Collecting arguably the three greatest Hannibal movies into one collection, it’s pretty amazing to see what stunners this film series was at one point. Taut and thrilling, these movies are every bit the hallmark of great story-telling and clever filmmaking. Sure, the quality of a couple of the films included here can be debated, but all three hold the honor of being the best films based on the Hannibal Lecter character before the film series took a beeline straight for the gutter. So, let’s push aside the synopsis and see exactly what this film collection holds.
Witness the birth of evil in spine tingling clarity, as the eerie and intense Hannibal Lecter Anthology captures Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal together on stunning Blu-ray Disc for the first time. Manhunter, the intense thriller from writer-director Michael Mann, first introduced the world to the cunning, unforgettable serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The psychological horror continues inThe Silence of the Lambs with Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins as the sophisticated murderer, alongside Oscar winner Jodie Foster as FBI agent Clarice Starling, who liaisons with the killer in order to solve a murder case. Lastly, Hopkins is “perverse perfection” (Rolling Stone) in his reprisal of the role of Dr. Lecter inHannibal, as he comes out of hiding to draw FBI agent Starling into a high-stakes battle that will test her strength, cunning and loyalty.
While the franchise is all but dead at the moment, thanks to Hannibal Rising, interest in the earlier Hannibal movies still remain quite high, with enthusiasts looking to snag the earlier (and the best) Hannibal features on Blu-ray. Attempting to do one better than just releasing all the earlier movies, Fox Home Entertainment is releasing the first three installments in one Blu-ray collection. Bringing together arguably the top three films in the Hannibal series, let’s take a quite run through these three magnificent films to see just why they deserve their received adulation. By no means is this an in-depth look at each feature, but just a quick gloss over.
First up is the Manhunter, the first flick to bring the psychotic Dr. Hannibal Lecter to screens. While the general public usually overlooks this movie, both due to its 1980s release and lack of Anthony Hopkins, it still a great film that deserves its inclusion here. Manhunter is definitely of its time, but manages to still drip with mood and atmosphere that blows its remake Red Dragon out of the water. Director Mann can’t help but draw the viewer into this dark, dreary film, entrancing the audience in an almost creepy dream-like tale. Lecter, played by Brian Cox, is pretty excellent here, but he lacks the frightening unpredictability of the version played by Hopkins.
And speaking of Hopkins, let’s move on to The Silence of the Lambs, which features Hopkins’ first spin at the role. Rightfully regarded as one of the best crime thrillers in years, Jonathan Demme’s work here is off the charts. The attention to detail, the use of specific shots, and the sense of claustrophobia, all of it just slides together so well. Every character is so well-developed, and Hopkins’ Lecter makes such an impact on this movie, even if the character’s role is actually pretty small compared to all the others. One can’t forget the work of Jodie Foster too, who is just absolutely note-perfect in this movie. There’s really no flaw to be found in this movie, not a single one, and it definitely earns the right to be called a classic film. The Silence of the Lambs is definitely the high-point in this collection, the absolutely best of them all.
That being said, this leads up to the third and final film included in this collection – Hannibal. With Jodie Foster replaced with Julianne Moore in the pivotal role of FBI agent Clarice Sterling, and Lecter free to roam about, this move loses the psychological horror of The Silence of the Lambs, and instead gives us a gory cat-and-mouse chance, lined with an assortment of thinly developed side characters. The macabre feel of the film is apt, yes, but the emphasis on gore seems a bit of a misstep and even unnecessary. Whether it’s the opening shoot-out or the collection of graphic deaths sprinkled throughout the movie, it seems that the emphasis is a bit off, making for a merely good film when this could have easily been a great one. The ingredients are there, yes, but the mixture seems just a slant off.
As a whole, this is a good collection of movies. Two good ones and a simply classic feature make for a great package of movies. The Silence of the Lambs is the near-flawless classic that should be in everyone’s collection. The other two, Manhunter and Hannibal, are good in their own right save for a few flaws that keep them from achieving a classic status. They’re good movies, yes, but they pale in comparison to the Demme classic. Taking all three into account, I’d still bill them all as Recommended, with The Silence of the Lambs leading the charge. Chock full of riveting characters and solid work, but in-front and behind the camera, this adds up to a surprisingly effective collection, warts and all.
Fox delivers this trilogy of films in a single width Elite Blu-ray case with a swinging tray on the interior. The jacket is doublesided, with the reverse showing off the credit blocks and information for each of the three films on the set. Disc art is a plain white wash with the title printed on it. Menus for Manhunter and Hannibal are incredibly basic and almost offensive in their execution—text is super small and the navigation of chapters is rather annoying. Neither of those two films sport extras of any kind (but Lambs? Talk about a loaded disc…) so that just makes their menus even more barren.
Moving onto the video transfers we get an AVC encoded transfer for Manhunter at a colossal 38mbps. I won’t lie…this is an old film (1986) but it really does look pretty damn good. The color palette, as with all three of these films, is slightly washed out or overly bright or dark at any given moment, but the level of detail on this picture is really quite good. There’s a healthy smattering of grain over the whole thing, but there really aren’t any moments that jump out as overly soft or disorienting. Overall a very nice transfer for a film that is really the least “known” of the Hannibal series.
Silence comes packing the MPEG-2 transfer from the previous single disc release earlier this year. In fact I think it’s the exact same disc altogether—all the extras and technical specs are the same, so if you already own it then you already own the disc in this set. A bit of a downer for those that do own it already, but hey…it’s sandwiched between two other mediocre films, so you already got the best of the bunch in terms of the films of this set. In any case, Silence does the best that it can with its murky color palette; colors are a bit uneven and the black levels tend to cause some weird on-screen effects, but other than that the detail level is high and, again, for a film of this age (1991), I was very impressed by it.
Finally we have Hannibal, which, being the newest of the films (2001), should look the best, right? Yeah…no. Not only does it sport the lowest bitrate of the set (18mbps), but it also has the single worst picture I’ve seen out of a Blu-ray in some time. It genuinely looks like an upscaled DVD, as all sense of detail and grain was either DNR’d out of the image or they literally just took the DVD and bumped it up. It’s really quite amazing how mediocre, muddy, and overall disappointing this transfer is. I mean, yeah, it’s not that great of film anyway but…man, how old is this transfer anyway? It’s encoded in MPEG-2 as well, but Silence looked nothing like this. Hannibal just looks bad. And not in the evil way (although there is that too).
As previously mentioned there are no extras for the pieces of bread in this set (Manhunter and Hannibal for those not following), but the meat of the set (Silence) is loaded. Again, these are the same extras as released on the Blu-ray from May, so there’s nothing new:
Breaking the Silence (1:58:38, SD)
Understanding the Madness (19:35, 1080p)
Inside the Making of (1:06:29, SD)
From Page to Screen (41:18, SD)
Scoring the Silence (16:00, SD)
Original Making-Of (8:07, SD)
Deleted Scenes (20:29, SD)
Outtakes Reel (1:46, SD)
Anthony Hopkins Phone Message (0:34, Audio Only)
TV Spots (5:55, SD)
Theatrical Trailer (1:49, 1080p)
Teaser Trailer (1:05, SD)
While there’s nothing new, that is a healthy dosage of extras. Granted, there is no commentary which is a disappointment, but still it’s a very solid set nonetheless. You don’t even really need commentaries with the over four hour’s worth of extras that focus intently on the movie.
Overall a set that comes Recommended if you don’t own Silence already. I’d say pick it up regardless, but that transfer for Hannibal is just…really quite awful.
The Hannibal Lecter Collection is now available on Blu-ray.
Movie review by James Harvey
Blu-ray review by Zach Demeter