Will Graham is a former FBI criminal profiler who has retired because of a breakdown after being attacked by a cannibalistic serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecktor. Graham is approached at his Florida home by his former FBI superior Jack Crawford , who is seeking help with a new serial killer case. Promising his wife that he will do nothing more than examine evidence and not risk physical harm, Graham agrees to visit the most recent crime scene in Atlanta, where he tries to enter the mindset of the killer, now dubbed the “Tooth Fairy” by the police for the bite-marks left on his victims.
It’s surprising how many people don’t know about this film, or if they have they haven’t watched it. Yes I know there’s no Anthony Hopkins but don’t let that put you off this cult film, In my eyes it is an overlooked classic.
The film is based on Thomas Harris’s book “Red Dragon” starring Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecktor, Cox is a brilliant actor who never really gets any credit for giving us out first look at the infamous doctor, he portrays the character so well and you can see where Hopkins got a few ideas of how to play him, honestly it’s hard to understand why Cox didn’t carry on playing the Lecktor role.
Also Tom Noonan is amazing in his portrayal of Dollarhyde, a stand-out performance that once again gets overlooked, same goes for William Petersen, in-fact the entire cast are amazing to watch.
Although the film is based on “Red Dragon” it’s not about Red Dragon, so it doesn’t follow the book too close, more of loosely based on it. You can see the foundations it builds for the series to come and it truly deserves credit for it, I’m not saying the other films would never have happened but I like to give credit where it’s due.
The film takes more of a look at the forensic science of the the crimes, which inspired many great films and TV shows such as “The X-Files”, “Se7en”, “Millennium”, “Copycat” and more. Whilst viewing this film you can see the influence it had which makes it very intriguing to watch.
If you haven’t seen this film yet then I urge you to! I’m sick of hearing the excuse “But Hopkins isn’t in it”, Give this film your full attention and you won’t be disappointed, if at the end you’re still thinking “It wasn’t the same without Hopkins” then stick to the easy to follow pg-13 Horrors.
Miscellaneous facts about the film:
- The film was originally going to be entitled “Red Dragon”, the same name as the novel. However, when Year of the Dragon became a box office failure, Dino De Laurentiis decided to avoid a “dragon” title.
- The prison where Hannibal Lecter is being incarcerated is the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.
- Frankie Faison (Lt. Fisk) is the only actor to appear in all four Thomas Harris ”Hannibal” adaptations (he appears as Barney in The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and Red Dragon).
- During the filming of this movie, Anthony Hopkins was playing King Lear at the National Theatre. During the filming of The Silence of the Lambs, Brian Cox was playing King Lear at the National Theatre.
- In a featurette included with the DVD version of the film, Tom Noonan (Dollarhyde) said that he avoided all contact with cast members in order to heighten the isolation and tension between himself and other people, particularly William Petersen (Graham).
- Tom Noonan (Dollarhyde) spent many hours in make-up so that artists could paint fake tattoos on his back and torso modeled after William Blake’s “Great Red Dragon” paintings. Though Noonan appeared with the tattoos in publicity photographs (available in a Special Edition DVD), director Michael Mann concluded that the tattoos were too “over the top,” and discarded the idea.
- This is the only Hannibal movie where his last name is spelled Lecktor. In all future movies, it’s spelled Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
- According to an interview with Brian Cox, the following actors were considered for the role of Hannibal Lektor: Brian Dennehy, John Lithgow and Mandy Patinkin.
- Brian Cox said in the DVD interview that he based his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter on Scottish serial killer Peter Manuel.
- David Lynch was the first director attached to the movie, but he eventually left the project. During this time, screenwriter Walon Green wrote a draft of the script and it is unknown how much of his ideas were used in the final script.
- In the scenes where Will Graham is interviewing Lecktor in his cell, the director Michael Mann took care to set up the shots so that the position of the bars of the cell do not move when the point of view switches between Graham and Lecktor.
- Curiously enough, Michael Mann had initially considered fellow filmmaker William Friedkin for the part of Hannibal Lecktor, but when Brian Dennehy - also a prospective Hannibal – insisted that Mann see Scotsman Brian Cox in the acclaimed 1984 off-Broadway production of “Rat in the Skull, ” Mann was instantly won over by Cox’s award-winning performance. Cox’s scenes as Lecktor were shot over a three-day period.
- When the production could not get permission to film on board a commercial airplane, Mann booked his actors and crew onto a twilight flight from Chicago to Florida where the production was relocating anyway. A stripped-down camera, lighting and sound equipment were taken on board as carry-on luggage. Pilots and flight attendants were appeased with gifts of film crew jackets.
- Dan Butler, who plays Jimmy Price in this film, played a different role, Roden, in The Silence of the Lambs.
- Michael Mann’s direction to Brian Cox about playing Hannibal Lecktor was to play him like a British public schoolboy. Cox based his performance on his then 15-year-old son who was attending public school at the time.
- The studio wanted Michael Mann to re-team with Don Johnson, the star of Mann’s show Miami Vice, but Mann wanted William Petersen who he had worked with on Thief. Jeff Bridges was also discussed.