Saturday, 10 May 2014

Bakshi Animated Lord of the Rings Part 1

I’d planned to kick off a series of film commentary posts/detailed reviews with the Harry Potter series, having rewatched them all over Easter. I thought going for a series of films would inspire me to keep up the momentum to write and post them all. Then on one of the days I had off for my birthday I decided we should watch the animated version of The lord of the Rings, so I figured I could use that for my first film review post instead. Especially as I’ve only seen this film once before (and I watched it over the top of an essay I was supposed to be writing so it didn’t really get my full attention).

I picked up a copy of this film cheaply when we were in Tesco one day. I’d wanted to see it for years and finally watched it not long after I’d acquired it, though not with Mr Click on that occasion. I’d known of the film for years but I often got confused about pictures I saw online because I couldn’t tell whether they were coming from this film or the unofficial sequel of sorts, The Return of the King.

The Lord of the Rings is obviously an adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Produced in 1978 and running to around 130 minutes, it actually only tells half the story. There was the intention to make a second part but funds ran out and so we’re left with just the first part.

I’d planned for this to be one long post but it ran to over 5,000 words worth of my thoughts which I had condensed down to a list of only 110 points. So I’m posting these over the next five weeks in twenty(-ish) point chunks. Oh, and there will be spoilers.

1. The DVD menu sounds a little like something from The Wizard of Oz. I love the artwork as well. In the shop they had two different covers to choose from and I went for the one with Gandalf and Frodo inside the Ring because it looks all pretty and dramatic.

2. The initial opening makes me think of something from a Hammer Horror movie; black background, red text. Except instead of the letters looking like they’re dripping blood they’re in a Tolkienish font. Even the music sounds sort of dramatic and scary.

3. There’s a prologue-y bit like in the Peter Jackson films. This one shows the various races getting their rings of power. The Elf on the right looks kind of camp when he holds up his.

4. Warning: I am going to spend half my time complaining about the pronunciations. Throughout this thing I’m going to write the place names the way the characters say them. At the beginning the narrator says Isildor like it rhymes with thistle-door instead of Is-Ill-Dor.

5. This film is really heavy on the rotoscoping. I quite like the opening with the red background with black silhouettes but it’s quite jarring when it goes from this rotoscoping effect to animation when Déagol finds the ring. Speaking of animation, it’s a bit rough, but I like it for the most part.

6. The story starts properly with Gandalf arriving for Bilbo’s party. I love that they use Bilbo’s party speech (I don’t like half of you half as well as I should and I like less than half of you half as much as you deserve) and also the bit with Old Mr Proudfoot wiggling his toes!

7. Quick note: The Ring is magic. How do we know this? When it’s used we get sparkles and tinkly music.

8. We’ve barely got see Bilbo before Gandalf’s getting snitty about him needing to pass on the Ring to Frodo and then Bilbo’s gone. I suppose we need to get the story moving but I wonder if people who watched this first without reading the book knew what was actually going on here.

9. Things are a bit closer to the actual book timescale as 17 years pass after Bilbo leaves. How can we tell time is passing? Well we see the Shire with snow falling and then we flick through all the seasons a few times just to hammer it home. When Gandalf returns Frodo jumps for joy at the sight of him, literally, with actual hand clapping.

10. Although Frodo is reluctant to hand the Ring over to Gandalf, the wizard doesn’t have any problem handling it. But when he casually tosses it into the fire Frodo’s eyes nearly boggle out of his head.

11. Gandalf says Saw-ron instead of Sow-ron. *Smacks Gandalf* Then again, I can’t fault his pronunciation when he quotes the Ring-rhyme in the Black Speech. *Pats Gandalf on the head*

12. While Gandalf and Frodo talk outside about the Ring (way to be discrete about it guys) and Gollum leading the bad guys to the Shire, I admire the scenery. It’s really quite beautiful; the trees are pretty and there’s sparkles on the water.

13. One thing this film does seem to do is stick to the book closely for what the characters say. All the important quotes are present and correct, like the bit about Bilbo showing Gollum pity.

14. Frodo suggests Gandalf take the Ring, he was fine with it earlier on. Gandalf gets a bit uptight saying he couldn’t possibly take it. When Gandalf tells Frodo about taking the Ring to safety out of the Shire, instead of looking worried, Frodo smiles and nods – do you not realise what you’re facing?!

15. Sam gets pulled out of a hedge and is a lot smaller than Frodo. He kind of reminds me of one of those Troll dolls you got in the 90s, except he’s got a more Beatles-ish haircut.

16. This is where Gandalf tells Frodo to adopt the name Underhill and pretend he’s moving to Buckleberry to be near Merry and Pippin, evidently they’ll be cropping up in a minute. Sam’s pleased about going with Frodo to see the Elves.

17. And then Gandalf announces he’s off to see ‘Aruman’. At this point have to pause the film to explain to Mr Click that the producers thought people could be confused by a film with characters names Sauron (or Saw-ron) and Saruman, so they removed the first letter of the latter’s name. Apparently no one had invented Find and Replace in the 70s because half the time he’s called Aruman and the other half Saruman. Like that doesn’t make things more confusing!

18. And then Mr Click’s phone rang, then my phone rang, and we had a bit of an unscheduled break in our viewing.

19. When we resume viewing Mr Click comments that Sam is kind of the village idiot in this version of the story. I can’t help but agree. At the thought of visiting the Elves he waves his hands in the air.

20. Gandalf visits Saruman the White (who actually wears red). He then reveals himself as Saruman of Many Colours (well he’s already the wizard of Many Names) and we have a battle between him and Gandalf with lots of pretty lights and stars. Gandalf loses and yells ‘Aruman! Aruman!’ Saruman ignores him and walks away.
Next time Frodo and his hobbity friends set out for Rivendell, meet a strange man with a broken sword and Frodo has an encounter with a Black Rider.


  1. Fair play to you Click - I wouldn't have the patience to watch this in animation …. Just loved Peter Jackson's portrayal of the story …

    1. It's interesting to see where Peter Jackson might have gotten some ideas from, like the bit with Odo Proudfoot (PROUDFEET!) but there are plenty of moments that I struggle to take seriously.


Let me know what you think. :-)