Want to see the differences between Manhunter, Red Dragon and Hannibal?

Ever since Alex Cox chose it for his BBC2 show Moviedrome, way back when Silence of the Lambs was released in 1991, Manhunter has been one of, if not my absolute favourite films. If you want to know the reasons why, I wrote about it a few years ago.

Based on the book Red Dragon but retitled after the box office flop of Year of the Dragon, 1986’s Manhunter was actually the first Hannibal Lecter movie, although it featured Brian Cox as Lecter (aka Lecktor in this). Despite being directed by the King of the 80s, Michael Mann, it never went on to acclaim at the time. Since Silence, however, it’s built up a huge cult following and is arguably still the best of the Hannibal Lecter movies.

However, once Silence took off, the desire to remake Red Dragon with Anthony Hopkins became almost insatiable. The result was that in 2002, Brett Ratner directed Red Dragon, a remake of Manhunter starring Hopkins, Ed Norton replacing William Petersen as Lecter’s nemesis Will Graham. Yes, Brett Ratner. For those who don’t know Ratner, he’s very much Hollywood’s most average director. He’s not terrible, but every film he makes is literally the most average version possible of any given source material.

Since then, however, Hannibal Lecter has moved over to the TV world in the form of the rather wonderful (albeit inconsistent) Hannibal, with Mads Mikkelsen now playing Hannibal “the Cannibal” and Hugh Dancy playing Will Graham. A hybrid of Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and Hannibal Rising, it’s plotted its own course with the source books over the past three seasons, rounding off its latest (and probably last) season with a multi-episode adaptation of Red Dragon.

Now some enterprising person (Matthew Morrettini) has taken all three versions of the same scene – Will and Hannibal’s first meeting following Lecter’s capture – and edited them together to show you the differences between the three takes on the novel. Much of the dialogue is the same, so the performances and direction are what differentiates them. Watch the video and you’ll notice how iconic, clinical and 80s Manhunter is, how artistic and surreal Hannibal is… and how incredibly, incredibly average Red Dragon is.

Who’s your favourite Lecter/Lecktor?

  • Stuart Nathan

    Has anyone ever explained why Lecter was respelled in Manhunter? It's always seemed odd to me, as you only see the difference in the credits and they're pronounced the same.

  • Not that I know of, although somewhere lurking in the back of my brain, I have the idea (not sure if it's true or not) that Mann thought it more predatory in some way, 'sharkier' perhaps.

    You do actually see the name spelled out in the headline of the Tattler story about Will visiting Lecktor, so it's not a totally invisible change, though.

  • Andy Butcher

    I think all three have given extremely strong – and very distinct – performances, but while I've always had a soft spot for Cox (like you, Manhunter is one of my favourite movies), I think I have to give the crown to Mikkelsen now.

    (Oh, and welcome back – hope your holiday went well.)

  • Thank you! Good to be back!

    I'd agree. I think Cox is great, but he only had a short amount of time to work with and I'm not sure how much his performance would have supported a whole TV series. It's perfect for Manhunter and beats out Hopkins' hammy performance, but it's not interesting enough to really make you want to watch episodes and episodes of it.

    Mikkelsen's great for TV, but it's the same problem in reverse – I wouldn't want to watch that performance confined in a single movie.

  • I've reviewed Blindspot elsewhere and fingers crossed will be doing Minority Report tonight. Lucifer will have to wait until next week, but I'm pretty much in agreement

  • Pingback: The Medium is Not Enough TV blog()

  • Pingback: The Medium is Not Enough TV blog()