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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'Manhunter': Michael Mann's Sleek, Visceral Precursor to 'The Silence of the Lambs'

Movie poster for the film Manhunter starring William L. Petersen, Brian Cox and Tom Noonan

“Manhunter” (1986) is a visceral and thoroughly absorbing crime thriller starring William L. Petersen as Will Graham, a retired FBI profiler who is brought back into the fold to hunt down a vicious killer who has murdered an entire family within their Atlanta home.

In his attempts to enter the mindset of the enigmatic killer and determine his motives, Graham consults with the imprisoned Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox), a cannibalistic serial killer who holds his own ulterior motives for engaging Graham. Their collaboration leads Graham down a serpentine path to a killer dubbed by the press as "The Tooth Fairy"—an intricate investigation that culminates in a pulse-pounding and resounding climax.

Delivered to the screen by writer/director Michael Mann ("Miami Vice", "Heat"), “Manhunter” is the first adaption of a Thomas Harris novel (“Red Dragon”) featuring the infamous “Hannibal the Cannibal”, preceding the storyline of "The Silence of the Lambs" and it’s sequels. The same source material would be adapted again in 2002 as "Red Dragon" starring Edward Norton, yet Mann’s sleek take on Harris’ novel stands alone as a highly stylized, gripping and thoroughly engaging highlight of 80’s-era entertainment.


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