Is there anyone in the world more psyched about "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" extended edition than Christopher Lee? The only sour moment in the trilogy's public run came when Lee, who plays the turncoat wizard Saruman, blasted director Peter Jackson for cutting him out of the theatrical version of "ROTK." Lee, now 82 and a cult figure among horror fans, felt he'd earned his gory swansong in "ROTK." Now thanks to the DVD, he's got it back. And he was right all along. In the original, Saruman's death is explained away off-screen, as if he were lint flicked from Gandalf's cloak. In the 250-minute DVD version, out on Dec. 14, he gives the movie an early jolt of peril by foreshadowing the mayhem to come. When Lee snarls "you're all going to die," brother, you believe it.

Like the first two "Rings" DVDs, the extended "ROTK" isn't just for obsessives. It's a flat-out better movie than the one that swept the Oscars. It's more emotionally generous and, despite the extra girth, more brisk and exciting. (Scarier, too: when Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn venture into a cavern to raise the Army of the Dead, a reinserted scene depicts the trio crunching across a carpet of skulls. The sound alone makes your skin crawl.) Even the four-DVD set's endless extras whiz by, largely because Jackson and his team are so obviously in love with their work. In the making-of documentary, when shooting wraps and it's time for farewells, the ache feels genuine, the tears earned.