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Quint Reviews Ted Tally's RED DRAGON script... for the uninitiated, that's a Hannibal Lecter movie

Hey folks, Harry here with that fount of seaman knowledge, Quint. Apparently while scuba-diving to Davey Jones' locker, he found a copy of the Ted Tally draft of RED DRAGON (which I'm about to read myself) and got so jazzed... so enthused... that he just had to write and tell each and everyone of you barnacles exactly how it tickled his fancy like a garden hose... Here ya go...

Ahoy there, squirts. ‘Tis I, the occasionally flesh eating, but always crusty seaman, Quint, here to give you folks a peek into Ted Tally’s stab at adapting Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon into screenplay form. The script doesn’t say what draft it is, but is dated April 23, 2001, so that leads me to believe it’s the most recent draft.

For starters, to get this out of the way, I read the book RED DRAGON after I saw Silence of the Lambs, thought it was great and liked the serial killer, Francis Dollarhyde, a lot more as a character than Buffalo Bill. I was excited to see what Michael Mann did with this material, so I rented Manhunter. What can I say? I was extremely disappointed. I thought it was a somewhat sloppy film that didn’t come close to realizing Harris’ awesome cat and mouse tale. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think it was a terrible film... I love Dennis Farina in it. I think the last 20 minutes are cut together terrifically and is the only part of the film where I felt Tom Noonan got The Tooth Fairy correct as a character. It’s also the only part where William Petersen didn’t grate on me.

I think Mann fumbled the ball with the film, think the acting in the first half was subpar and the pacing totally off. Again, I think it’s a halfway decent film, but it was only a fraction of what it could have been... I have to say, though, that I did see it after Silence of the Lambs, but you know what? I wasn’t expecting a Silence rehash, especially after reading the novel. I felt, while watching the film, that if I hadn’t read the book I would have been completely lost.

So, my mindset before diving into the script was “OK, I think this film can be done better than it has been before... but then again, it is here mostly to cash in on Hannibal’s success... but then again, it’s Ted Tally who wrote Silence of the Lambs, which was one of the best adaptations ever... God I hope they don’t fuck this up...”

And glory be, they didn’t. Or more accurately, Tally did it! The man worked his magic again and delivered a taut, intense story that pulls the absolute best parts of the novel and translates the text into screenplay format. Nothing felt over the top. The characters are more fleshed out in Tally’s Red Dragon than in Manhunter... Another note perfect adaptation from Mr. Tally. Just a warning before I go any further... If you want to stay completely innocent on this film, be warned, I’ll be talking about some spoiler-ish material. It’s nothing you wouldn’t know if you’ve read any of the novels or even seen Silence and Hannibal and I’ll steer clear of the big surprises, but just so you know. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya’. That being said...

Dolarhyde’s past, his nasty Grandmother.... all there and done in a really cool way that’s a flashback, but not a flashback... its kinda hard to explain and I’ll just let you folks wait for the movie to see it. The book’s ending... yep. Still there. Want to know what else is there? Fuckin’ Hannibal Lecter, of course. He’s in the script a lot more than in Manhunter and a bit more than in the book. His screen time will probably end up being about 3/4s of what it was in Silence of the Lambs.

The script opens with a Nietzsche quote: “... if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze into you.” Then it begins in 1983 in a Baltimore Concert Hall. A symphony is playing and they would be playing magnificently if it wasn’t for the Fourth Flautist, who keeps coming in late and throwing it all off. There’s only one person in the audience that seems to catch this, however, and it is Hannibal Lecter, M.D. We actually find ourselves in Lecter’s mind and hear the lovely flowing music, then the excruciating off-ness of that pesky Fourth Flautist assaults our senses like “a nail scoring glass.”

So, our good Doctor is in the film starting on page 1. If you folks have read the books or seen the films, you’ll probably remember what comes next. Let’s just say the next scene is a dinner party for the orchestra... Hell, here’s an excerpt:

Hannibal, confess. What is this divine-looking

If I tell you, I’m afraid you won’t try it.

More chuckles, hearty laughter. Taking his seat at the head of the table, Lecter snaps loose his napkin. Looking around at his eager, expectant guests, he smiles.

Bon appetit.

Hehehe. So far so good. After dinner, Det. Will Graham drops in on Lecter and they consult on a case he’s working on... It all ends in a bloody mess and with Lecter out of the human flesh eating club... ‘til the end of Silence of the Lambs anyway.

I love this opening! It’s bloody as hell, intense as hell and I can just see Hopkins chewing it up... forgive the pun... I had to. Anyway, Tally uses a really well written collage of newspaper clips that establishes what happens in the 3 years separating the opening of the script and the main story. Not only does it establish the story, it also establishes character. We’re introduced to Freddy Lounds’ byline on The National Tattler long before he pops up in the script. We see what he did to Graham in the hospital during his recuperation as the millions of National Tattler readers would have. We find out exactly what happens to Lecter.

It’s exactly what an opening credits sequence should be; informative, engaging and moving the story along. We’re right where we need to be when Jack Crawford shows up at Will Graham’s place, asking for help on a serial killer case, unlike Manhunter where we’re dropped right into the story without any background. Check out this excerpt from the part where Crawford’s trying to persuade Graham to help him on this new serial killer case:

I don’t think I’d be all that useful to you, Jack.
I never think about it anymore.

Bullshit. You knew what this was. After the second
family, you had to know.

You’ve got all the people you need. You’ve got
Dortmund up at Harvard, Bloom at the University
of Chicago-

Yeah, and I’ve got you down here fixing fucking
boat motors.

Graham is silent, sips his tea.

Any technician can examine evidence. But you’ve
got that other thing, too. Imagination, projection,
whatever. I know you don’t like that part of it.

You wouldn’t like it either if you had it.

I like how they set up Will’s “gift”... and I’m very curious to see how they pull it off visually. I think it’ll be a little tough for them to show Graham at work, seeing through the killer’s eyes, without having people think he’s psychic, which he’s not. Well, not fully. He’s just able to get into the minds of these demented people, walk through the crime scene as if he were the killer and “see” what the killer saw or think how the killer would think. Since they have flashes of Killer POV during these scenes... I’m thinking it’ll throw some people.

As much as I love Dennis Farina, I’d much rather Scott Glen come back and portray the Jack Crawford character. I’d like to see Anthony Heald return in all his weasely glory as Dr. Frederick Chilton. Who should play Will Graham? I don’t know for sure. Whoever they cast... well, the whole movie will hinge on it. The audience has to follow this character and believe in this character, trust this character much like they did Jodie Foster in Silence. Unlike the Clarice character, though, Graham has a lot of dialogue to himself. One of the things that didn’t work for me with William Petersen’s portrayal of Graham in Manhunter was his delivery of lines into his tape recorder or when he was figuring something out. Granted, it’s a tough thing to talk to yourself and do it well, but that’s the challenge with this role, isn’t it?

Let me settle all rumor to this now. If this movie does go forward, Anthony Hopkins will be Lecter. It’s unavoidable. The movie literally ends right before the events in Silence, so he’s not that much younger. I think Tony’s gonna have to drop some weight and maybe undergo a little time in the makeup chair, but I don’t think it’ll be that difficult. And, I gotta admit... seeing him back in that dungeon cell of his... well, it’s got me pretty geeked out.

Wanna know why it’s got me geeked out? Because I’m a whacked out goonie freak for Silence of the Lambs and my absolute favorite part about that movie was the back and forth between Clarice and Lecter. I think they do it one better in this script because of Graham’s history with Hannibal. Graham got Lecter caught, Lecter just about killed Graham. Lecter doesn’t want to help Graham, but after spending 3 years in his little cell, he’s thirsting for some excitement.

That still not enough for you? This should get you drooling for Hopkins to put on that white t-shirt and maniac grin again... Remember that scene in Manhunter, the final meeting of Hannibal and Graham, the one that ends with the good doctor shouting at Will while he’s pounding frantically on the door to get let out and escape Lector’s taunts? That scene is also in Tally’s RED DRAGON, but the dialogue seems to be a little sharper and he throws on additional stuff at the end that just take it to a new level... Those who know the scene I’m talking about should remember that it ends with Hannibal screaming “You stink of fear!” Here’s what Tally added to the end:

But you’re not a coward.

His words pin Graham in place. Each one drilling into his back, like tiny, precise darts.

You fear me, but still came here. Fear this shy
boy, yet still you seek him out... Don’t you under-
stand, Will? Without imagination, we’d be just
like all those other dullards. Fear is the price of
your instrument. I can help you to bear it.

Graham turns, looks at him. Tries to steady his voice.

Are you never afraid of anything, Dr. Lecter?

Yes, I fear being bored. In that context you
are less frightening than I expected... And
now if you’ll excuse me, good day.

See!!! My God! I want to see this now! OK, calming... Directors... Well, the obvious choice is Jonathan Demme who did such a bang up job with the similarly structured Silence. That’s not the only choice, by any means, but Demme’s proven his meddle with this type of structure before. I don’t know? Why don’t you folks discuss who you’d like to see helm this film below?

Let’s see... what else is there... Dollarhyde’s relationship with Reba is taken much farther in the script than we’ve seen. We actually believe he’s fallen in love with her. There’s a struggle there. He actually defeats the RED DRAGON for a spell due to his love.... HOLY SHIT... I almost forgot, the RED DRAGON has a voice! We hear the RED DRAGON speaking to Dolarhyde in his head! The way it’s described it sounds like it could be freaky as hell. If pulled off right, this voice could be as memorable as Mercedes McCambridge’s work in Exorcist. Of course, that’s if they pull it off right, but you know... the framework is there.

I really am waiting with baited breath to see where this project goes, who gets involved. They got a script that quite literally pulls the best from Silence of the Lambs, Manhunter (RED DRAGON) and Hannibal, both the novels and films, and mixes them terrifically. My God, the ending... sweet Jesus... the final scene... is such a kick in the pants to a fan of the Lecter series... it’s the scene that’ll make you leave the theater with a smile on your face! OK, I better stop. I’m on the verge of spilling everything and... that’s not a good idea.

So, my fellow seamen and lovely mermaids, this is the end of it. I’m about to push off. As always keep yer eyes on the horizon, squirts, fer this old salt has only begun to show off his new gold chest filled with coolness. ‘Til that day, squirts, this is Quint bidding you a fond farewell and adieu.

They're only underage if you ask

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