Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Title: Manhunter: Limited Edition (1986)
Studio Line: Anchor Bay - Hannibal Lecter's Legacy Of Evil Begins Here

FBI agent Will Graham (William Petersen) has captured the diabolical Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox), nearly losing more than just his mind in the process. But when Graham is called out of retirement to hunt the psychopath known as "The Tooth Fairy" (Tom Noonan in a role Entertainment Weekly calls "one of the freakiest madmen Hollywood has ever given us") he must once again confront the horrors of "Hannibal The Cannibal." If Will Graham enters the mind of the serial killer, can he ever come back? Joan Allen (The Contender), Dennis Farina, Kim Greist and Stephen Lang co-star in this shocking thriller directed by Michael Mann and adapted from the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. But be warned: Fans and critics alike consider Manhunter to be far superior to The Silence Of The Lambs, as well as one of the most unnerving serial killer movies ever made.

Director: Michael Mann
Cast: William L. Petersen, Kim Greist, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Dennis Farina, Stephen Lang, Tom Noonan
DVD: Limited Edition: Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9; audio English Dolby Surround; subtitles none; closed-captioned; single sided - single layered; 30 chapters; Not Rated; 124 min.; $39.98; street date 1/30/01.
Supplements: Disc One: Featurette: , A Conversation with Cinematographer Dante Spinotti; Featurette: Inside Manhunter With Stars William Petersen, Joan Allen, Brian Cox and Tom Noonan; Theatrical Trailer; Talent Bios; THX Optimode.
Disc Two: Director's Cut
Purchase: DVD | Limited Edition DVD | Red Dragon - Thomas Harris


Picture/Sound/Extras: F/B-/NA

For once, Iím going to write a relatively short review. Thatís because I wonít offer many remarks about the movie Manhunter itself. I already did so in a full article about the single-DVD standard release of the film that can be found here.

Instead, this review will concentrate only on the second disc found in the ďLimited EditionĒ package of Manhunter. The first DVD is identical to the one available on its own, so all of my comments from the other review apply to it.

The second DVD is a totally different matter. All we find on this platter is the ďdirectorís cutĒ of Manhunter. This version features a running time that only goes about three minutes longer than the theatrical edition. However, it actually offers a little more extra footage than that difference in length would imply. Thatís because the DC presents altered opening credits. In the theatrical version, the credits run with against a black background, whereas most of the text for the DC plays in front of movie footage. Since this material still appears in the theatrical cut, this means that thereís an extra minute and a half or so difference between the running times. As such, the DC seems to add about four or five minutes to the theatrical version, not just the apparent three minutes.

Not that it really matters. I wasnít wild about the theatrical cut of Manhunter, and the DC didnít do much to change that feeling. Thereís simply too little additional footage to make much of a difference. The extra material is interesting and it made the film slightly better, but not much; the two versions are essentially identical.

The DVD:

But not their DVDs, and thatís the main problem with the directorís cut of Manhunter; itís plug-ugly. The film appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. However, the framing has been badly altered and it does not replicate the shots found on the theatrical cut.

Not a single shot of the DC is framed correctly, though some instances are more blatant than others. The opening scene in which we see the villain attack is a glaring example of a poorly cropped shot. Essentially it looks like they took a pan and scan frame and simply matted it for 2.35:1. That means that the image is very distorted and poorly composed.

Most of the movie doesnít come across that badly, but the framing remains incorrect nonetheless. A lot of the shots look almost right, but they donít provide quite as much image on the sides, the top and the bottom. Itís not a huge loss of picture - unlike the scene mentioned above - but itís wrong in any case.

These problems would be large concerns under the best circumstances, but the weak quality of the image renders them moot. It seems obvious that this picture came from a VHS copy of the movie as it looks absolutely terrible. Pretty much any flaw you can think of will be found here. The image jitters consistently, and a ďgauzyĒ appearance rules the day; the film appears as though it was shot through a filter. Sharpness seems weak, as the picture looks very soft and hazy. Colors are drab and lifeless, and black appear flat and mushy. Shadow detail seems very heavy, which makes it difficult to make out the action in low-light sequences. Put simply, the picture looks atrocious and is virtually unwatchable.

Much better is the Dolby Surround soundtrack of the film. This mix isnít quite as good as the fairly strong Dolby Digital 5.1 track that accompanies the theatrical version, but the two are pretty similar. Essentially, the 5.1 mix appears slightly more aggressive, but otherwise the two share the same qualities. The Surround track sounds pretty clear and natural for the most part, and it provides an acceptably involving experience. For the most part, the comments I made about the 5.1 track in my other review apply here, as the two come across with many comparable qualities.

I didnít provide a grade for ďextrasĒ due to the odd nature of this package. Should I rate them based on the supplements found on DVD one, or do I just assess this discís materials? DVD includes no extras of its own; it just displays the directorís cut of the film.

However, the package adds a text supplement that canít be found in the single-disc edition. Called the ďManhunter FilesĒ, this product comes in a miniature file folder. It reproduces some of the filmís text - like the personal ad Lecter places in the ďTattlerĒ - and features a couple of essays about the movie, but most of the 12 double-sided inserts simply show pictures from the production. Itís a neat little package but nothing very deep.

Viewed in a vacuum, the ďLimited EditionĒ of Manhunter is a nice enough little package. It includes everything that appears in the standard DVD plus a longer version of the film and some interesting paper inserts. However, other factors combine to make this a less-than-appealing offering. For one, the visual quality of the directorís cut is atrocious. The movie seems very difficult to watch, and I canít imagine anyone would want to view it instead of the much-clearer theatrical edition. This aspect of the package makes the second DVD little more than a curiosity.

The LE lists for $15 more than the standard version. Thatís a lot of money to pay for what amounts to four or five minutes of deleted scenes, and thatís how I regard the second DVD; itís nothing more than an annoying way to watch some omitted footage. The presentation is flawed not just because of the miserable video quality. Anchor Bay also make it difficult to easily find the extra scenes. Many directorís cut DVDs add notations in their chapter listings to indicate altered segments, but that doesnít happen here; youíll just have to figure it out for yourself.

Thatís a poorly-executed feature, and it makes the Limited Edition even less appealing. Why Anchor Bay donít use seamless branching is beyond me. In that case, they could add the extra footage to the basic DVD and let the viewer choose which one to watch. Sure, the restored material would look terrible in comparison with the remainder of the film, but thatís not unusual - the new shots in Nixon appear poor - and at least itíd only be a concern for a few minutes; the DC is more than two hours of visual agony.

But if Anchor Bay took that step, I guess they couldnít market these semi-collectible ďlimited editionsĒ. I donít want to be cynical about the situation, but when I encounter a package like this, itís hard to avoid such opinions. Itís a shame because Anchor Bay did a very nice job with the standard edition of Manhunter. Unfortunately, the LE eradicates some of that goodwill. Fans of the film should avoid this rip-off like the plague.


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