Hopkins is the highlight of this stellar film, as the two infuse so much into every aspect of their communication, from body language and eye-contact to their words. I can’t say enough good things about The Silence of the Lambs. If you’re fan of thrillers, you simply must watch it.
2001’s Hannibal rounds out this set. Hopkins came back, but Foster chose not to reprise her role, so Julianne Moore (The Hours) stepped in. Moore’s Starling is different some ways, but the essence of the character remains. Lecter is clearly the star of Hannibal, and the character is once again highly compelling. Unfortunately, the intimate interaction between the hungry doctor and Starling is missing for most of the film. 10 years have passed since the events of Lambs, and Lecter is free and living in Italy. When Starling becomes the “fall guy” for a botched FBI operation, Lecter is inspired to come out of hiding and back to public life. Disgraced, Starling is on the case to find Lecter. The film is entertaining, but it pales somewhat in comparison to Lambs. The weakest aspects are a plot-line involving Lecter’s only surviving victim plotting to catch him and feed him to wild pigs, and the film’s climax, which is incredibly gruesome but also unintentionally amusing.
As a whole, these three films of The Hannibal Lecter Collection are top-notch in the thriller genre, anchored by Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter, a fascinating villain who simultaneously repulses and attracts.
The A/V descriptions for the Blu-ray were written by Gino Sassani and Tom Buller.
Each film of The Hannibal Lecter Collection is presented on one disc, with Manhunter in 2.35:1 widescreen and the others in 1.85:1 widescreen format
What is strange here is that the oldest and indeed, the oldest looking film is the only one that gets a solid high definition transfer here. You get a 1080p image through a solid AVC/MPEG-4 codec. The bit rate stays at a healthy 40 mbps or more throughout the film. You can tell that Manhunter is the oldest of the bunch, but it holds up quite well. Colors are fairly rich and natural, and the picture is sharp. Other than a smattering of film artifacts, which don’t call attention to themselves, this is a solid transfer of well-preserved source material.
The Silence of the Lambs is a big disappointment. How about an outdated MPEG-2 codec and a bit rate that often barely reaches 20 mbps? As far as I can tell this transfer is exactly the same used on the DVD but with a higher bit rate. In the end it looks like a really good DVD. That’s not what you buy a Blu-ray for, now is it? The same is true of Hannibal, but with a slighter better bit rate because there aren’t any extras on the disc. Fox absolutely dropped the ball on these transfers.
The DTS-HD Master Audio tracks are at least a little better than their DVD counterparts, but only a little. Dialog is clear and up front, but there is actually very little use of surrounds. The most extensive is naturally on the newer Hannibal film.
Only Silence Of The Lambs has any extras. They are all ported from the DVD:
There are 5 documentaries that have been included as almost scene specific PiP segments while watching the film. It’s rather distracting to me, and I would have rather they appeared separately.
The original 1991 documentary is approximately one hour in duration, and incorporates the entire main cast. This is the best documentary I have ever seen in the form of supplemental material. We get insight from Anthony Hopkins, Judie Foster, and Jonathan Demme about the process and reasoning behind the films creation and success. As a nice supplement to this documentary, also included on this disc is the original 1991 making-of featurette. Both of these features are not included on the original Criterion release, and are a nice find for MGM.
The deleted scenes section absolutely blew me away. The criterion DVD had six deleted scenes; the Blu-ray has included an astonishing 23 deleted scenes, nearly a half hour worth of stuff here.. All of these scenes are either extensions of included scenes, or completely unseen footage. As in the case with most deleted scenes, some would have been nice to see in the final cut, and others were gladly eliminated. Also included are some funny outtakes, which were short but sweet. I give kudos to MGM for finding all of these rare scenes.
Other special features include a photo gallery, trailers for both Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, and a fabulous Hannibal Lecter answering machine message.
This collection brings together three fine thrillers, each presented with excellent audio and video. Unfortunately, the near-complete lack of bonus material hamstrings the set, and ultimately means that fans looking for a definitive package will need more than The Hannibal Lecter Collection. Also, this is not very much of an upgrade. Again one can only hope for better luck in the future for more definitive high definition releases of these films.