In 1981 Thomas Harris released a very dark thriller called Red Dragon, about a gifted FBI profiler named Will Graham, who comes out of retirement to assist in the investigation of a Serial Killer known as "The Tooth Fairy" (for his habit of leaving bite marks on his victims). Throughout the novel, Graham reluctantly seeks help from another serial killer, the brilliant if amoral psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter. The two had previously forced each other into mutual retirement, Graham by catching Lecter, and Lecter by nearly disemboweling Graham while trying to escape.The novel was well-regarded for its unyielding gothic tone and the unnerving detail and care Harris put into the psychological dysfunctions of villain Francis Dolarhyde. The book was made into the movie Manhunter in 1986, starring William Petersen (yes, that one) as Graham and Brian Cox as Hannibal "Lecktor".In 2002, there was a new film adaptation of Red Dragon, starring Anthony Hopkins and Edward Norton and keeping the original name this time. It was a moderate success, although some fans of Manhunter complained that a remake was unnecessary, though others were just happy to see something that didn't suck as bad as Hannibal. The film also included the focus on the Red Dragon's psychological torments, which was all but ignored in Manhunter, and features an ending more faithful to the book's.The book received a sequel in form of The Silence Of The Lambs in 1988.
This series provides examples of:
Adaptation Distillation: Both film adaptations. Manhunter removes all references to the painting, as well as Lecter's cannibalism, while the 2002 film has a greater focus on the Lecter/Graham relationship.
Antagonist Title: An indirect example. "Red Dragon" is actually a shorthand for the painting "The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed In Sun" that figures into the plot. Francis Dolarhyde, the villain, believes himself to be representative of it, stating "I am the Great Red Dragon" and "I am the Dragon" at several points.
Beauty Equals Goodness: Subverted and double subverted by Serial Killer Dolarhyde - despite his shyness he is (as Reba laughingly points out) something of a pin-up to the women he works with. The double subversion? Dolarhyde was born looking so horrible that they had to sedate his mother to stop her from screaming at the sight of him. His good looks as an adult are due to a lot of operations to sort out his severe cleft palate and some pretty intense weightlifting.
Bittersweet Ending: In the book, while Dolarhyde is eventually stopped, Graham ends up hideously disfigured by Dolarhyde, and deals with it by becoming a severe alcoholic, and Reba is implied to have been traumatized by her experience.
Blind and the Beast: Francis Dolarhyde falls in love with Reba McClane partly because she's blind and can't see his harelip, although it's strongly implied that most women he knew were attracted to him already. He just thinks of his harelip as being a much greater problem then it actually is.
Break the Cutie: Francis Dolarhyde's whole childhood seems to revolve around this. Reba, his love interest, may also count as this too.
Cannibalism Superpower: Hannibal Lecter invokes this to Will, at least in the 2002 film; "Such a brave boy. I think I'll eat your heart...".
Consulting a Convicted Killer: The Trope Maker, along with The Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal is approached by Graham, the FBI agent who had originally captured him, requesting his assistance in capturing a serial killer known as "The Tooth Fairy". Hannibal provides this help to Graham, while secretly corresponding with the Tooth Fairy behind his back, in exchange for a first-class meal in his cell and privileges to use the prison library.
Hannibal Lecter: Shh. Don't move. You're in shock now. I don't want you to feel any pain. In a moment, you'll begin to feel light-headed, then drowsy. Don't resist, it's so gentle, like slipping into a warm bath. I regret it came to this, Will, but every game must have its ending.
Then he kind of ruins the oddly touching moment by saying "I think I'll eat your heart." Or perhaps adds to it in a strange way if you consider that Hannibal might be eating his heart because he has great regard for Will's courage and strength. Luckily for him, Will survives the encounter and gets Hannibal arrested.
Paparazzi: Freddy Lounds in Red Dragon, played by Stephen Lang and/or Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Pet the Dog: Dolarhyde and Reba. Characters later suggest that The Power of Love almost convinced him to Heel Face Turn, sadly the "dragon" took total control, though Dolarhyde does still end up not killing Reba.
Red Right Hand: Francis Dolarhyde's harelip, which played a major role in his descent into madness due to his being cruelly mocked and shunned; Lecter having maroon eyes and six fingers on one hand in the books.
Dolarhyde's yellow eyes may also count. As an impressive piece of detail, it is briefly noted that his mother also had them.
Shown Their Work: The manner in which Graham deals with Lecter is very in line with proper protocol with investigative questioning. When Lecter asks probing questions to Graham, he either ignores him, or provides the smallest amount of information necessary to keep Lecter talking. This is to make sure that Lecter can't get inside Graham's head.
Sociopathic Hero: Averted with Hannibal Lecter; it's clear he's still a villain even if he's helping out Graham.
Spared by the Adaptation: Freddy Lounds is an unusual example, in that he still dies. He gets set on fire by Dolarhyde in the book - and survives for the better part of a day. In the film he dies from the attack within minutes, sparing him that agony.
Spotlight-Stealing Squad: In the original book of Red Dragon, Hannibal Lecter is a One-Scene Wonder who appears for about seven pages. Good pages, but still. The VHS/DVD release for the first film now advertises it as "the beginning of Hannibal Lecter's legacy" and the poster for the second film is mostly a giant picture of his head.
To Know Him I Must Become Him: Basically how Will Graham catches serial killers - he's able to get into their mindset, to empathize with them, to an extent that disturbs him.
Twofer Token Minority: Reba, blind and female. Also invoked by a line of dialogue in the book, which is now on the trope's quote page.
Unbuilt Trope: Lecter's insights and lectures are unsettling, but fallible, especially against an experienced profiler like Graham. Furthermore, it is perfectly clear that beneath it all, he is, well, insane.