James Stewart stars as a railroad man hired to secretly carry a payroll despite his suspected connections to outlaws
Hannibal the cannibal made his first appearance on screen in this prequel to The Silence Of The Lambs.
The original film based on Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecter stories, Manhunter is superior to The Silence Of The Lambs, the sequel that made Lecter a household name.
Brian Cox's wonderfully menacing performance as Lecktor (as the bad doctor's name is spelt for this film) avoided the relative cuddliness of Anthony Hopkins, who promptly walked off with the Oscar that should have been Cox's. Peterson (To Live And Die In LA) is Will Graham, the ex-FBI man who can get under the skin of serial killers a little too easily (he's "eidetic").
Mann focuses on the family and consequently on Graham's decision, with only the reluctant blessing of his wife (Greist), to return to working for the FBI, leaving his blissful semi-retirement by the sea. His former bosses are stumped by the activities of a serial killer who targets families and carefully kills with each full moon. In order to track the killer (Noonan), Graham calls on Lecktor's services.
The encounter with the caged cannibal may be chilling, but it's the family dimension that is genuinely moving, this making the ending altogether more effective.
Mann's camera work and use of a pulsating soundtrack (arguably the most dated part of the film), together with his expressionist view of the world and a fascination for the mechanics of a nationwide police investigation, make Manhunter one of the most convincing and cinematic thrillers ever.
Later remade, with bombast and heavy-handed gothic trappings, as Red Dragon, Manhunter remains the most refined screen adaptation of Harris' books.
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