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Manhunter (1986)

Red Dragon: The Pursuit of Hannibal Lecter

Hannibal Lecktor’s legacy of evil begins here

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 235 minutes

UK Certificate: 18


William Petersen stars as retired FBI criminal psychological profiler Will Graham – retired because he can no longer deal with the pressures of the job. He was a successful profiler due to his ability to get into the minds of the killers, but this also allowed them into his head. After being attacked and left for dead by one of the killers he has helped capture – the fiendish Dr Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox) – he has something of a breakdown and is only now rebuilding his life after much therapy.

His life is turned upside-down when he is called out of retirement by FBI section chief Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina), in a last-ditch attempt to catch a new and deadly killer, Francis Dollarhyde (Tom Noonan), dubbed the 'Tooth Fairy' because of the toothmarks left on the victims. The killer is slaughtering a family each month on the night of the full moon, and the timetable is relentless – he must be caught before he strikes again. However, no-one can work out how the killer is selecting the families, as they seem to have nothing in common. Will must get inside the Tooth Fairy's head before he can understand the killer's motivations. To help himself get back into the serial killer mindset, he visits Lecktor in jail, who offers to help him. However, Lecktor may be just as dangerous as Dollarhyde.

This adaptation was later remade as 'Red Dragon' with Anthony Hopkins playing Lector (with a change of spelling from 'Lecktor'). William Petersen is particularly effective here as Will Graham – he is every bit as interesting in the FBI agent role as Jodie Foster, Edward Norton and Julianne Moore will later be. The look of the film is different to that of its successors – there is little Hollywood gloss here, which is not necessarily a bad thing as the film is grittier and full of impact. Lecktor is quite a different proposition than the later Lector will become, and it is just a pity that we do not see more of him as he has plenty of presence. The biggest hole in the film is that it does not really explain the motivations of the killer Dollarhyde – motivations that are clearly explained in the original novel – so that although he announces often that he is 'becoming' something, we are never quite sure what that might mean.

Based on the best-selling novel “Red Dragon” by Thomas Harris.

The two-disc Special Edition DVD contains both the theatrical release and a remastered director's cut of the movie.

It's Got: William Peterson, who really does give the impression that he has serial killers in his head.

It Needs: More on the motivations behind Dollarhyde’s ritualistic killings.

DVD Extras Manhunter – Special Edition. It’s interesting to see both versions of the film in one set. Extras: Two versions of the film, Director’s commentary, Featurettes, Theatrical trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10


This one is every bit as good as its later remake, some say better. The film stands up well on its own and will also appeal to those who like Hannibal’s later reincarnation.