Tag Archives: Manhunter

“I’m not fallin’ all over myself to talk about much anywhere, Jack.” Manhunter Revisited – by Josh Hains

“He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.”
– Friedrich Neitzsche

Will Graham doesn’t want to take the job Jack Crawford is offering, and we can hardly blame him. We are able to infer that whatever happened to him was of such a horrific nature that it caused his retirement from the FBI as a criminal profiler. We later learn in little bits and pieces (and not in an unnecessary prologue; I’m looking at you, Red Dragon) that a confrontation with the cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecktor left him physically scarred from presumably gruesome injuries, and mentally broken. Through his body language and the stern, almost melancholic tone of his voice, we discern his reluctance, his unpreparedness, and we can sense the deep pain broiling beneath his calm surface. His peaceful existence in Marathon, Florida with his wife Molly (Kim Griest) and son Kevin is now on the brink of being shattered, all thanks to Jack’s perseverance. All it takes for him to crawl back into darkness is one look at a photograph of the deceased Leeds family, and the knowledge that he can help track down this one last psychopath, as if catching the killer will somehow put to rest his own inner demons from his years as a profiler. Easier said than done.

I revisited Manhunter on September 4th, over two years since the last time I’d seen it in March of 2016, and have given myself these last twelve days to absorb the film all over again. I had forgotten that for all of the darkness, despair, and violence, Manhunter is a beautifully photographed film, particularly during the opening scenes that establish Will’s moral quandary, and the serene dream sequence that occurs when Will falls asleep on a plane later in the picture. Even if Manhunter was somehow a genuinely awful movie, I believe I’d still remember those jaw droppingly gorgeous images conjured up by director Michael Mann and the director of photography Dante Spinotti. It certainly helps that I was watching it in high definition.

We later see that Will Graham (William Petersen) was indeed unprepared for this final job when he comes face to face with Dr. Lecktor in his cell, and experiences some manner of anxiety attack that sends him rushing out of the colossal building he’s incarcerated in. I recognized as with previous viewings, that unlike other interpretations of Lecter (spelled “Lecktor” only here in Manhunter, and spelled “Lecter” in the books by author Thomas Harris, and the other films and television shows) that reach for grandiose heights with the kind of theatricality one might expect from a Broadway production, Dr. Lecktor as played by the great Brian Cox, is a mild mannered, relaxed, everyman take on the character. He’s undoubtedly a psychopath, but his menace doesn’t come though in how he speaks but rather in what is spoken. This approach makes him all the more chilling than later versions because we know from human history that many of the most vile beings who have ever walked this earth, walked upon it in a manner as calmly, politely, and “normally” as Lecktor presents himself to be. What’s more frightening to you, reader: the Lecter you know is crazy before he’s ever opened his mouth because he practically smells of insanity, or the Lecktor you never suspect is insane until you’ve awoken under his knife?

Of course, no serial killer thriller is complete without the law enforcement affiliated lead, here personified with a palpable depth and a grounded everyman quality by William Petersen, in a performance as subdued and internalized as Cox’s Lecktor. Petersen never once strays into any kind of territory that would evoke feeling of his performance appearing fake or forced. He’s as natural as they come, and were it not for the knowledge that he is in fact, merely behaving for the screen, one might assume from his naturalism in Manhunter, To Live And Die In L.A., and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, that maybe he’s the real deal, a cop turned actor like his co-star in Manhunter, the late Dennis Farina. Farina, who was a police officer in the Chicago Police Department’s burglary division for 18 years before Michael Mann used him as a consultant on his feature film debut, Thief (for which Farina also had a small role as an enforcer), turns in an equally as grounded, and entirely believable and authentic performance as Jack Crawford.

And then there’s the cause of Will’s return to profiling, the serial killer dubbed “The Tooth Fairy” for the bite marks he leaves on the bodies of his victims post mortem, better known to us as Francis Dollarhyde (Tom Noonan, who also has a small role in Mann’s Heat). His height and implied strength make him an imposing figure, though he’s also a shy little boy tucked away inside this monstrous shell, afraid to show his cleft palate, and obsessed with William Blake’s painting “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun”, later witnessed in a horrific scene with one of Dollarhyde’s victims, the sleazy reporter Freddy Lounds (the great Stephen Lang). That same painting has inspired an alternate personality borne out of his psychopathy he calls “Great Red Dragon”, which comes to life when he seemingly can’t control urges of both violent and sexual natures. Thanks in large part to Noonan’s eerie performance, and the subtle writing of Dollarhyde by Mann himself, the thin line between compassion and love, witnessed in intimate moments between Dollarhyde and blind co-worker Reba McClane (Joan Allen) with whom he starts a relationship with, and uncontrollable murderous rage, is narrower than the edge of a piece of paper, creating a figure all the more real and subtly terrifying.

It wouldn’t be a Michael Mann film without a memorable score or the use of a popular song, and Manhunter is no exception, complete with a thrilling, pulsating score from Michael Rubini, and The Reds, and the incredibly effective, memorable use of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Godda-Da-Vida” during the climactic confrontation between Dollarhyde and law enforcement led by Graham and Crawford. The use of Red 7’s “Heartbeat” over the credits offers up a welcomed upbeat conclusion to an otherwise dark picture.

In my revisitation of Manhunter, I took note of something that I had noticed the very first time I saw Manhunter in my teens (at the very least 11 years ago), and that has stuck with me ever since: the scene when Will visits the Leeds family home to scour the crime scene for clues to their murders, which is also where I came intonthe movie all those years ago when I caught it on television. This interpretation of Will Graham doesn’t just stand in the bedroom of the deceased Mr. and Mrs. Leeds and state into a tape recorder what he thinks occurred, like later versions. He scans the room before he ever says a word, his eyes circling the room from left to right, his mind at work taking in all of this visual information and formulating his idea of what happened simultaneously. When he’s done absorbing the scene, he speaks, low and taking his time, telling us how he thinks they died, and more, in full graphic detail. While we thankfully never bear witness to the events that actually occurred, we move onto the next scene with a clear understanding of what more than likely happened, without the sensation that we just listened to an unnecessarily long exposition dump. It’s a bone chilling scene, given the terrible subject matter, but an effective one we might not soon forget.

I’ve also come to recognize as I’ve grown older, that this same scene also conveys what it is about Will’s brilliant skillset as an FBI criminal profiler that compelled Jack Crawford to ask Will to step out of retirement to help him capture this one last criminal in the first place; to knowingly pull him out of paradise only to thrust him into a personal hell that endangers his family and himself. And why Will Graham said okay.

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Episode 32: 30th Anniversary of Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER with Special Guest Charles de Lauzirika

episode-32

charlie
Photo by Carlee Baker.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Frank’s all time favorite film, Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER.  Frank is joined with returning guest, Charles de Lauzirika who produced Ridley Scott’s home video releases of everything from BLADE RUNNER to THE COUNSELOR to THE MARTIAN and the ALIEN QUADRILOGY.  Everyone who owns the ALIEN QUADRILOGY and the silver BLADE RUNNER briefcase, thank Charlie he was a producer and consultant on it, from the packaging to the menu navigation, supplements.  Anyway, Frank and Charlie gush about their love for MANHUNTER, and speak about the other films, novels, the HANNIBAL TV show, and the Shout Factory MANHUNTER release.  Please check out our previous chat with Charlie here.

 

 

PTS Presents ACTOR’S SPOTLIGHT with STEPHEN LANG

SLANG POWERCAST

stephen_langSTEPHEN LANG is an award-winning actor known for his work on TV, film and stage.  Lang has been cast in a recurring role as Waldo in the upcoming AMC genre-bending material arts series INTO THE BADLAND.  He will also be reprising his role as Colonel Miles Quaritch from James Cameron’s AVATAR in the three upcoming sequels.  Lang can be seen starring in WGN America’s hit series SALEM as Increase Mathers.  Recently, Lang took his acclaimed stage production of BEYOND GLORY on the road to eight cities nationwide. You can also watch Lang in the documentary BEYOND GLORY which the actor as he tracks the ten year odyssey behind his one-man show about eight medal of honor recipients.

Last fall, he starred as Coach Farris in 23 BLAST, a sports drama based on the true story of a high school football star who is suddenly stricken with irreversible total blindness.  He also starred as Increase Mathers in the first season of WGN America’s hit series SALEM. Lang can be seen in such films as Stephen King’s A GOOD MARRIAGE, THE NUT JOB, IN THE BLOOD, and PIONEER. He was also featured in the cast of the HBO documentary LOVE, MARILYN.  Lang’s many films include LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN, TOMBSTONE, GODS AND GENERALS, GETTYSBURG, PUBLIC ENEMIES, WHITE IRISH DRINKERS, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, CHRISTINA, and AVATAR.

Film awards and nominations include Saturn Award for Outstanding Villain, The Grace Prize, MTV and Teen Choice Awards, Best Actor Buffalo-Niagra Film Fest, Outstanding Acting Achievement VisonFest X.

Extensive work on TV includes Michael Mann’s classic CRIME STORY, and TERRA NOVA. His extensive work on the New York stage includes A FEW GOOD MEN, THE SPEED OF DARKNESS, DEATH OF A SALESMAN DEFIANCE, THE GUYS, and HAMLET, as well as 101 critically acclaimed performances of his solo play, BEYOND GLORY at The Roundabout.

He received the NEA Chairman’s Medal for Distinguished Service for bringing BEYOND GLORY to American troops around the globe, as well as the Bob Hope Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society for his portrayal of American fighting men. Other theatre awards and nominations include The Tony, Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, Joseph Jefferson, Helen Hayes, and Outer Critics Circle Awards.

Lang holds Honorary Doctorates from Swarthmore College and Jacksonville University, and is a member of The Actors Studio.

PTS Presents The Gary Young Special Episode 1: Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER and Jonathan Demme’s SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

Our first monthly series with screenwriter Gary Young, where we discuss Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER and Jonathan Demme’s SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.  We also get into the television series HANNIBAL as well as Ridley Scott’s HANNIBAL and we briefly touch upon Brett Ratner’s RED DRAGON.