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?