Old vs. New: Manhunter vs. Red Dragon

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April 10, 2012
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NC: Hello, I’m the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don’t have to. And welcome to another rendition of Old vs. New.

(The “Old vs. New” title card is shown, featuring an old man crossing his cane with a little boy’s baseball bat, as 'O Fortuna' plays and lightning strikes)

NC: We all know about Hannibal Lecter and his history in movies: ("The Silence of the Lambs" movie poster shown very briefly) Great. ("Hannibal" movie poster shown very briefly) Sucked. ("Red Dragon" movie poster shown very briefly) Great. ("Hannibal Rising" movie poster shown very briefly) Sucked. But one film that gets overlooked at times is actually Lecter's very first appearance. (The title screen for "Manhunter" is shown) This is the 1986 Micheal Mann film "Manhunter."

(Clips from "Manhunter" play out as NC speaks)

NC (voiceover): And holy shit! That's not Hannibal Lecter! I thought he was a British guy with his hair slicked back.

NC: Not a British guy with his hair slicked ba--Okay, there's some similarities.

(Clips from "Manhunter" and "Red Dragon" play out as NC speaks)

NC (voiceover): But that's just one of the many differences between two films based on the Tom Harris novel: "Manhunter" and "Red Dragon." Both are very different, but both are actually very good, too. They have their own unique style, their own way of telling a story, and their own way of showing what their characters are going through. But as always, which one holds up the strongest? Which one comes together the best?

NC: Which one (mimicking Lecter) toughens the nipples with delight? (Normal voice) Well, we're gonna find out today. This is Old vs New: "Manhunter" vs "Red Dragon."

(The opening sequence features pictures of the characters from both movies, playing snippets of the musical score from each of the films, ending with the title card “Manhunter vs Red Dragon”)

NC: The only thing better than a hero is a anti-hero--the person who constantly walks the edge of good and evil, and these are two great nuts...that sounded bad.

Round 1 - Best Hero[edit | edit source]

NC (voiceover): In the role of Will Graham, we got William Petersen in "Manhunter" and Edward Norton in "Red Dragon." Both know how to keep your attention and how to up the intensity. They both do great work. But in terms of who's better, that's a tough argument. Let's look at Norton: Norton is a very no nonsense kind of cop. He's straighforward, hardworking, and doesn't take any bullshit, even from one of cinema's most famous killers.

Lecter (Red Dragon): I may keep them and I might consider it.

Graham (Red Dragon): No.

Lecter (Red Dragon): Do you dream much, Will?

Graham (Red Dragon): Goodbye, Dr. Lecter.

("Red Dragon" Graham leaves.)

Lecter (Red Dragon): You haven't threatened to take away my books yet.

NC (voiceover): He has a gift for sensing what a sick mind is thinking, which he sees much more as a curse rather than a blessing. But where in "Red Dragon," he's a healthy guy with a dark edge, Petersen portrays him more as a sick mind that just barely made it over to the good side, and even then, it's constantly tight-roping it. He doesn't seem like a well person, and deep inside, he knows he could just as easily become one of those psychos he's brought in. Now don't get me wrong, they address this in "Red Dragon", too, but Norton still seems relatively in control. There's never a sense that he could just snap at any second. Take, for example, when he's trying to get into the criminal's mind. With Norton, it's very much along the lines of having an epiphany.

Graham (Red Dragon): You took your gloves off! You touched her with your bare hands, and then you wiped her down, but when the gloves were off, did you open her eyes?...

NC (voiceover): With Petersen, you get the feeling he's literally diving into the killer's psyche, almost like he's sickly enjoying it.

Graham (Manhunter): You took off your gloves to touch her, didn't you...didn't you, you son of a bitch? You touched her with your bare hands, and then you put your gloves back on...but while your gloves back off...did you open all their eyes so that they could see ya?

NC (mimicking "Manhunter" Graham): Yeah, what did you have for breakfast? Was it an Egg McMuffin? It was an Egg McMuffin, you fuck! Yeah!

NC (voiceover): Because of this, Petersen comes across as more tortured, and therefore more complex. You can see him very easily going off the deep-end at any moment. Norton seems to have one foot firmly in the real world. So when Lecter makes the comparison that they're similar, it sorta sounds like your typical villain speech.

Lecter (Red Dragon): Don't you understand, Will? You caught me because we are very much alike. Without our imaginations, we'd be like all those other poor dullards.

NC (voiceover): In "Manhunter," he literally starts freaking out, just like an unstable mind would. So it makes more sense that something like this would really get to him.

Lecter (Manhunter): Do you know how you caught me, Will?

Graham (Manhunter): Goodbye, Dr. Lecter. You can leave messages for me with the number on the file.

Lecter (Manhunter): You know how you caught me?

("Manhunter" Graham knocks on the door to get out.)

Lecter (Manhunter): The reason you caught me, Will, is that we're just alike.

("Manhunter" Graham bangs on the door until a doctor opens it to let him out.)

Lecter (Manhunter): You want the scent?

("Manhunter" Graham leaves the hospital and looks over a rail in psychological torture.)

NC (voiceover): As much as I love Norton in this film, and he does give a solid performance, Petersen just had more of a sick twisted mind that was more interesting to watch.

NC: Norton, you're great, but point goes to Petersen.

Graham (Red Dragon): You dirty little beast!

Round 1 Winner: Manhunter.

NC: Now, let's talk about our villain: The Tooth Fairy.

("The Tooth Fairy" poster is shown.)

NC: Boy, wouldn't that have been a different film.

Round 2 - Best Villain[edit | edit source]

NC (voiceover): Francis Dollarhyde, A.K.A. "The Tooth Fairy," is portrayed by Ralph Fiennes and Tom Noonan. Again, this is a very hard choice as both turn in very strong performances. Fiennes is certainly the more tragic of the two. Much more is given about his backstory and you find yourself feeling more and more sorry for him. As you watch, you get the feeling that he doesn't want to do this, but his abusive past mixed with a sick mind creates a desperate need to go through this bizarre transformation.

Dollarhyde (Red Dragon): I wish I could've trusted you. I wanted to trust you. You--you felt so good!

NC (voiceover): You see more of his interaction with people; how he works; how often he's in constant battle with himself. It's a great performance as well as a great character. Noonan's portrayal is a bit different. The tragedy is there, but it's more hinted at. He's left more in the shadow, which makes him come across as more creepy as well as more unpredictable.

Dollarhyde (Manhunter): You're a preview to a great becoming and recognize nothing. You're an ant in the afterbirth. It's your nature to do one thing correctly: tremble.

NC (voiceover): Most of his scenes don't even have music. It just lets the suspense and mystery of his actions fill the fear of the scenario. So in this case, we once again have two totally different interpretations, and it all depends on what you find stronger: the killer you have more compassion for, or the killer you're scared to death of. As much as I love both of them, I again have to go with "Manhunter." Because the less you know about what's going on his brain, the more unpredictable, and therefore frightening, he is. But he still has level of depth that is needed as well, and you do see the pain he's going through, it's just not explained through words; it's explained through visuals and music, and in a film, that plays pretty strong. Tough call, but I have to side with "Manhunter" again. It's just another example of less is more.

NC: Point goes to the old.

Dollarhyde (Red Dragon): You recognize nothing.

Round 2 Winner: Manhunter.

NC: But now let's get down to the one you all want to talk about: Lecter.

NC (voiceover): True, he's not the main villain in either movie and one does have him much more than the other, but I still stand by the fact that these are two very good performances and deserve to be looked at.

NC: This is the best Lecter. (imitates Lector's tongue thing)

Round 3 - Best Lecter[edit | edit source]

NC (voiceover): Now a lot of you might be thinking this is a no-brainer.

(Cuts to an image of Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta) with the top half of his skull removed and his brain showing in "Hannibal"; a rimshot is played)

NC (voiceover): Hopkins turned this role into an icon and whenever anybody even says the name "Lecter," they immediately think of him. So, obviously, he should win. But Brian Cox actually has a very different, and surprisingly effective, take on the role as well: he's a fast-talker, he's obnoxious, he's a jerk. But he also manages to get inside your head in a matter of seconds.

Graham (Manhunter): Thought you might be curious to see if you're smarter than the person I'm looking for.

Lecter (Manhunter): Then by implication, you think you're smarter than me since you caught me.

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

Lecter (Manhunter): Then how did you catch me, Will?

Graham (Manhunter): You had disadvantages.

Lecter (Manhunter): What disadvantages?

Graham (Manhunter): You're insane.

NC (voiceover): Hopkins is slower and more calculating.

Lecter (Red Dragon): Then by implication, you think you're smarter than I am...since it was you who caught me.

Graham (Red Dragon): Now I know I'm not smarter than you.

Lecter (Red Dragon): Then how did you catch me?

Graham (Red Dragon): You had...disadvantages.

Lecter (Red Dragon): What disadvantages?

Graham (Red Dragon): You're insane.

NC (voiceover): But there's also something even more frightening about a guy who just has you pegged the minute you walk in, and also uses that almost immediately to start manipulating you.

Lecter (Manhunter): You came here to look at me, to get the old scent back again, didn't you?

Graham (Manhunter): I want your opinion.

Lecter (Manhunter): I don't have one right now.

Graham (Manhunter): Well, when you have one, I'd like to hear it.

Lecter (Manhunter): When you get more files, I'd like to see them, too. You can call me. When I have to call to my lawyer, they bring me a telephone. Would you like to leave me your home phone number?

NC (voiceover): Hopkins could be evil, but you never really got mad at him. This guy, you just wanna smack him in the face half the time.

Lecter (Manhunter): But it wasn't the act that got to you. Didn't you really feel so bad because killing him felt so good? And why shouldn't it feel good?

NC (voiceover): What an asshole. In the book, he's used about as much as he is in "Manhunter," but in "Red Dragon," they upped his role because of his popularity.

Lecter (Red Dragon): We mustn't judge too harshly, Will. It was his first time. Have you never felt a sudden rush of panic?

("Red Dragon" Lecter leaps at "Red Dragon" Graham to surprise him.)

Lecter (Red Dragon): Yeah, that's the fear we talked about.

NC (voiceover): On top of that, we've also had two other movies to build up the creepiness. So by the time this one rolled around, there was a lot more build-up as to what to be afraid of. We also see how he was captured in "Red Dragon," which is interesting, but I'd be lying if I said I sort of didn't want to see that, like it's better left to the imagination. And come on, how did he survive that? Next time, drop a safe on him to be sure!

(A cartoon safe falls on the bleeding "Red Dragon" Lecter.)

NC (voiceover): It's true that his age can be a little distracting in the movie, but I'm not gonna lie, the character does seem stronger when Hopkins is doing it. Though a lot of that has to do with the fact that's there's more time and two other movies to develop him, and on top of that, it's a Oscar-winning performance, but still I think it's worth noting Cox's performance as well. Yeah, it's different and there's not as much of him, but just like Micheal Mann did with the other killer, there's little music, little shadow, the creepiness just comes from the performance and the blood-harsh reality of the situation. With that said, though, it's pretty hard not to love a guy who can find the real meat of a role.

NC: Point goes to the new.

Lecter (Manhunter): Smell yourself.

Round 3 Winner: Red Dragon.

NC: Thomas Harris' books are always filled with colorful characters, and these characters are just as colorful-ler...Best Supporting Cast.

Round 4 - Best Supporting Cast[edit | edit source]

NC (voiceover): Again, a lot of good performances and actors to choose from. Let's start with Graham's family: In "Manhunter," the wife is played by Kim Griest, and the son is played by David Simmon. In "Red Dragon," it's Mary-Louis Parker and Tyler Patrick Jones. While there is a connection in "Red Dragon" with them, "Manhunter" devotes entire scenes to how this is all affecting their lives, even a scene where he confesses to his son the hardships of a sick-mind and what it means to live with it. This is a very strong moment.

Josh (Manhunter): First, mom had this newspaper. It said you were in a special hospital.

Graham (Manhunter): Then I was transferred into the psychiatric one. That bothers you, doesn't it?

Josh (Manhunter): I don't know.

NC (voiceover): Though I am the only one distracted by just wanting to see the old labels for things. (arrows point to various cereal boxes behind Graham) Oh, my God, has Life and Grape Nuts ever changed their logo? The noisy reporter's a lot of fun, play by a jackass Stephen Lang and a pompous Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Both are great, but I think I prefer the snobby Hoffman a little bit more, that's just my personal preference, though. Jack Crawford is played well in both versions, as are the other investigators. Wait a minute, is that Barney in both of these versions? Holy shit, it is! It's like he's in two different dimensions!

("Doctor Who" picture with Barney's face replacing the main doctor's face.)

NC (voiceover): But for me, the tipping point is with the blind woman dating the killer, played by Joan Allen and Emily Watson. And as cool as Joan Allen is, it's Watson who is much more memorable. Much more time is given to the romance between these two, and it shows in more detail how their relationship grows, which makes it all the the more tragic when you see where it all ends up. In the original, it's a little rushed. The idea is that he finally falls in love with a woman and his psychotic killer mind doesn't know how to handle it. When the attempt comes to kill her in "Manhunter," it's just sort of like another kill. But in "Red Dragon," it's a real hard choice, and we know why: We've seen them grow close together. The relationship with the family is important in "Manhunter," but I think the relationship with her is more important in "Red Dragon." It gives the character more of a purpose, as well as a weight. Factoring all that in, it seems like "Red Dragon" truly does have the better supporting cast, though only by a little.

NC: Point goes to the new.

McClane (Manhunter): Y'know, if you don't wanna talk, that's okay.

Round 4 Winner: Red Dragon.

NC: Once again, it's all tied up, and it comes to the most important element: the Story.

Round 5 - Best Story[edit | edit source]

NC (voiceover): Those who read the book know that "Red Dragon" followed it a little closer, but as we all know, that doesn't always mean it's gonna make for a better movie. You could make the argument that the ending in "Manhunter," though different, did at least keep the story in mostly a three-act structure. "Red Dragon" actually has 2 endings: a fake-out and then the real climax. I'll admit, I'm not usually a fan of these fake-outs, but at the same time, it did allow Norton a psychological confrontation with the killer as well as a physical one. In the original, he just sort of fights him off and that's it. The rest of the two stories actually follow pretty similar. The main differences are how much you see of the family, the girlfriend, and Lecter. You see more of Lecter and the girlfriend in "Red Dragon," but you know more of the family interaction in "Manhunter." For me, personally, I prefer more Lecter and the girlfriend. Also, the story is a little bit more spelled out in "Red Dragon." You can follow "Manhunter" okay, but a lot of stuff flies by pretty quick. For example, there's just a line in "Manhunter" when they say they searched Lecter's cell and didn't want him to know. In "Red Dragon," they actually show what they had to go through to fool him, and whether or not it works. In fact, a lot of "Red Dragon" has more visual. I remember much more of the creepy sets, the bizarre imagery, and the dark shadows. Now don't get me wrong, "Manhunter" looked good too, but when I think of it visually, I think more large beaches, and a lot of blank walls. Come on, guys. Can't you hang a picture in there? I guess there was that weird back-drop in the killer's house, but...honestly, I don't get it.

Davenport (From "Big"): I don't get it! I don't get it! I don't get it!

NC (voiceover): All of this contributes to tell the story more fluently and providing a more natural narrative, and in terms of all that, "Red Dragon" does move smoother. Again, with the exception of maybe the ending, every scene seems to fall nicely into the next, and the characters that needed to be focused on were constantly focused on. Even the ending isn't horrible; it just sort of seems a touch unneeded, like they could've had the same psychological climax at the killer's house without the family. Yeah, I know, similar to what they did in "Manhunter," but maybe with a little bit more dialogue. So just to emphasize, I truly do enjoy both of these films, they're both great movies, but if I had to choose which one I like better (and I do), it would have be "Red Dragon," though only by a tiny bit.

NC: Point goes to "Red Dragon," in my opinion, the superior film.

Lector (Red Dragon): Oh, what a cunning boy you are.

Round 5 Winner: Red Dragon.

NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic, (mimicking Lecter) and if you'll excuse me, I'm going to eat some liver, with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. (he imitates Lecter's tongue thing and leave to call take out as the credits roll). Hello, takeout. Yes, I would like to order your finest duck liver please. Oh, yes, yes, oh, the sides? Yes, uh, I would like a side a, um, side of fava beans, that would be lovey, yes. Something to drink? Let's do a Chianti, that'd be wonderful. What kind? A nice one, that would be great. Something seems to be wrong with this pho--

(Casper attacks NC from out of the phone.)

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Lecter (Manhunter): Would you like to leave me your home phone number?

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