Manhunter appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Anchor Bay initially made the “Director’s Cut” available via a two-disc limited edition. To call the picture quality of that release a disaster would be an understatement; it earned one of only a small handful of “F” grades I’ve ever issued in that department. While the “restored” director’s cut still suffered from some problems, it nonetheless presented a tremendous improvement over the prior release.
For the most part, the remastered director’s cut compared favorably to the look of the 2001 DVD’s theatrical version. Sharpness usually appeared crisp and accurate. Some wide shots offered slight fuzziness, and interior scenes could look somewhat murky, but these issues were not extreme. As a whole, the image came across as well defined. Moiré effects and jagged edges presented no concerns, but I noticed mild to moderate examples of edge enhancement at times. Print flaws manifested themselves in the forms of occasional grain, grit and white speckles, but these were very minor. At no time did any of these concerns appear significant; the majority of the movie looked clean.
Colors usually appeared nicely saturated and vivid. Red lighting seemed slightly heavy, and fleshtones showed some periodic concerns; skin could look pinkish at times. However, most hues were accurate and strong. Black levels came across as slightly gray but they generally were deep and dark. Contrast could be a little weak, mainly due to those hazy interior shots; whites seemed less bright than they should. Shadow detail was generally good; most scenes offered appropriate thickness but not excessive opacity.
Not surprisingly, the added scenes specific to the director’s cut showed the highest level of problems, and they were the reason I knocked down my “B” for the theatrical version to a “B-“ here. Some of the extra bits integrated fairly well, but they showed what appeared to be video roots. They were somewhat drab and flat, and seemed a bit fuzzy and indistinct. A moderate amount of video artifacting showed up in those shots as well. The scenes appeared infrequently enough so that they didn’t stand out terribly, but they caused some minor distractions. Still, I felt very pleased about the quality of the remastered director’s cut, especially when I compared it to the terrible original release.
This new version of the Manhunter director’s cut seemed to present a Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack identical to the one heard on the old disc. This mix wasn’t quite as good as the fairly strong Dolby Digital 5.1 track that accompanied the theatrical version, but the two were pretty similar. For the most part, the soundfield seemed largely anchored to the front. The forward speakers offered occasional use of the sides and could provide moderately effective directionality at those times. However, most of the audio seemed fairly centered, as the sides didn’t kick in with many effects. The score received strong separation, though, and the music also was boosted by good reinforcement from the rear. Other than the score, the surrounds did not seem to feature much activity; some ambient noise appeared from that area, but not much.
Audio quality seemed somewhat dated but was generally positive. Speech appeared slightly flat at times and also displayed a few instances of edginess, but dialogue usually sounded distinct and acceptably natural, with no problems related to edginess. Effects betrayed similarly thin and tinny qualities but they seemed relatively strong for the period; gunshots lacked much heft but they were decently clean and robust.
Music fared best of the bunch, as the score and various pop/rock tunes sounded fairly bright and rich for the most part. Some songs came across as mildly muddy, but these were exceptions, and the track occasionally boasted some loose but acceptably deep bass. The soundtrack didn’t compare to recent efforts, but it worked well for material from 1986.
Past DVDs for the films of Michael Mann haven’t included many extras, apparently because the director himself didn’t care for them. However, he finally decided to offer an audio commentary for this extended version of Manhunter. Mann gives us a running, screen-specific piece that seems sporadically interesting but spotty. At best, Mann gets into some good character insight, especially in regard to the Graham and Lecter roles. He also tells us about changes between this version and the theatrical one, some production challenges, and a few other interesting elements. Unfortunately, Mann makes almost no mention of the more famous related films that came in the future, and he often just tells us the names of cast members. The track also suffers from too much dead air, as Mann frequently goes quiet for extended periods. There’s enough here to keep fans of the flick interested, but it seems like an erratic commentary nonetheless.
In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer, we find a collection of still galleries. “Production Stills” includes 87 shots from the movie, while “Deleted and Alternate Scenes” presents 43 images from cut sequences. “Posters and Advertising” offers 78 frames of promos and other materials like video release covers from the US and elsewhere.
DVD-ROM users can access the movie’s screenplay. This appears only as a PDF file, and for reasons unknown, I couldn’t get it to work on my computer. If you’re more successful, you might like to give it a look.
Back when I originally reviewed the “Director’s Cut” of Manhunter in early 2001, I couldn’t recommend it simply because the picture quality seemed so atrocious. Happily, the “restored” version radically improved upon that set. It presented similar audio but the image looked much better here. This 2003 release also offered a new audio commentary; it seemed erratic, but fans should enjoy it. For those who want to see the “Director’s Cut” of Manhunter, this new edition is definitely worth a look.