In 1992, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded its 64th Best Picture Oscar to director Jonathan Demme’s adaptation of author Thomas Harris’ bestselling novel The Silence of the Lambs. The film revolves around the main character of FBI trainee Clarice Starling (played by Academy Award winner Jodie Foster). She is recruited by Jack Crawford, head of the Bureau’s Behavioral Science Unit to assist in the capture of a notorious serial killer. Nicknamed “Buffalo Bill” by the press, this deranged killer’s modus operandi is to kidnap, murder, and collect the skin of his victims (his targets…overweight women ). The stakes are raised when the daughter of a United States senator is abducted and the FBI has only a matter of days before she becomes his next victim. Although the role garnered Foster her second Oscar win, it was actually the performance of actor Anthony Hopkins (who earned an Oscar as well) in the role of the psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter, that made the film a true classic of the thriller genre. In order to capture Buffalo Bill, Starling must pick the mind of Lecter, a serial killer himself. In the course of the film, the two develop a mutual respect and the doctor comes to understand Starling far more than any other person in her life.
However, the book Silence of the Lambs was actually the sequel to another Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon. In this book, Lecter is actually a supporting character. The focus in this story is FBI Special Investigator Will Graham. Graham was the one who caught Lecter, a sociopathic killer who would murder his victims and then dine on their organs. This practice earned him the infamous moniker “Hannibal the Cannibal”. Graham possesses a unique gift of total empathy, one in which he uses to assume the emotional viewpoint of those killers whose motives he is trying to comprehend. Unfortunately, he so thoroughly identifies with his subjects, that he risks his own sanity….losing himself in the diseased fantasies of these deranged individuals. Red Dragon was first adapted in 1986 by director Michael Mann for the film Manhunter (where Graham was portrayed by CSI’s William Petersen and Lecter was portrayed by actor Brian Cox). And, again, in 2002’s Red Dragon by director Brett Ratner ( with Ed Norton appearing as Graham, and Hopkins returning as Lecter ). In this retconned version of the story, Lecter serves as a psychiatric consultant on Graham’s cases (who is unaware of the doctor’s homicidal culinary pursuits).
Now, this September, comes the blu-ray release of the first season of NBC’s series Hannibal. In this adaptation of the material (executive produced by Bryan Fuller) Graham is played by actor Hugh Dancy. Rounding out the cast is Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford, Caroline Dhavernas as Dr. Alana Bloom, Lara Jean Chorostecki as tabloid reporter Fredericka Lounds, Kids in the Hall alumnus Scott Thompson as lab tech Jimmy Price, and actor Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
First off, I’ve always preferred Harris’ first book over its sequel. I’ve always thought that between the two leads, Graham was by far a more interesting character than Starling. And I’ve never seen an actor who could convey the toll Graham’s gift takes on his psyche until now. Hugh Dancy OWNS this role. His Graham (who suffers from a touch of Asperger’s syndrome) is a man whose tendency to identify with others so completely makes it difficult for him to connect with them on a purely social level. He isolates himself, with his only emotional outlet taking the form of rescuing stray dogs off the street. However, Jack Crawford recruits Graham from his teaching position at Quantico for his investigations in the field. However, with Graham’s mental health a concern, his friend Dr. Alana Bloom recommends that Will be monitored by her mentor, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Lecter, recognizing Graham’s gift for what it is, takes the investigator under his care….all the while concealing his own sinister identity from Graham and the Bureau.
Of all the actors in the series, Mads Mikkelsen has the toughest hurdle to overcome. Hopkin’s Lecter is an iconic performance and one that has ingrained itself in pop culture’s own psyche. Unfortunately, though, Hopkin’s return as the doctor in the Ratner prequel and Lamb’s sequel (the over the top Ridley Scott helmed Hannibal.….with Julianne Moore as Starling) was a shadow of his Oscar winning turn. Mikkelsen’s portrayal is a welcome change to a character that ran the threat of being reduced to a by the numbers villain (much like Freddy Krueger). Mikkelsen’s Lecter doesn’t force himself under your skin, he seduces you into adopting his as a blanket (mostly by adopting the guise of a trusted friend and emotional anchor). The first season ran for 13 episodes, and they were some of the most brilliantly written and beautifully filmed of any series in recent memory. Graham and Lecter have always struck me as being the modern take on the Sherlock Holmes/ Dr. Moriarty dynamic. This series not only adds to the character’s mythology, it makes it all the more… forgive the pun… delectable.
Hannibal Season One: BLU-RAY/DVD SPECIAL FEATURES*
- Audio commentaries on select episodes with Cast and Crew including Bryan Fuller, David Slade, Hugh Dancy and more
- “Hannibal Reborn” featurette
- “A Taste for Killing” featurette
- “The FX of Murder” featurette
- “A Symphony for the Slaughter” featurette
- Gag Reel
- Deleted Scenes
- Pilot Episode Storyboards
*Subject to change
Hannibal Season One: PROGRAM INFORMATION
Street Date: September 24, 2013
Price: $39.97 Blu-ray / $39.98 DVD
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 561 minutes
Type: TV on DVD
Blu-ray Closed Captioned: English SDH
DVD Closed Captioned: English
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Blu-ray Format: 1080P High Definition 16×9 Widescreen (1.78:1)
DVD Format: 16×9 Widescreen (1.78:1)
Blu-ray Audio Status: 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio
DVD Audio Status: 5.1 Dolby Digital