Debuting twenty-three years ago with “Manhunter”, there have been five films chronicling the enigmatic and terrifying serial killer Hannibal Lecter. Though many of us have seen the first three (which are included in this collection), they were previously unreleased on Blu-Ray format until this past month. If you haven’t seen these films, you owe it yourself to see them at whatever cost, but the Blu-Ray versions don’t necessarily add anything spectacular to the series. Though worth watching, this collection of films doesn’t differ much from the previously released versions, and I am still waiting for some sort of “Ultimate Collection.” Keep reading after the jump to see why.
Starting with the first film in the initial trilogy, “Manhunter” (directed by Michael Mann) stars William Peterson as Will Graham and Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecter. Though they were probably right at the time, in retrospect, I don’t necessarily think that these were the best casting choices. Either way, the plot of the film revolves around Graham using Lecter’s (though in this film, he is named Lektor) intelligence to help him track down an elusive serial killer nicknamed the “Tooth Fairy.” The “Tooth Fairy” or Francis Dolarhyde is a tormented man who studies families before breaking into their homes and killing everyone while they are fast asleep. Since Graham has put Lecter in prison, they have a mutual respect for each other and Hannibal decides to help Graham and the FBI decipher clues left behind by Dolarhyde. Though he appears to be helping on the surface, it is obvious that Lecter has some fascination with the “Tooth Fairy” himself as he sends him clues about the whereabouts of Graham’s family. The final act of the film revolves around Graham obviously wrapping up the clues and locating Dolarhyde for their final confrontation.
Even though I consider the remake (“Red Dragon”) to be a far superior film, there wasn’t a lot to gripe about with this version. Though the 1980’s wardrobe choices were pretty fun to look at, the film itself was pretty well done. If you haven’t seen this film, it is important because it was the first piece in the Hannibal legend. Even if you have seen the remake, it wouldn’t hurt to see this version as well, as most of the performances aren’t bad, and it’s basically the exact same film, but with a slightly different ending. Though Cox wasn’t bad as Lecter, it is hard to watch this film now and try to hold him in the same regard as Anthony Hopkins.
The next film in the trilogy is by far the best, and I am sure almost everyone reading this site has seen it multiple. “The Silence of the Lambs” is the masterpiece starring Anthony Hopkins as Lecter and Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling. In this film, the captive Lecter is again used to aid the FBI in their search for the killer named Buffalo Bill. Bill has been finding young woman and brutally murdering them in an attempt to remove parts of the skin….I will leave it at that for the two people reading who haven’t seen this film. What makes this film interesting is the strange attraction that Starling has to Lecter- this adoration becomes stronger, along with her desperation to catch Bill, and it appears that she is willing to do just about anything to stop him before he can kill the daughter of a U.S. Senator.
The second half of the film really takes off, and it becomes obvious why this film received so many accolades. If you haven’t seen this film yet (and if you have, I am sure you will agree), the finale is spectacular- as Starling makes her final move to catch Bill, the tension and intensity is unforgettable and it leads to one of the best sequences I have ever seen. Hopkins was brilliant as Lecter, winning an Academy Award for his effort, and everyone else was nearly as spectacular. I won’t say that this film is perfect, but you will be hard pressed to find faults with this film. Even after seeing it several times, watching it again is still a treat, and I consider it one of the best suspense/mystery movies of all time.
The final film in the collection is “Hannibal” (directed by Ridley Scott). This film again stars Hopkins as Lecter, but Julianne Moore has taken on the role of Agent Starling. Though she is a very adequate actress, there was something missing from the role. For some reason, it was just much more difficult to believe her in this role. I don’t think it was necessarily anything she did, but the fake accent and lack of intelligent writing really didn’t suit her well. If you haven’t seen this film yet, I am kind of on the fence on this one.
“Hannibal” takes place in Italy, where Lecter is happily living as a curator for a local museum. A hungry foreign police detective receives notice that Lecter may be in his country, and promptly identifies him. Instead of contacting the authorities, he contacts Mason Verger (Lecter’s fourth victim) for a private reward, but the cunning Lecter is far too smart for this. At this same time, Agent Starling is set up by her former boyfriend at the FBI and she is quickly suspended from her duties. Though things seem bad enough, the situation becomes worse as the savvy Lecter decides that this is as good a time as any to return home. With good intentions behind him, Lecter enters the states and begins the uphill battle of escaping both the FBI and Mason Verger and his goons. In his attempts to do Agent Starling right, we see the destruction of an FBI agent, and Mason Verger’s plan for revenge. Though it sounds good in theory, these ideas were poorly executed and ultimately fell flat.
Though this wasn’t a bad film, it was probably the weakest in the series. Hopkins was great again as Lecter, but the concept of him being a caged animal is much more frightening. The fact that he is just roaming around Italy, reading books and drinking espresso isn’t nearly as terrifying as seeing him trapped behind the glass cell wall. Similarly, instead of supplying a shocking or gripping ending as in the first two films, this one was just kind of gross and overdone. Again, this wasn’t a bad film, but there were so many things done poorly that it’s hard to hold this one in as high a regard.
Silence of the Lambs: A+
As I said earlier, there is little to make this a definitive version of this collection. There is literally NO additional content for “Manhunter” or “Hannibal”, and what is included in “Lambs” has been seen before. That being said, here’s what was included:
Breaking the Silence- a PiP feature including pop-up trivia where actors and crew discuss the film and script.
Understanding the Madness- several retired agents from the Behavioral Science Services unit of the FBI give technical information regarding killers or psychopaths.
Inside the Labyrinth- this is the making of the film, and it definitely worth watching. It runs an hour in length and breaks down every aspect of this amazing film.
Three featurettes that basically chronicle transferring the book to the screen, and how the film was scored.
Twenty two deleted scenes that didn’t really add much importance.
As you can, there wasn’t a lot to write home about in the special features department, and all of these were previously released in the 2001 DVD of the film. I am a little disappointed that there weren’t more significant extras, but I guess they gave us everything they could.
The picture on these is obviously amazing, and the surround sound is a necessity for these films- especially “Silence of the Lambs.”
Special Features Ratings
Silence of the Lambs: B-
Overall Collection Rating: B