Tuesday, March 18, 2014



Norman’s health continues to improve so we decided to celebrate by having Mr. Brad, our personal decorator, come to Chateau Maine to do a new bathroom. Norman’s bladder just doesn’t have the capacity it used to so a more convenient powder room was in order. Mr. Brad had just returned from an industrial design convention and hog hollerin' contest in Spivey's Corner, North Carolina. He apparently has been greatly influenced by the trailer parks and decaying industrial plants of that region; he decided what we needed was the deconstructionist look. Using a mallet and a skill-saw on the sheetrock, he managed to carve a number of interesting holes throughout the room; however, he was very upset when I came through with the dust buster as he feels the plaster dust is an integral part of the artistic statement.

I left Mr. Brad playing with paint chips in varying shades of puce and taupe and went off to rehearse a bit more for the new Vickicam, my web based site where surfers of the world wide web can see a true star at work in her home studio. I've been invited to make a special appearance at the Albuquerque film festival screening of my classic musical Francis the Talking Mule joins the WAVES nest week. If I’m going to go, I think I'd better be able to recreate my famous tap routine on top of the battleship gun barrels for the legions of fans that are sure to turn up. Madame Rose, my publicist, assures me that I’m very big in Albuquerque.

Later in the evening, after Mr. Brad had a fight with the plumber over the artistic benefits of exposed copper piping, he, Norman and I repaired to the home theater to watch Manhunter on DVD. Manhunter is Michael Mann's 1986 adaptation of Thomas Harris's novel Red Dragon and is the first appearance of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, made famous in The Silence of the Lambs in both print and film. For reasons known only to screenwriters, the name was changed to Lecktor for this film and, instead of the dark dungeon in which he dwells in Jonathan Demme's vision, here he dwells in an aseptic white cubicle that appears to be located on an upper floor of the new wing of Atlanta’s High Museum of Art. Brian Cox is the good doctor in this outing and makes a memorably creepy Lecter - not so still and quiet as Hopkins but more menacing and twisted behind those maroon eyes.

Michael Mann made this film in the middle of his Miami Vice period and the film, like that television series, is drenched in neon pastels with different characters given signature colors. Incredible attention was paid to the smallest details of set decoration to keep a feeling of dread and unease going throughout the film and the cinematography, by the great Dante Spinotti, makes incredible use of landscape for psychological effect. The story is that of FBI profiler Will Graham (William Petersen), the man who originally detected and arrested Lecter. That encounter left him both physically and emotionally scarred. He is called out of retirement by his boss, Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina) to track down a new killer of happy upper middle class families known as 'The Tooth Fairy'. In order to unlock his abilities as a profiler, Graham must face Lecter again and confront his own inner demons.

The movie is a psychological police procedural and a meditation on the nature of evil, elliptically confronting the horrors of murder rather than dwelling on them in the ghoulish fashion that so many movies take pleasure in these days. Petersen is a brooding, physical hero (who looks adorable in the cotton candy colored hot pants he dons occasionally) well matched by Tom Noonan as the villain. Kim Greist (whatever happened to her?) is his love interest and is given very little to do other than act soulfully concerned when he goes into danger. Joan Allen, in an early role, plays a spunky blind girl who falls for the killer and does variations on Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark but has an inner fire which foreshadows her later career.

The DVD contains an excellent wide screen transfer that allows Mann's moody visual compositions to come through incredibly well. There are a couple of featurettes, one on the cinematography and one interviewing several of the principal cast members on their memories of the filming. Unfortunately, there is no commentary track and it’s a film that could use one.

Bloody bedrooms. Broken mirrors. Blue sex scenes. Tiger feeling. Gratuitous Iron Butterfly soundtrack. Florida beaches. Burning wheelchairs. Burning wheelchair riders. Gratuitous Atlanta Marriott Marquis.

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