I've recently finished reading Thomas Harris' 1981 novel RED DRAGON, destined to be remembered evermore as "the book that birthed Hannibal Lecter"-- even though Lecter's role in the book is in my opinion far more marginal than it is in the first film adaptation, 1986's MANHUNTER
I don't intend to discuss RED DRAGON in detail here: only its ending. So-- obviously big-time SPOILERS for anyone who doesn't miss to have said ending spoiled.
In my review of MANHUNTER, I gave consideration to the possibility that it might be a combative film based on the movie's final showdown between Will Graham and the serial killer Dollarhyde. Ultimatelly, I decided that the "brevity" of their match did not represent a conflict between two megadynamic forces.
But in the conclusion of the RED DRAGON novel, Graham is far less prepossessing than in the film. As in the film, Dollarhyde fakes his death so that he can ambush Graham later, though in the book the killer goes after Graham's family as well. Dollarhyde catches Graham, his wife Molly and his stepson while they're fishing at the beach. Graham manages one quasi-heroic action--kicking a gun out of Dollarhyde's hand-- but when they fight, Graham is wounded in the face by the killer's knife. Not only is he so wounded, the trauma causes him to run off in a panic-- an action for which author Harris does not condemn Will, though an earlier generation surely would have done so. Dollarhyde is shot down like a dog, but the gun is wielded by Molly. In the novel's coda,Graham is seen recovering in the hospital, and it's suggested that he's been permanently scarred by the attack. According to Wikipedia, Graham is never again appears in any of Harris' Hannibal novels, though SILENCE OF THE LAMBS adds one minor detail: by the time Clarice Starling hears of Graham's fate, he's become a drunk who lives in disfigured solitude, and his family is not referenced.
Presumably Michael Mann, writer-director of the 1986 film, vetoed Harris' scenario to allow for the moviegoer to allow for a little more catharsis. I plan to screen the 2002 adaptation of RED DRAGON in the near future to see how close this film comes to the Harris novel-- and whether it and subsequent Harris adaptations possess any combative characterisitics.
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