Manhunter – Eat The Rudecast

We're joined by Sean Colletti, the other half of the This is Our Design team to discuss an epic example of '80s movie, Michael Mann's Manhunter, the first filmic adaptation of Red Dragon, as we begin our analysis of the Hannibal Lecter film series. We wade into the Brian Cox VS Anthony Hopkins – Who is the better Hannibal? debate. (Though, it's the better Hannibal, not the BEST, because that is definitely Mads Mikkelson.) The discussion follows the fact that this is a tragically flawed film, and a rather poor adaptation, but it is still often mesmerizing and fascinating.

All on this episode of Eat The Rudecast, a podcast about The TV series Hannibal, and the works of Thomas Harris.

You can find Sean Colletti‘s writing at PopOptiq (Formerly Sound on Sight) and as always we highly recommend the This is Our Design podcast.

The breakdown of scenes from Manhunter, Red Dragon, and Hannibal is here:

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • , glowing eyes, D wings – Dragon? the elevator light-bulb

    So this was my first time watching Manhunter all the way through. Before i had just seen short clips (the ending fight, the Brian Cox Hannibal scenes). But this was a very interesting movie. Its a pretty great thriller.

    I love the opening. Very creepy.

    The movie is very beautifully shot. That opening with Will and Jack on the beach was great. And the colors! Oh look at all the blues and whites.

    Will investigating the crime scene at the beginning. Much more effective in the TV show.

    So lets talk about Brian Cox. He’s a great Hannibal. It sucks that he gets forgotten most of the time. One thing that I love about this interpretation is the intrusiveness of this character. I’m sure you could be talking to him about anything – hell… ice cream flavors – and he would somehow turn the conversation around to you. And the way he just stared at Will. “You’re insane.” *stare*

    Another thing i find interesting in this interpretation is that i can picture Brian Cox’s Hannibal on the outside, free, working as a therapist and going to parties. I feel that this Hannibal can hide what he really is from everybody. I really can’t say that about Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal.

    One more thing. In that finale scene with Cox, where he is talking about how terrific God is, i’m surprised you guys didn’t mention it (of if you did i missed it), but how about that moment when Will gets an epiphany and an elevator in the background begins to rise. I wonder how long it took them to get that show perfect?

    I think I’m with you guys in feeling that Tom Noonan’s Dolarhyde is my least favorite. There are things i like about this version. I love how Noonan just towers over everybody. While i also felt a little underwhelmed with the introductory scene, i love the moment when Dolarhyde takes Lounds (what a douche this version) and he just taps him on the shoulder. And during that sex scene, i didn’t see Dolarhyde as being bored. I saw him being more confused. Like “what the hell is going on?” Maybe its because all of this is happening really quickly. Or maybe its the fact that he is having sex with a REAL woman. I don’t see this version of the character having a lot of sex – probably only when he kills – so maybe this is just new for him.

    I also liked the blood wings at the end. Although as you guys pointed out, since this movie didn’t play with the idea of the Dragon at all, the image falls kind of flat. I wonder if this is where Fuller got the blood turning into wings from? A little homage?

    And that shot of the lady with the glowing eyes and mouth? Creepy. There is some great imagery in the movie.

  • FictionIsntReal
    September 16, 2015 3:42 pm

    My answer for the best is complicated, because they’re hard to compare. In terms of impact per minute of screentime, it’s hard to beat Hopkins in Silence (not just compared to other actors who’ve played Hannibal, but other performances anywhere!). Mads is the opposite: he gave a more restrained performance over a much longer period of time to build a new & quasi-human version of the character, certainly a better batting average than Hopkins if you include his subsequent turns. But just comparing all three of them doing the same material from Red Dragon, Cox does the best job. Mikkelsen just seems off doing that version of the character, and Hopkins had gotten way too hammy. Also, of all three actors, Cox seems most likely to murder me. I should probably stop shouting “Shenanigans!” at him all the time.

    Funny you say that, Ben, about seeing Hannibal as a civilian, because we see Hopkins do it but never Cox!

    I think the only character in which I prefer the Brett Ratner iteration is Freddie Lounds, played by one of the greatest actors of the 21st century (so far). In Manhunter he’s just cartoonishly sleazy, and while that might be an accurate version of the character, it doesn’t come off as well when even Dolarhyde gets some shading.

    Fuller definitely got the blood wings from Manhunter. His death in Red Dragon is a more mundane one at Molly’s hands.

    Look forward to having enough time to listen to the podcast and write up a more detailed response.

  • FictionIsntReal
    September 18, 2015 4:19 pm

    I don’t think there’s much hope for any viewer trying to “look past the aesthetics” of Manhunter. The film relies so heavily on them.

    Law & Order debuted in 1990. I’ve made the same mistake of thinking it was in the late 80s.

    The newspaper spelling the name as “Lecktor” reminds me of the show having Freddie write the headline with “CHESAPEAK RIPPER RIPS AGAIN” when Gideon nabbed her.

    Lynch’s darkness is different from the serial killer genre. As odd a choice as he was to direct Dune, it was more sensible of De Laurentiis than having him direct a Red Dragon adaptation.

    Dennehy played the villain in Mann’s first feature-length work, the TV movie “The Jericho Mile”, which is presumably why he was nearly cast hear as another imprisoned baddie. Off-topic: He typically has small parts, but oddly enough played the lead in Peter Greenaway’s “The Belly of an Architect”. It’s also Greenaway’s only film from the 80s whose soundtrack (which I’m currently listening to) wasn’t by Michael Nyman, which is part of why it’s my least favorite.

    Mann told Cox that Hannibal should give off an air of entitlement, which Mann compared to private schoolboys he met in England. Cox states that he had trouble of thinking of anyone he knew like that before remembering that his son fit. Probably better than Altman wanting the most insipid possible lyrics for “Suicide is Painless” in M*A*S*H and concluding his son was insipid enough, but at least that kid made far more money (due to the TV show using the song’s melody) than his father did for directing the film. Not that it was good film in my book.

    It was very unfortunate that the show wasn’t able to film in Florida (or a standin resembling it). After all that misery in a suspiciously Toronto-like Beltway area, wouldn’t it make sense that Will would flee to somewhere warmer?

    Farina was still a cop when he debuted as a Thug in Mann’s “Thief”.

    I love “Manhunter”, but I also don’t care for the turtle metaphor.

    Greist is probably the weakest iteration of Molly, but she doesn’t have much material and never seemed a problem to me. But I didn’t have a problem with her in Brazil either, or the more notorious case of Sofia Coppola in Godfather III (not much of an actress, but wasn’t asked to do anything more than be a teenage girl).

    I don’t normally like synth music, but it can be very effective as a score (as with John Carpenter’s).

    Petersen was doing a play rather than a movie after “Manhunter”. That’s why he could change his appearance without causing any continuity problems!

    One of my favorite bits of trivia is that Ted Levine made a bet that he could crash the “Manhunter” wrap party, which was how he met Michael Mann and got cast in “Crime Story” and subsequent projects like “Heat”. As far as I know, it’s just a coincidence that he was cast as Jame Gumb after that.

    The shorts were specified right down to the violet color even in an early draft of the script, which had more material on the Hobbs case (which is supposed to be echoed by Dolarhyde nearly killing Reba in his kitchen). Hobbs was also who he talked to his stepson about, and that draft even has a reference to Hobbs’ daughter (who is younger than in the show and asks Will why he killed her daddy). That draft also makes it clearer that “Kevin” is not Will’s son. I guess they thought audiences would be less interested in a prior serial killer who never appears on-screen and simplified it by changing the conversation to be about Hannibal. Hannibal may not restrict himself to college girls, but in all versions he killed a Princeton student, and gave the dip recipe when a “truth serum” was used on him in an attempt to find the body.

    I saw “Manhunter” first, which could be part of why it’s my favorite movie of the series, but I don’t claim Cox was the best Hannibal. As noted above, that’s Hopkins in Silence. I guess that makes me the reverse of Sean. Because Lecter isn’t the focus of the movie, I don’t need him to be superlative. Manhunter gets the edge over Silence because of Dolarhyde vs Gumb. We get to see more of him as a person and build some sympathy for him. Buffalo Bill just seems like a crazy guy who abducts girls and starves them to death in a well.

    I had not heard about actors from “Manhunter” being invited back for “Silence of the Lambs”. The two who did play completely different characters.

    The sole on-screen interpretation of Chiyoh is still worse than nothing.

    The “YOU SON OF A BITCH” line is right from the book.

    There’s a deleted scene where Chilton annoys Will before letting him see Lecter.

    Lecter doesn’t know about the Red Dragon symbol. The FBI sees no need in keeping him informed of all the details on the case.

    Michael Mann might just like murals. One of the most memorable scenes in “The Insider” has a mural transform into Wigand’s dream.

    It was amusing when Cooper used the past-tense to describe what happens “next week” on the podcast.

    The lab techs sometimes go out in the field on the show. Katz even shoots a perp!

    I do not know what Cooper is talking about regarding Paul Perri “playing blind”.

    Will has a lot of animosity toward Lounds in this version. It helps sell the notion that he wanted something bad to happen to him. The show replacing him with Chilton didn’t work at all.

    The jogger isn’t in the novel. It’s amusing when he’s trying to alert the cops to his “mugging”.

    Some have noted comparisons of Abigail’s shirt in her therapy flashback to Noonan’s opposite Lounds.

    Noonan is my favorite Dolarhyde, even with his relatively limited material. I don’t know if what he did was necessarily Mann’s choice, as Noonan got a lot of free reign to do whatever he chose.

    Your mention of Ralph Mandy reminded me how little motivation there was in the show for the end of Dolarhyde & Reba’s relationship.

    The flaming wheelchair is done much better here than Ratner’s “Red Dragon”, where it’s just rolling down the street outside.

    When I worked at target, bringing products to the front of the shelf was called “zoning”.

    People smoke more in Europe than America these days, because Americans overestimate the dangers of smoking and stigmatize it as lower class. Which works out well for me, as I dislike smoke.

    There’s a progression of sequences in which Will stares into (decreasingly) reflective surfaces, which Matt Zoller Seitz analyzes in this video essay.

    The other woman from Gateway is Eileen, who is also in the book. There she’s about to toss a copy of the Tattler (in which she just reads horoscopes) when Dolarhyde asks for it. She’s also the one Reba quotes about Dolarhyde’s appearance. The book version of Eileen’s envy for Dolarhyde’s hair wouldn’t work as well with Noonan.

    According to Noonan, Mann made Joan Allen cry by making her do scenes over and over and saying her performance wasn’t believable. She still wound up in another Mann project (“Luck”), though not the pilot episode he directed.

    Though they don’t have the eating of the painting in this film, the notion of him not wanting to kill anymore works better here, as he refrains once he’s with Reba. In the show he goes right to attacking Will’s family.

    Regarding the different cuts, I’d like to find the clip of Will hypothesizing about Dolarhyde being abused as a child but still deserving to die. I think that was in the first version I saw and I assumed it was in all versions, but now I can’t find it anymore.

    Dolarhyde’s sex scene naturally invites comparisons with Will’s scene near the beginning of the movie, which isn’t in the book (or other adaptations, I think).

    Hannibal doesn’t just have comfy socks. He has two layers of socks!

    A relevant point regarding what Mann decided to include is that his last film got cut in half, and he presumably didn’t want to bloat the runtime and have that happen again.

    Fuller had more time, but I think did a worse job in many respects, because his changes don’t cohere with the core story.

    It’s relevant to note that Will only puts his legs up on the chair when Hannibal specifically tells him to relax!

    Hannibal only talks about becoming like God in this version. In the book he just sends a taunting letter and Will doesn’t try to tie that in to the case he’s working. The book also says “Think about it, but don’t worry about it” regarding killing Hobbs. In the show Hannibal replaces “it” with “me”.

    Inna Gadda da Vida was a song of special significance to Dennis Wayne Wallace, the schizophrenic murderer Mann had been corresponding with.

    The term for the shots with removed frames is a “jump cut”. Most of them in the film are concentrated in the final sequence, and are a deliberate choice on Mann’s part. We first see it when Dolarhyde looks up at Will.

    I hate fakeouts and messing with/lying to the audience, so I like that Mann dropped Harris’ fakeout. Molly killing Dolarhyde works better with the novel’s downbeat ending, but no adaptation has gone that depressing route.

    Will looks more messed up and comes off as creepy in the deleted scene where he visits the family who would have been Dolarhyde’s next victim.

    That final song is my least favorite part of this movie. So bad.

    I’ve never been to film school, but this is still right up my alley. It made little money in part because the production company went bankrupt and ran out of film to distribute to theaters.

    Hannibal came out years after Silence of the Lambs. Was Harris really working on the sequel already?

    Black Sunday is better than every Harris movie post-Silence. It’s too bad he’s stopped doing stories outside of Hannibal.

    I have too many films on my to-do list to rewatch many, but I might have seen “Manhunter” more times than any other film. I rewatch individual episodes of the first season 1 a decent amount, but rarely all in a row. I have no plans to watch any of season 3 again, aside perhaps for individual clips.

    Even though “This is Our Design” is over, Sean should know his month-long absence will be missed.

    Ed Norton supposedly used his Red Dragon paycheck to enable him to do “The 25th Hour” (with Brian Cox!). So that’s one good thing to come of it.


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