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Hannibal Blu-ray impressions


Well, it took long enough, but Ridley Scott’s Hannibal has finally been released in high definition. In my opinion the best of the Hannibal Lecter films, this was one of my most eagerly anticipated titles for an HD release since both formats launched. It was initially announced for an April 2007 Blu-ray release from MGM in the US, but it disappeared into the same void that claimed several of the studio’s catalogue titles when distribution partner 20th Century Fox staged an abrupt exit from the format over copy protection concerns (LOL). Then, it showed up in the schedules again on the other side of the Atlantic, this time as a French HD DVD release from Universal. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with French home video releases, it missed its August 2007 release date and ultimately never surfaced. Luckily, however, German distributors Universum Film, UFA and Tobis have come to the rescue, releasing it on October 30th. My copy arrived today.

First, the good news. It’s region free, and includes separate English and German DTS-HD High Resolution (i.e. non-lossless) 6.1 audio tracks, with PowerDVD reporting a constant bit rate of 4.6 Mbps. English and German subtitles are included, both optional. Finally, all of the bonus materials from the original 2-disc DVD release have been ported over, including the Ridley Scott commentary, deleted scenes and 75-minute documentary Breaking the Silence: The Making of Hannibal.

On to the transfer, we have a VC-1 encode on a dual-layer BD50, and it’s an above average but not particularly amazing presentation of the film. The same master that was used for the various DVD releases appears to have been trotted out again here, as evinced by the higher than expected amount of print damage and gate weave that it exhibits (not that either of these are overly troubling, but for a film from as recent as 2001 they are surprising to see). The biggest problem appears to be noise reduction, which particularly affects the wide shots, giving them a waxy and insubstantial look. It’s not Dark City bad, but it’s closer to that particular disaster than I would have liked. Close-ups fare far better, as close-ups invariably do, and luckily they take up the bulk of the film’s running time. There’s a moderate amount of ringing on display, again most noticeable in the wide shots, while the grain tends to look a little clumpy. Detail is about average, never really “popping” but at least offering a sizeable improvement over the Region 2 Superbit DVD, previously the sharpest of the bunch (Julianne Moore’s delightful moustache, for instance, is for the first time readily visible during the tense climax in the kitchen).

In the overall scheme of things, I’d rate this somewhere around the middle echelon for catalogue titles. It’s nothing like as bad as, say, Universal’s worst, but at the same time don’t expect anything as ravishing as The Godfather: Part III or Scott’s Blade Runner. With a new master, I suspect the image quality could have been noticeably improved, but I have a feeling that isn’t going to happen any time soon. I certainly wouldn’t hold out for MGM to get off their fat asses and release it in the US: we’d be unlikely to see any significant gains in the image quality department, and they’d probably drop all the extras to boot. Basically, you can safely buy this with the assumption that it’s the best you’ll get in the foreseeable future.

(Universum Film/UFA/Tobis, Germany, VC-1, 33.1 GB)

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Update, November 5th, 2008 09:16 PM: I should point out that the extras are all standard definition PAL rather than NTSC, and as such won’t play on North American equipment.

Posted: Tuesday, November 04, 2008 at 5:01 PM | Comments: 7
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Technology



In my opinion the best of the Hannibal Lecter films

Woah! Controversial, Michael. :-)

What makes you rate this one above The Silence of the Lambs?

I thought the film took a rather ludicrous book and turned it into a comedy. Neither Ridley Scott nor Anthony Hopkins was taking it seriously. This attitude showed - and it made the film much, much better than a straight adaptation would have been. It's not a great film, I don't think, but you're more likely to enjoy it if you didn't like the novel.

Posted by: Baron Scarpia, November 4, 2008 6:35 PM


Well, I enjoy being controversial. :D Seriously, I’m surprised I’ve never mentioned to you that Hannibal is my favourite of the Lecter films - it’s actually one of my favourite films period, which is even more controversial. (I must admit that I haven’t seen Hannibal Rising yet, but I’m not exactly holding out much hope for it toppling Hannibal from the top spot.)

For me, The Silence of the Lambs is an excellent film - an exquisite example of how to structure a thriller with superb performances from Hopkins and Foster and some terrific dialogue. For some reason, though, it always struck me as a bit… workmanlike. By that I mean that I never got the sense that Jonathan Demme was putting anything of himself into the film or saying anything unique. It’s that, coupled with the “Beauty and the Beast” parable, that causes me to give the edge to Hannibal. I think Scott’s direction is sublime, with a real lyrical quality to both it and Steven Zaillian’s script. It’s difficult to explain in words (though not for lack of trying), but something about it just “clicks” with it for me in a way that it doesn’t for Silence. I’m not entirely convinced that the material wasn’t being taken seriously, by the way. Sure, it works as a black comedy, but it also works as a twisted love story with, in the final scenes, a genuine emotional pull.

Incidentally, I liked the novel.

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, November 4, 2008 6:54 PM


Does this mean that the UFA BD of Hannibal Rising is also region free?

Posted by: Daniel Sardella, November 4, 2008 8:31 PM

4. claims it is. It’s also in the correct aspect ratio, unlike the Dutch release.

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, November 4, 2008 9:02 PM


I might be in a minority here but i consider this a poor sequel.

First off i like Julianne Moore as an actress but Jodie Foster was so powerful playing the part of Clarice Starling that i just cannot accept anyon else in the role....I also dislike Scotts direction in this film it seems too laid back for my liking and Hopkins also overacts.

The music score just didn't do it for me...Perhaps they were trying to evoke grand guignol type scenarios with music and set design but it just didn't work....Overlong and nowhere near as tense as i would have liked.

Silence of the Lambs is a masterpiece....Red Dragon and the original Manhunter are fine films in their own right but this one just didn't work for me.

Credit where it is due though as i thought the brain eating scene worked very well but the film taken as a whole didn't work for me and i was left very disappointed with this film....Hannibal just seems more dangerous when he is caged and using pyschology on those who talk to him...Uncage him and it doesn't work so well ( i think )

They seem to be taking their time with Silence of the Lambs...Hopefully thats because they are overseeing a fine transfer and not just because they have it in a vault somewhere waiting to be released when a marketing opportunity arises.

Posted by: FoxyMulder, November 4, 2008 9:30 PM


A solid movie and sounds like a watchable if slightly average Blu-ray. If it stood on its own it would have done better, but it is tough following up a masterpiece like Silence of the Lambs.

Posted by: Phantom Stranger, November 4, 2008 11:06 PM


From the captures there doesn't appear to be much real detail and what's there is plugged up with wax artifacts.

Posted by: Kram Sacul, November 5, 2008 1:41 AM

Comments on this entry and all entries up to and including June 30th 2009 have been closed. The discussion continues on the new Land of Whimsy blog:


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