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Break out the Chianti 

The sanguine saga of Hannibal Lecter began with Thomas Harris' novel Red Dragon, which was adapted for the screen by director Michael Mann (The Insider) in 1986. Partly filmed in Atlanta -- with the High Museum improbably cast as Lecter's prison -- the movie was renamed Manhunter after the "dragon" elements were diminished during post-production. A previously unreleased director's cut of Manhunter is now available on video and DVD, coinciding with the theatrical debut of the series' third installment, Hannibal, which opens Feb. 9.

Like Silence of the Lambs, Manhunter depicts an FBI agent using tips from the imprisoned Lecter (spelled Lektor here for some reason) to track down another serial killer. However, Manhunter's Will Graham (played in haunting deadpan by William L. Petersen) is far more complex than Lambs' Clarice Starling. Graham is the agent who successfully captured Lecter three years earlier by "getting into his head." Although the director's cut includes no new dragon material (in both Harris' novel and Mann's script, the serial killer speaks aloud with a dragon), the newly restored footage enhances the tension surrounding Graham's tug-of-war between love and duty, as he balances responsibility to his wife and son against his cold descent into the murderer's mindset.

The most significant additional scene falls near the finale, after FBI agents corner the killer. Injured from the battle, Graham arrives unannounced during a rainstorm at the door of the Sherman family, who were intended as the next victims. "I just stopped by to ... errr ... to see you," he says, before slipping back into the darkness. It's a deliciously unsettling moment. Does Graham want affirmation that the sacrifice of his sanity was worthwhile, or has he now plunged so deep into the maniac's twisted mind that he is the killer (and perhaps intends to take the next logical step)?

Missing from the director's cut are several brief bits, including footage of him riding the elevator inside Atlanta's Marriott Marquis. More welcome in their absence, however, are the annoying boom mics that previously bobbed along at the top of the frame during conference room scenes. Fortunately the director's cut provides the correct widescreen matte, restoring for the first time since 1986 the full impact of Manhunter's dramatic visual compositions.

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