Title: JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
Featuring the Voices of: John Hurt, Anthony Daniels, Christopher Guard,
William Squire, and Andre Morell
Writers: Chris Conkling and Peter S. Beagle
Based Particularly on the Novels: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two
Director: Ralph Bakshi
Feature length: 130 minutes
Extras: 1:33.1 Version of the film for 4 by 3 televisions
Languages: English Stereo
Packaging: Glossy VHS Cardboard Slipcase
Media: NTSC VHS Cassette
Year of Theatrical Release: 1978/VHS Release: 1995
Original Theatrical Distributor: Unknown
Home Video Distributor: Republic Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG
VHS Rating: C
Reviewer: Mark A. Rivera
In anticipation of New Line Cinema's upcoming Theatrical Film version of JRR
Tolkien's "The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy" to be Directed by Peter Jackson in
New Zealand, I thought it would be fun to watch Ralph Bakshi's Animated
Theatrical Version from the late 70's. Unfortunately, I had lost my VHS copy
that HBO Video was distributing some years back and then was horrified to
find out that the film was on moratorium again.
A few days later I came across a newer VHS release of the film that was
distributed by Republic Pictures in the children's video section of a retail
store for only five dollars and ninety-nine cents. At a price too good to
pass up I purchased the film and was even happier to find that the transfer
was a standard play (SP) recording rather than an extended play (EP)
transfers often found on bargain basement VHS Cassettes.
Now the mistake of placing Bakshi's animated version of "The Lord of the
Rings" was not a huge error, but this definitely is not a Disney cartoon and
should not be viewed by minors under ten years of age without Adult
Supervision because of some of the violent fighting scenes and moments
involving the Ring Wraiths might really give children nightmares.
At the time this cartoon was released, there was no CGI for animators to work
with so Bakshi combines traditional animation techniques with actual painting
over of actors to give the film a more realistic tone. At times this works
magnificently as with the initial meeting between Frodo Baggins and Gandalf
the Wizard to discuss the One Ring, where Gandalf's blue cloak itself is a
marvel to look at because it moves more realistically than anything I have
ever seen in an animated film.
Other times, like Frodo doing a dance inside an inn where actors painted over
cheer don't work as well, but then again at the time this was cutting edge
animation. Bakshi portrays a more realistic Middle Earth than the ones scene
in the cutesier Rank and Bass TV Cartoons that featured songs to boot.
To be honest I like both cartoons, but I prefer the Bakshi Edition because he
uses subtle differences in the eyes and ears of the elves for example to
distinguish them from mortal men and Gimli the Dwarf is not a short hobbit
sized creature at all. He appears to be more like a human with a long beard.
He also shares some of the film's best dialogue along with Gollum and
Gandalf. Actors John Hurt and Anthony Daniels are among the recognizable
voices in the film.
The film leaves out a whole lot out from the first two novels in the trilogy,
but also includes elements not depicted in the television cartoons either. A
sequel was never made. This is a like it or hate it film. If you watch this
expecting to see something more akin to a Disney cartoon, you will probably
be severely disappointed, but if you watch it knowing that it is an animated
film aimed toward Tolkien fans and adults, you might like the film even if
some of the effects and some of the music score are extremely 1970's circa
"Planet of the Apes" style action music. However, I love the main theme of
Bakshi's adaptation of "The Lord of the Rings" so much I wish they would
include it in the upcoming live action features.
The VHS transfer is VHS quality and it shows especially if you have grown use
to watching the quality of films being released on DVD. I hope they will
release the animated feature again in a remastered print especially for DVD
with commentary by Bakshi. That would be a great tie in for the upcoming
theatrical trilogy releases. As it is now, the VHS edition I have is worth it
if you can find it because it is a legitimate copy packaged in a nice glossy
box featuring the films original One Sheet artwork and for less than eight
dollars, I can deal with the low resolution for now.
Mark A. Rivera - C