Throwback Thursday: Manhunter (1986)

Above: William Petersen as Will Graham and Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecktor

What: Manhunter

When: 1986

Starring: William Peterson, Brian Cox, Tom Noonan

Directed by: Michael Mann

The premise: Former FBI agent Will Graham (Peterson) comes out of retirement to track down a serial killer known as “The Tooth Fairy” (Noonan), turning to the man who attacked him and prompted his retirement, psychiatrist and serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (Cox) for assistance.

The reason for the throwback: Based on Thomas Harris’ novel Red Dragon, this film was the first on-screen appearance of an iconic character and serves as the starting point for a fictional collective that is still very much active and existent today.

Not only have these characters — Graham, Lecter, FBI chief Jack Crawford and several others — been recreated in the 2002 re-interpretation named after Harris’ source material, but they currently inhabit one of the most impressive and underrated shows on television, NBC’s Hannibal, with Hugh Dancy playing Will Graham opposite Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal Lecter.

Additionally, Manhunter focused on the forensic side of investigation — it’s not about the tough, rogue cop with the impressive arsenal of weapons, but rather piecing together clues, cracking codes and actually figuring out who the bad guy is with intellect instead of an all-too-convenient hunch or inexplicable mistake.

And here’s where the super-nerd in me falls in love with this movie, the characters and the interconnectedness of things: that focus on forensics is now a central element of numerous television shows, the first of which was CSI: Crime Scene Investigation which starred… William Peterson.

When Peterson left the show after Season 9, the lead male role was inherited by Laurence Fishburne, who joined the cast the previous season. While Fishburne is no longer on CSI, he’s still on television every week, playing the role of FBI chief Jack Crawford on Hannibal.

I could easily keep going, speaking highly of Mann’s style and vision behind the camera and the classic flicks he would later make (Last of the Mohicans, Heat, Ali) or how Brian Cox is an amazing character actor that doesn’t get the credit he deserves for first bringing Lecter to life on film, but instead, I’ll leave you with this:

If you like the characters that exist in this world or the “using forensics to track a killer” approach to crime thrillers, do yourself a favour and check out Manhunter.

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