Outside of Star Wars, this is the film I grew up on, and loved with a severe passion. I never owned the VHS as a child. It was only by renting it incessantly over many, many years that I ever got to see it after the theatres. My dad actually took me to see this in 1986 at the discount theatre that actually closed down about a decade ago, much to my dismay. There were countless wonderful memories at that theatre in addition to the video arcade across the way in that mall. In the late 90s, I found a Canadian website selling new VHS tapes of the movie featuring the American version, and with the help of a friend, I was able to purchase it. I prized this tape, and you couldn’t imagine how excited I was when I happened upon a DVD release of it years later. So, what is it about this movie that has kept it a beloved favorite of mine for more than a quarter of a century? Read on and find out!
It is the year 2005, and the battle between the heroic Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, and the evil Decepticons, led by Megatron, has escalated all the way to their home planet of Cybertron, which the Decepticons have reclaimed. The Autobots secretly plan to retake the planet from secret outposts, but the Decepticons move to thwart their efforts by waging a full-on assault against Autobot City on Earth. Here, a new generation of heroic Autobots stand ready to fight including the young, impulsive Hot Rod, the consummate soldier Ultra Magnus, the elderly war veteran Kup, the compassionate Arcee, the triple changing Springer, and many more. However, a greater threat to them all looms closer in the form of the evil entity known as Unicron, who’s ready to consume anything that stands in its way, but the only thing that he fears is the Autobot Matrix of Leadership. Along the way, lives are lost, battles are fought, an old enemy is re-forged by Unicron, and a new Autobot leader is born as another dies.
This movie really was the pinnacle of any six year’s old life at the time. You had a big, epic story with huge consequences, and the most climactic final confrontation between the heroic Optimus Prime and the vile Megatron. To me, this was bigger than Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader, bigger than anything else on the planet! Prime was the ultimate John Wayne style hero, always sticking to his principles and morality, but able to throw down with the best of them. Megatron was the most deceitful, ruthless villain around, and after two seasons of the television series, you finally got to see them collide like never before. The movie was even marketed as showcasing their final battle, and it did not disappoint. It starts with Prime proclaiming that, “Megatron must be stopped. No matter the cost,” and then, proceeds to plow down and blast away a whole slew of Decepticons. It firmly establishes that Optimus is a real bad ass worth rooting for. This is the big hero of the Autobots, and anyone who gets in his way has got a real problem. The fight between Megatron and Prime is them putting it all out on the line, and it couldn’t be more climactic. It’s also an awesome looking sequence with great dramatic angles, and an awesome Stan Bush song backing it up. Then, it ends on a wholly unexpected note. The filmmakers really hit you for a big one in more ways than one. Optimus Prime dies. However, it happens within the first third of the film creating a sense of ultimate peril for everyone. If Optimus Prime can perish in this movie, then, nobody at all is safe, and even before this, the Deceptions slaughter an entire ship of Autobots in fairly graphic fashion. This film tells you just about from the start that it’s taking no prisoners, and the danger is real and imminent. This creates huge odds for the surviving Autobots to overcome, especially in the face of Unicron.
With so many of the classic characters dying, the movie introduces us to a group of new Autobots which hooked me in immediately. I loved Hot Rod, and was really behind him all the way through the story. Judd Nelson did a great job voicing him giving the young, brash Autobot a lot of charm, charisma, energy, and humor. Yet, where it counted, Hot Rod was heroic, and did show some depth to really rise up and come into his own. The weathered and seasoned warrior Kup is given great texture by Lionel Stander making him a fun character with his incessant war stories, but also striking a good chemistry with Nelson’s Hot Rod. The older mentor and the young hero is nothing new, but here, it feels like these two were friends more than teacher and student, which makes for a fun pairing.
Springer feels like a solid lieutenant in the Autobot ranks as the reliable, capable soldier, and has strong characterization with dashes of levity. And you can say what you will about Ultra Magnus. He’s certainly not the inspiring leader that Optimus was, but he was voiced by the late, great Robert Stack. Being an old school Unsolved Mysteries fan, I could never slight Mr. Stack’s performance. He does give Ultra Magnus some humanity and a steady confidence, but I think, by design, the filmmakers didn’t want Magnus living up to Optimus’ stature. This becomes apparent by the film’s end.
The villains are given some new life with two impressive names added to the cast. First, there is Leonard Nimoy voicing Galvatron in amazing fashion giving the new Deception leader an even more vicious streak than he had as Megatron. After his brutal fight with Optimus Prime, Megatron is recreated as this far more powerful Galvatron, and that injects a far more menacing and cutthroat villain into the story. Nimoy pushed his voice into a deeper, more guttural place for this performance, and it really served the character beautifully. Galvatron is Megatron pushed to the next level, and I really love that idea. However, the real major name involved here is Orson Welles as Unicron. This was actually the legendary filmmaker’s final performance. His heart attack death occurred five days after finishing this voice work. Reportedly, Welles was pleased do the job stating an admiration for animated films. While Welles could be an intimidating man, I’ve seen interviews of him being very friendly, humble, and enjoyable. Still, that voice was gold, and there were not many actors who could’ve naturally given such a booming, massive presence to Unicron’s voice as Welles did.
With all these great characters, old and new, we are given endlessly quotable dialogue. Nary a scene goes by without a great line being said which became a classic amongst fans. These range from the dramatic to the comedic, and are all executed perfectly by this great voice cast. They really deserve a vast amount of credit for inhabiting the personalities of their characters, and meshing so well together. It sounds like every single one of them gave it their all, and likely had a real fun time working on this animated movie. The regular cast of voice actors maintain their usual high standards, especially Peter Cullen and Frank Welker, among others. The Dinobots are especially funny while still remaining formidable. This is some very exceptional casting and voice directing in my opinion.
What really strikes me about the movie today is how briskly paced it is. There is nary a slow point in the whole thing, and at 84 minutes long, one could hardly expect one. Surely, these days, I would’ve loved to have seen it reach a full 90 minutes because that third act really hits you before you know it. Regardless, the steady pace and rhythm of the movie creates so much excitement and fun. There is no shortage of action, and any scenes of exposition are very succinct. The regular progression of the story taking our heroes to new worlds and environments keeps it interesting. Both the planet of Junk and of the Quintessons are dangerous in their own unique ways with great visual designs. They give the film scope that was rarely offered on the television series. Everything about this movie is amped up substantially from the episodic cartoon, and the action is no exception. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie, animated or live action, jam pack this much stellar and original action into such a compact run time while still maintaining such a rich sense of character and competency in its plot. There’s so much energy pulsating through this movie it’s almost unreal, and it never becomes a mess. Screenwriter Ron Friedman did a rather admirable job on this script, and it was put into the right hands to make it a reality.
Now, granted, there’s hardly a major through-line plot for our heroes. In the most part, the Autobots are just trying to survive every new threat that surfaces in their path while Unicron sort of looms over everything in the background. The action really just pushes them along from one dire scenario to the next until they must confront Unicron. These are adventures which have the heroes proving their merit to the audience more than to each other. It’s about us learning about the characters, and coming to care about them instead of developing them at length. Transformers: The Movie doesn’t have the character growth or thematic exploration of something like Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, but for what it is meant to be, a fun and exciting animated movie for kids, I think it is rather exceptional. It doesn’t go much into heavy subject matter, save for the deaths early on, but it doesn’t treat its young audience as stupid. It’s a smartly written story that keeps it simple enough to follow, but exciting enough to keep it interesting. This is definitely a film that can be entertaining from the age of six all the way through to thirty-two.
One thing that strongly helps in that aspect is that the animation style is still amazing to my eyes today. At the time of the film’s release, it was a style and quality not previously seen by mainstream American audiences. The detail, shading, and dramatic, epic imagery created a vast cinematic visual impact. The film remained vibrant and colorful despite having some very dark moments, and could have real moments of beauty. While there are occasional animation gaffes and shots of lower grade artwork, on the whole, the artistry on display is really stunning adding a sense of edge and texture to everything never before given to the cartoon series. This feels like a major motion picture event, and in comparison to the series, you can clearly see the vast amount of time and hard work put into the visual quality of this movie.
Probably the biggest thing that kept the film alive in my mind and heart between rentals was the amazing rock soundtrack! I cherished that audio cassette for over a decade. I made the vow to myself that when the tape eventually broke, I would buy the CD immediately, and that’s exactly what happened. Most of these acts were generally unknowns like Lion, N.R.G., and Kick Axe (who were credited as Spectre General by decree of the record company), but contributed very solid songs that gave a lot of hard and heavy excitement to the film. Of course, “Weird Al” Yankovic was quite well known at the time. He contributed his quirky track “Dare to be Stupid,” which fit the catch-phrase referencing Junkions perfectly. Stan Bush’s tracks have probably become the biggest hits amongst fans with the driving rock rhythm of “Dare,” and the inspirational “The Touch.” The latter is a song that has come to really be able to pull me through into a stronger, more determined mindset when I’m feeling down. It pushes me back up on my feet, and it does much the same within the context of the movie highlighting the biggest standing tall moment for our main heroes. This is one of my favorite soundtracks ever, and it is only enhanced further by Vince DiCola’s very dynamic, electronic style score.
The climax of Transformers: The Movie is just flat out amazing! I like the intercutting between the battle outside of Unicron as he fends off the attacks from Cybertron, and the multiple stories going on inside of him. However, it hits its great crescendo in glorious fashion when the Autobot Matrix of Leadership comes into the right hands, and signals a new era for the Autobots. The movie is filled with great, iconic moments such as this, but few as great as this. In retrospect, it’s only a shame that the movie ends so quickly after this, but I suppose, in that regard, it’s a film that leaves you wanting more. That’s rarely a bad thing, and it’s far better than overstaying its welcome or leaving itself open for any letdowns after such a great climax.
Despite the efforts of Michael Bay, this still remains the absolute best Transformers movie in existence. It features a tight, exciting, and heroic story centered on the Autobots and Decepticons themselves that is vibrant as well as genuinely funny and entertaining for the whole family. Of course, most versions contain a swear word or two that are surprising they made it into the PG rated film in 1986, but for fans, they wouldn’t want the movie any other way. This 1986 movie treats its characters with respect and integrity, and gives many of them poignant weight at their most pivotal moments. The new characters are just as exciting and colorful as the classic ones, and they give the film a real boost of energy and sense of discovery. You’re going along for the ride with them as they rise to the epic task before them. As I said, I was hooked in with Hot Rod from the start, and unlike many who saw the film as a kid, I actually didn’t cry during Optimus Prime’s death scene. It’s unheard of, I know, but I was just enjoying the living hell of this movie. At one time, I definitely would have listed this as my favorite movie of all time, and it is still among my favorites, as this review has undoubtedly shown. While the film bombed at the box office, it has gained immense popularity throughout the fan base, and remains a major high point in the franchise. All around, this is just a wildly fun movie that I will never get tired of. While the television series doesn’t hold up nearly as well, this movie feels damn near timeless to me, and I don’t believe I am alone in that feeling.
In my view, there are psychological thrillers, and then, there is Manhunter. I have never seen another movie that gets so deep inside the psyches of its protagonist and antagonist as Manhunter does. Every element of filmmaking is used to envelop you into the psychological state of its characters, and done so with amazing depth and beauty. Adapted from the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon by writer and director Michael Mann in 1986, this is the best film featuring Hannibal Lecter that I have seen. I never grasped what everyone was so enthusiastic about over The Silence of the Lambs, and that was my sentiment years before I ever watched Manhunter. I have never watched the Brett Ratner helmed re-adaptation Red Dragon, and so, you will not find any comparison between the two here. I have plenty to explore in Manhunter alone. This is my favorite film from Michael Mann, and I am going to tell you why.
F.B.I. Agent and criminal profiler Will Graham (William Petersen) is drawn out of retirement by friend and partner Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina) to track down and capture a serial killer known as “The Tooth Fairy.” He is named as such due to the peculiar bite marks taken off his slain victims. To reclaim the mindset needed to delve into the psyche of this new killer, who works on a lunar cycle, Graham must tap the mind of the psychopath he captured which led to his own retirement – Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox). Graham must come to see through the eyes of this enigmatic killer in order to anticipate his methods, motives, and actions. The psyches of both Graham and this killer, Francis Dollarhyde (Tom Noonan), are eventually put into severe conflict even putting Graham’s wife and son into danger, but most importantly, Graham’s own sanity. If Will Graham can enter into the mind of a psychopath, can he ever come back?
This is a beautifully layered psychological film. It’s fascinating to see the process Michael Mann has Will Graham go through to absorb himself into the psyche of this killer. It’s a slow descent where Graham is trepidatious stepping back into this mindset, but once he’s delved in deep enough, it starts to influence his emotions and manipulate his actions. He’s gradually connecting with the psyche of Francis Dollarhyde, slowly putting more and more pieces of the puzzle together in his mind, and by the end, there is an obsessive impulse to destroy Dollarhyde so that Graham can simply be free of him. When Graham was hunting Hannibal Lecktor, he integrated Dr. Lecktor’s psyche so deep into his own that he had to be institutionalized to in order to be brought back to good mental health. It was a dark, terrible place for his thoughts to be that he is afraid to allow himself to go back there. However, in order to capture this new serial killer, he has no choice but to tap Lecktor’s mind to recapture that mindset.
Still, the real Will Graham remains beneath, but remains slightly detached from himself. Graham has heartfelt moments with his wife and son at various points in the film that allow the humanity to show through the darkness. These are brief reprieves from the troubling case at hand, but go a long way to show that Graham has not lost himself in this killer as he did with Lecktor. All of these fascinating facets of Will Graham are brilliantly brought to detailed, nuanced life by William Petersen. He deeply engulfed himself in this role so much that after production had wrapped, he couldn’t shake Will Graham from his head. He had to shave off his beard and dye his hair blonde just to shed the character fully. That’s an unsettling example of method acting. Petersen puts so much emotional and psychological intensity into this performance that it is mesmerizing and captivating. You can constantly see the emotional and intellectual gears moving in his head. Petersen’s rich facial nuances and intense eyes also perfectly display Will Graham’s conflict and development throughout the film. He leads this film with a wide breadth of weight and deep, amazing talent. He forges a finely detailed and dimensional character.
This might be a procedural crime thriller, but I find the psychological development of the plot to be richly exciting and fascinating. The physical evidence is an important cog in the process, and the detail and urgent context in which these procedures are displayed make them compelling. Michael Mann keeps them unfolding at a tight pace with sharp dialogue that quickly pushes the narrative forward. Of course, the investigation truly comes together through the psychological methods of Will Graham. Without Graham’s constant prodding and deconstruction of the mind of this serial killer, the pieces would never come together. While Lecktor is someone that Graham fears, he respects Lecktor’s intellect. Where someone else might discount or take offense to Lecktor’s manipulative or sickly unsettling perceptions, Graham understands the valuable insight. He knows there’s something more intuitive underneath Lecktor’s words. Still, how Graham reacts after his first meeting with Lecktor here, you see how disturbed he is allowing Lecktor into his mind at all.
I absolutely love Brain Cox’s subtle and subversive performance as Dr. Hannibal Lecktor. Where Anthony Hopkins would later be a little more obvious and deliberately creepy, Cox slowly gets in under your skin. He could be generally unassuming, but he can gradually deconstruct your mind right before your eyes. He’s immensely intelligent and intimidating by way of his psychological prowess. Yes, he is a psychopath, and certainly a sociopath. However, the scene where Lecktor calls the office of Dr. Bloom shows how naturally charming and charismatic he is, and that is very unsettling. Brian Cox based his performance on a real life serial killer. Such people are usually able to blend seamlessly into society, many as charming and unassuming individuals, and to see Cox bring that quality to this fascinating role adds further intriguing layers to Lecktor. While the character only has three scenes, he remains involved in the plot, and maintains a strong presence through much of the runtime. Overall, I believe the magnificently talented Brian Cox put in a masterful performance that chillingly supports the intelligence of this film.
The performance of Tom Noonan as Francis Dollarhyde makes just as major of an impact as Petersen and Cox. His is a chilling portrayal of a fascinating and intimidating character. His generally soft spoken voice creates an unsettling presence. You know he is a frighteningly violent and lethal individual, and this restrained, subtle manner makes you fear for when that violent impulse is ultimately unleashed. Michael Mann chose to leave out aspects of the character from Thomas Harris’ novel such as the Red Dragon tattoo on his torso, of which scenes were filmed with it, and much of his back story. For Manhunter, this seems to truly work for the best. Instead, the first half of the film is used to build him up as an anonymous threat through Graham’s investigation and psychological profiling. When the film directly delves us into who Dollarhyde is, Noonan brings an incredible depth of emotion and internal pain to the role. Where Lecktor is a sociopath devoid of compassion, Dollarhyde has a wealth of emotional turmoil stemming from his distorted self-perception. Noonan’s performance reflects shame as Dollarhyde masks his face with his hands or sunglasses, and won’t allow the blind Reba to touch his face. He’s absorbed himself into this mangled self-identity that he resents those who he perceives as having the idealized life, such as the suburban nuclear family. This fuels his obsession as a serial killer. Tom Noonan brings such immense power to the emotional core of this sympathetic monster, and probably more than anyone else, makes this movie as powerful and effective as it is.
Chicago native actor Dennis Farina puts in a great and strong performance as Jack Crawford. It’s great to see how he showcases Crawford’s trust of Graham. He rarely questions any of what Graham says or believes, but when he does, it has a purpose. Crawford can’t fully understand the process that Will has to go through to do what he does, but he entirely respects it and understands the danger of him doing so. He essentially goes to Will Graham as a last resort. It’s also great seeing that Farina is able to keep up with Petersen’s intensity at times. Late in the film when time, as well as patience, has run short, both Crawford and Graham are jumping down each other’s throats. Crawford’s accepting defeat this time out, but Graham’s gone too far to accept that at all. Still, you see the loyalty and faith return in Farina’s performance as Graham begins to puts the final pieces together. I like the compassion and concern in his performance as Crawford tries to hold to his word of keeping Will as far away from danger as possible up until the last minute. He wants this case closed and this killer captured, but not at the expense of his friend’s safety and sanity.
Stephen Lang does an excellent job as the sleazy tabloid reporter Freddy Lounds. He’s a great antagonist for Graham since Lounds only cares about his headlines. He’s despicably charismatic, and a great character you’d love to hate. However, the terror Lang puts into his performance when confronted and abducted by Dollarhyde perfectly sells the imposing and unsettling presence of Dollarhyde. This once egotistical, arrogant grand standing man is reduced to a small man drowning in fear. That is both the culmination of the film’s build up to Francis Dollarhyde, and the impactful introduction of the character in the flesh. In my opinion, it couldn’t have been any more perfectly executed.
Kim Griest does a very solid job as Molly Graham, playing opposite William Petersen vey well. She puts in just the right amount of compassion and concern for Molly’s husband. She fears for his safety, and clearly wishes that Jack Crawford had never asked for Will’s help. It’s not a comfortable position for her to be in knowing what Lecktor had done to him previously. However, probably the least standout performance is Joan Allen as Reba, the blind woman who stimulates Dollarhyde’s affections. She does a decent job, but it feels like the character with the least substance and depth. She is given some strong scenes which intensify Dollarhyde’s character, such as with the sedated tiger, but there’s not much done with Reba to flesh her out like the richly dimensional characters around her. This is likely due to a factor of time, and that the film is focused on Dollarhyde in these instances.
Now, without a doubt, Danté Spinotti is one of the best cinematographers around, and he brought a great amount of beauty, intelligence, and grace to Manhunter. He creates some gorgeous, vibrant visuals that are awe inspiring. Also, scenes are composed and staged very smartly. It’s rarely just standard shots. Every shot seems to be handled with a purpose to symbolize a character’s mindset, relationship with someone else, or to establish mood and tone. In Graham and Lecktor’s first scene together, Mann and Spinotti compose it to where as Graham and Lecktor’s psyches begin to overlap and align, so do the shots of them. The scene begins with a regular composition with Graham on the left side of frame and Lecktor on the right, but eventually they are dead center in the frame looking dead-on towards the camera by the end. Both men reflect one another in this moment. The visuals of the film have numerous mirroring aspects, and evolving motifs which visualize the psychological states and connections of characters. There are a series of shots of Will Graham looking into mirrors, and each successive shot is more and more obscured until there is eventually no reflection seen to the audience. This shows Graham’s journey in finding and ultimately detaching from Dollarhyde’s psyche. Dollarhyde himself cannot even look at himself in a mirror due to his perception of how grossly disfigured he is. Graham can confront the monster within himself, but Dollarhyde cannot.
The use of steadicam is greatly on display here giving us a film of very fluid motion, reflecting the intensely focused mindsets of Graham and Dollarhyde. It’s very gorgeous cinematography. Yet, in the film’s climax, as Dollarhyde destabilizes, the film also becomes chaotic with jump cuts and a surreal frenetic style. This works amazingly well delving our protagonist and antagonist into an explosive conflict which will either destroy or free their respective psyches.
The use of color is also integral to the moods and emotions of the film. Blue tones reflect safety as the love scene between Will and Molly demonstrates. However, green punctuates a feeling of discovery as with Graham’s early wardrobe, or a subversive quality such as in the dark room scene with Reba and Dollarhyde. There are even splashes of green lighting in Dollarhyde’s home at times. In my own independent films, I have used color washes heavily to evoke certain moods and atmosphere, but it’s never been used with such deliberate purpose as in Manhunter.
In the process of writing this review, I ecstatically discovered the complete Manhunter soundtrack album on iTunes. I purchased it without a doubt, even though I already had a few of the songs from the film. No other film have I ever seen makes as impactful, integral use of its soundtrack as Manhunter. It’s all very atmospheric, ambient music from amazing, lesser known 1980s artists such as Shriekback, The Prime Movers, and Red 7. The Shriekback tracks are the most enveloping in the film’s deep haunting mood. “This Big Hush” punctuates the seductive and quietly powerful love scene between Reba and Francis. It’s the deepest insight into Francis’ soul that we get, and this song made the scene what it is. The score was composed by Michel Rubini and The Reds. It’s very synthesizer based which might seem typical of the 1980s, but it sets an overall ominous, mesmerizing, and dangerous tone that absorbs itself into every fiber of the film. Michael Mann employed Tangerine Dream to score Thief five years earlier which created a very sleek and beautiful soundscape of that noir crime thriller. Here, the atmospheric synth music is very much in the forefront creating a bold and intense experience. The soundtrack truly does follow in the style Mann had perfected on Miami Vice at the time using popular music along with striking visuals to tell an emotional and exciting story. However, I feel Manhunter takes it a to higher level due to the overall tone and deep psychological aspects of the story. The music takes the audience deep inside the emotions and psyches of the characters. I love the cue of “Graham’s Theme” which accompanies and accentuates Will Graham’s slow revelation of the final pieces of the puzzle. It is a brilliantly executed sequence. Furthermore, the film brilliantly uses Iron Butterfly’s psychedelic classic “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” to orchestrate the entire climax of the movie. It’s entirely edited and constructed around the various dramatic beats in that seventeen minute long jam. The organ section of the song creates a haunting Phantom of the Opera style mood until it and Will Graham crash back into full blown action. This is a score and soundtrack that simply blows my mind in how well executed and finely weaved into the fabric of the film.
This is undoubtedly one of Michael Mann’s absolute best films. It is very tightly crafted with a taut, suspenseful atmosphere. Manhunter is a deeply enveloping film utilizing all its aspects of sight and sound to create a thoroughly absorbing experience. The investigative aspects are given a rarely implemented psychological focus built upon some solid and sharp procedural elements. We are treated to a wealth of rich performances and fascinating characters. There’s a depth of detail to everything which comes out in those performances, and they are presented in very intriguing ways to keep an audience riveted with every moment.
Manhunter has been a curiosity on DVD. Four different cuts exist from both Anchor Bay and MGM. The original theatrical version was actually the last one to be released, and that was from MGM which they also put out on Blu Ray Disc. Anchor Bay released a two-disc set with both a video tape sourced director’s cut and a THX certified version billed as the theatrical cut, but contains some additional scenes and a few bits and pieces cutout. A “restored director’s cut” was later released by them which features a vast improvement in quality, but leaves out one scene from the first director’s cut between Will Graham and Dr. Chilton. It was likely cutout due to it not being shot very well. There’s no one version I wholly prefer over another since they all add in or leave out something I like from another cut, but as far as quality is concerned, the THX certified DVD from Anchor Bay has the best transfer. All other transfers have desaturated colors, are darker prints, and lack some sharpness. I did personally assemble what I called the “Definitive Cut” adding in almost all footage from various cuts of the film into one amalgamation for a complete experience. It’s just something for my own complete satisfaction of the film which I love so very much.
As I said, this is my favorite Michael Mann movie. Although, I do consider The Insider to be the best film he has ever made for very distinctly different but immensely admirable reasons. Manhunter really has been a major influence on me as a filmmaker. It was the main influence on my psychological noir thriller Dead of Night. I wanted to explore what would happen if a criminal profiler similar to Will Graham lost himself in his psychologically twisted work and went off the deep end by hunting down serial killers. There was a similarly themed episode of Miami Vice titled “Shadow in the Dark” that had Sonny Crockett delving into the disturbed mind of a crazed home invader that I also really love. However, nothing is as rich or as layered as Manhunter. Where The Silence of the Lambs seemed more focused on regular investigative work to lead to the capture of its serial killer, Manhunter is all about the psychological construction and deconstruction as the main cog in tracking down the killer. That is far more fascinating to me. Not to mention, Will Graham is a vastly more intriguing character to explore, in my eyes, than Clarice Starling. Graham is someone that’s been to some terrifyingly dark places, and has the capabilities to contend with Hannibal Lecter. He is the one who captured the cannibalistic doctor to begin with, even if it was at a troubling price. Simply everything in Manhunter appeals to my imagination, and I love that time has given the film the respect and praise it deserves. It wasn’t a successful release in 1986 for many reasons, and thus, is why The Silence of the Lambs was never handled as an actual sequel. I’m sure there are people who would be put off by the 1980s neon and pastel aesthetics of Manhunter today, but that’s no bother to me. I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Michael Mann showcased a very powerful vision with this film, more so than any other film I’ve seen from him. While his last two films – Miami Vice and Public Enemies – have shown a sharp decline in overall quality, his general body of work maintains him as one of my favorite and most influential filmmakers of all time.