Manhunter by Ashley M. Donnelly and Phillip L. Simpson
Hardcover – Electric Dreamhouse – Oct 2022 – 169 pages
First published in 1981 Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon was hailed by James Ellroy as “the best pure thriller I’ve ever read” and by Stephen King as “probably the best popular novel to be published in America since The Godfather”. In 1986, it was turned into a movie by meticulous writer-director Michael Mann. Retitled Manhunter by producer Dino DeLaurentiis, the release was not a success and the film sank into semi-obscurity. But for a passionate few, it made an impact.
In 1989, Harris published a sequel, The Silence of the Lambs bringing Red Dragon’s bit-part character, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, to the foreground. Filmed in 1991 by director Jonathan Demme it was a critical and box office hit, sweeping the Academy Awards and changing the face of crime/thrillers in popular culture forever. But its success also shone fresh light on Manhunter, and the vocal minority who hailed Michael Mann’s earlier movie and Brian Cox’s earlier depiction of “Dr. Lecktor” as being superior. Thanks to home video and cable TV Manhunter got a second lease of life and a cult began to grow.
In this Midnight Movie Monograph on the film, Philip Simpson and Ashley Donnelly make the case for Manhunter as they, like the FBI protagonists of the film and Harris’ novel, forensically examine what makes the film so very special, and so very effective.