Manhunter (1986)

Manhunter (1986), directed by Michael Mann.


Graham: I know that I'm not smarter than you.

Lecktor: Then how did you catch me?

Graham: You had disadvantages.

Lecktor: What disadvantages?

Graham: You're insane.

(Lecktor pauses, then changes the subject)

This first filming of a Hannibal Lecter story (spelled "Lecktor" this time) is a serial killer police procedural. We have an FBI profiler who can get into the mind of a psycho-killer (much to his own psychic distress) and, as a bonus resource, a bona-fide genius serial killer in captivity. Who can be useful if you can cope with his mind games.

Beware: Hannibal the Cannibal has made contact with the new killer and can use him as a weapon.

I hadn't seen this since it was new and remember being impressed with its tension, with how much horror they were able to summon with little blood or explicitness. The mythology has been so developed since and taken such a gruesome turn that this first installment almost doesn't seem like part of the series. It is more real-world than The Silence of the Lambs (1991), which ventures into fantasy-action territory.

The plot is spoken aloud which is usually bad writing both in films and in books, but a police procedural is all about the plot, the actual steps involved in solving a crime, so maybe it is justified this time. The story is elevated by Graham's race to protect his family and keep himself sane.

Is the cinematography a bit self-consciously posed?

For the score I thought some of it sounded like Tangerine Dream, who Mann used for Thief (1981) earlier, but I don't see any connection on the soundtrack listing. Then I thought "this sounds like Shriekback" and they have three credits for the film. The band was formed that same year.

Michael Mann also wrote the screenplay adaptation from the book Red Dragon, which was again filmed under that title in 2002. Same cinematographer.

Available on Blu-ray.