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By sheer luck, I love this movie
unga_bungabunga27 September 2007
I happened upon this movie as an 8-10 year old on a cold, dark November afternoon. I was outside playing all day, freezing, and when I came in around 4pm, I had a cup of hot cocoa and sat down in front of the TV with a blanket. I was surprised to be watching a cartoon that wasn't all happy and silly--and was in fact dark, and moralistic. It captured my imagination. I'm sure it misses the text, and is abbreviated in all the wrong places for the Tolkien purist. But it still captures the spirit of the story, the choice to carry a burden for the good of others, the consequences of selfish, rash decisions, etc. The quality of animation leaves room for complaint. But the one place where this movie clearly rises above the new films is the voice characterizations. John Hurt is great in this. If you don't like how the character is drawn, look away, and just listen to him. His voice is extraordinary. I've seen it again many, many times and it always brings me back to that time, as a kid, thirsty for some magical adventure. It's for this reason I say 'lucky', the film is nostalgic for me so I overlook its shortcomings. But between John Hurt, and Tolkien's fantasy, it still reached me, and still does.
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Animated version of The Lord Of The Rings - quite good, but suffers because too many unfairly compare it to the new Peter Jackson version.
barnabyrudge30 May 2006
More than twenty years before Peter Jackson's visionary adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings, there was this 1978 animated effort from director Ralph Bakshi. An ambitious and reasonably faithful version of the story, this has sadly been rather over-shadowed by the Jackson trilogy. Indeed, many reviewers here on the IMDb (mainly those who saw the newer version first) seem to be fiercely unkind to this version.... but if one applies a little common sense, and takes into consideration the time when it was made and the technical possibilities that existed at that time, then they will realise that this is a pretty good film. Indeed, it was shortly after seeing this animated movie back in the early '80s that I sought out Tolkien's book and immediately became a lifelong fan of these richly detailed Middle Earth adventures. So, in some respects, I owe this film a degree of acknowledgement as the film which shaped my literary tastes forever.

Sauron, the Dark Lord of Middle Earth, forges an all-powerful ring that gives him incredible power. Following a great battle during which Sauron is defeated, the ring falls into possession of a king named Isildur…. but instead of destroying it he foolishly chooses to keep it. For centuries the ring passes from hand to hand, eventually coming into the possession of a hobbit named Frodo Baggins who lives in a peace-loving community known as The Shire. Frodo learns from a wizard named Gandalf that his ring is in fact The One Ring, the very same that was forged by Sauron all those centuries ago, and that its master is once again searching for it in order to restore his dark power over the entire land. Frodo embarks on a perilous journey to protect the ring with three other hobbit companions, but every step of the way they are hunted by Sauron's ring-wraiths, the Black Riders. There follow many adventures, during which a company of nine adventurers is formed to guide the ring to the only place where it can be "unmade" – Mount Doom, in the land of Mordor. The film concludes with Frodo and his best friend Sam on the borders of Mordor, closing ever nearer to their horrifying destination. Meanwhile Gandalf and the other members of the company fight off a huge army of orcs at the legendary fortress of Helm's Deep.

This version covers just over half of the original book. A second instalment was planned to bring the story to an end, but was sadly never completed. While the ending feels abrupt, it does at least end at a sensible point in the story. One has to feel a little frustration and regret that no sequel exists in which we might follow these animated heroes to their eventual goal. The animation is passable, with a nice variety of locales and characters presented in interesting detail. The music by Leonard Rosenman is suitably stirring and fits in appropriately with the epic narrative. The voice-overs are decent, too, especially John Hurt as Aragorn and Peter Woodthorpe as Gollum. On the other hand, Michael Scholes - who provides the voice for Sam - is rather campy and goofy, which is not well suited to the character. The Lord Of The Rings is a commendable attempt to visualise the staggering book on which it is based.
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Underrated adaptation
jvowles-212 February 2000
As an animated film from 1978, this is pretty good--generally well above the standard of the days when Disney hadn't done anything good in years (and Tolkien cared little for Disney anyway). It gets major points for innovative and careful camera work, applying cinematic techniques with relative success. The much-maligned rotoscoping actually works pretty well, especially with the Ringwraiths, and the opening narration. However, it is so drastically overused--possibly as a money-saving technique--that it detracts from the overall effect. The same technique that makes wraiths spooky and otherworldly doesn't fare so well in the Prancing Pony.

As for the adaptation of the story, it's actually quite good. We lose little bits here and there, minor details such as the Old Forest and Tom Bombadil, the Gaffer and the Sackville-Bagginses. We compress a few characters, such as revising Legolas as one of Elrond's household and an old friend of Aragorn's, but that's a rather wise decision for film. In books you have room to include the references to the larger world of the Elves and Middle-Earth's vast history. In film, you trade that for visuals and sound that convey the same elements in a different way. Nothing critical is truly lost here, and although I have minor quibbles about some of the changes, I'm generally pretty happy with it.

If only the dratted writers had managed to remember Saruman's name--he's frequently referred to as Aruman, a decision probably made to make him more distinct from similarly-named Sauron; it took me a second viewing before I was certain I hadn't misheard it. It's also annoying that Boromir is a bloody stage viking, and irritable from the start. However, Gandalf is excellent, and most of the rest of the voicework is excellent. If only John Hurt weren't too old to play Aragorn; I love his voice.

Of course, with the film ending at the midpoint of the story, there's a vast disappointment built in. What makes it far, far worse is the altogether miserable job done by the Rankin & Bass crew on the sequel. That they were permitted to do Return of the King after butchering The Hobbit remains a huge mystery; they seem more interested in bad songs than in proper storytelling. For all its faults, this film's heart is solidly in place and it tries very hard to accomplish a nearly impossible task. I can only hope that the upcoming series of films keeps as true to its vision...
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Severe, Psychotronic 70's Cinema
Aylmer14 June 2010
As a kid I was quite astonished with the dark and gloomy tone of this film, especially in comparison to Rankin/Bass's take on the same material around the same period. Also at the time I didn't really care for the animation, which I found to be rather cold and creepy (having no idea it was rotoscoped or even what rotoscoping was). However as the years have gone by and the Jackson adaptations come and gone, I feel more and more drawn to this rare piece of absolutism as I would a painting by Vincent Van Gogh or Salvadore Dali.

Bakshi always had a flair for adult-oriented animation, and finally with this he found a subject befitting of his style. Lord of the Rings is some overall dark, intriguing material in comparison with The Hobbit and really was deserving of something imaginative and stylistic as only Bakshi's team could deliver. Most everything comes together quite well here with the bizarre rotoscoped animation, the characterizations, the voice performances, and Leonard Rosenman's supercharged score (one of his career best, up there and quite similar to his work on THE CAR and RACE WITH THE DEVIL). It's rather unfortunate that funding ran out and the project had to be hurriedly wrapped, quite a similar heartbreaking story as to what happened with his previous year's WIZARDS.

The film is clearly unfinished in many regards. The most heinous act it commits is to end right in the middle of a major action scene with absolutely no resolution to speak of! Even ignoring its abbreviation of the books, one has to admit that narratively this film is a complete disaster. I can't imagine the marketing for this movie honestly claiming it to only be the first half of the book trilogy brought to screen. Needless to say I'd be surprised if angry audiences didn't get up and boo at the screen en masse back in 1978 witnessing perhaps the biggest cheat or, dare I say even, "rip off" in cinematic history.

Similarly this film has a very rough feel to it in terms of animation and pacing and is entirely inconsistent. Things begin fairly polished and kid-friendly but get darker, drearier, more violent (with some surprisingly graphic gore), and sloppier as the film goes on. By the end we get the vast majority of the film not even properly animated and more or less just treated film material with undercranked smoke and clouds filling in the for the background plates. It's quite similar to the bizarre psychedelic cost saving measures Bakshi made when he took over the second season of the animated 60's "Spiderman" cartoons. This whole Joseph Conradian experience of a descent into hell is pretty overwhelming, oppressive, and possibly even emotionally scarring for young viewers, but it's something I've strangely come to love about this film over time.

Yes, dare I say it, I just love this movie. You can't deny that it has its share of magical moments like Frodo's escape from the Wraiths, Gandalf opening the doors to Moria, and the showdown with the Balrog. Much like David Lynch's DUNE it created a vivid, creative, and whole-hearted realization of a world out of the severe butchery its source material. There's a small, artistic, and very personal loving feel given to this movie which I found lacking in Jackson's trilogy. Bakshi and his overworked team of animators may not have created the best film ever, but they did a lot with the little they had. I just wish they'd been able to see it through.
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This film is a great and glorious piece of art
dnvechoes26 December 2002
This film, in my opinion, is, despite it's flaws (which I maintain are *few*), an utter masterpiece and a great and glorious piece of art.

What Mr. Bakshi has done here is to create an utterly beautiful film and has shown his immense talent and versatility as a director of animated films. He does not receive 1/100th of the credit he deserves for literally saving the art of animation for an adult audience. If it were not for Mr. Bakshi, I don't believe animation would have survived the Disney onslaught. What is more, with The Lord of the Rings, he has not only created a beautiful animated film, but he has created an entirely new art form - unfortunately one that never quite made it off the ground.

Most people will complain about the use of rotoscoping in the film (the use of live action images which are used as background images and often animated over using various techniques from what appears to be small amounts of tinting to full blown animation). But I feel that the people who complain about it simply cannot accept an art form which is out of the norm. No, this is not Disney animation. No it's not live action. No, it's not "cheating" - what it is is a new, fascinating, and absolutely wonderful art form. Something so fresh, and so new that it feels completely at home in such a fantastic tale as "The Lord of the Rings". Bakshi's pioneering use of this technique brings the subtleties of Middle Earth to life is a very dark and mysterious way, in particular, the darker of Tolkien's creatures, particularly the Nazgul, are realized in a way that traditional animation or live action have not been able to accomplish.

Peter S. Beagle's screenplay (based very little, as I understand it, on an early draft by Chris Conkling) is a very loyal adaptation of Tolkien's works. Where possible he uses dialogue directly out of the novel and it feels at home in the world which Bakshi has created. There are many cuts that were made to fit the first book and 3/4 into a single 2 hour 15 minute film, but there are very few changes to the storyline. There are a few holes which it would have been nice to have filled: The reforging of Narsil, the gifts of Galadriel, the Huorns at the battle of the Hornburg, but, again, with the time limitations he had (already the longest animated feature in history), these are certainly understandable (though it makes one wonder how they could have been explained in a sequel).

Also there is the delightful (one of my favorites) score by Leonard Rosenman (who also scored Barry Lyndon and Star Trek IV (the score for which is clearly based on his LotR work)). It is bombastic and audacious and, dare I say, perfect. It stands on it's own as an orchestral triumph, but when coupled with the images of the film, it enters a whole new world of symphonic perfection. So far from the typical Hollywoodland fare that it turns many people off.

The voice actors are wonderful. Of particular note is John Hurt as Aragorn who just oozes the essence of Strider.

The character design is also wonderfully unique, though not often to everyone's taste. But remember that it is the duty of the director of an adaptation to show you what he/she imagines, not what you might have imagined, and so Aragorn is realized with a distinctive Native American feel and Boromir appears in Viking inspired garb. This is perhaps not what you imagined, but I can only applaud Mr. Bakshi for showing us what he "saw". It also might be noted that he spent a significant amount of time with Priscilla Tolkien in developing the character outfits for the film.

One farther word - the Flight to the Ford sequence, in my opinion, is one of the most subtlety beautiful sequences ever to be caught on celluloid. Bakshi is not afraid to slow down the pace for a moment, and his mastery is clearly shown by the incredible tension is able to build. Bakshi's artistic ability and Tolkien's incredible work fuse in this sequence to a glorious peak which has yet to be equaled.

The recent DVD release (2001) by Warner Brothers, is sorely lacking. While we can offer our eternal thanks that the film is finally available in widescreen format, the package is woefully short of extras. How glorious it would have been to have had a director's commentary, been able to see the 20 minutes of extra footage that were removed for the theatrical release. Another delightful addition could have been the assembled the live action footage which was later animated over. Also present in the DVD release is the utterly horrible voiceover at the end of the film which is a departure from the simple voiceover which occurred in the very final frames of the film. This version is plastered and poorly rendered right over the musical climax of the score.

Of course, the greatest tragedy of all is that the sequel was never made. We will never be able to see Bakshi's interpretation of Gondor, of Shelob, of Faramir, of the Cracks of Doom, of Eowyn's battle with the Witch King or Gandalf's confrontation with him. We will never be graced with Bakshi's image of Denethor or the Palatir or the Paths of the Dead. It is a shame beyond all shames that we will, in the end, have to accept Peter Jackson's glitz and glitter Hollywood, action film version of these later events in Tolkien's masterpiece, but, I suppose even that is better than having no cinematic version at all.

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This is a great film!
Samwise-219 April 2002
First of all, the only reason people keep bitching about this film is because they can't stand a few parts of the true story being "altered". Well guess what? Peter Jackson's film wasn't a perfect rendition either. Well enough ranting. This is a very beautiful film. The backgrounds are gorgeous and taken from well known Tolkein artists. The film covers about half the trilogy (Fellowship of the Ring and up to the battle of Helms Deep in the Two Towers) and moves at a good pace. The voice casting is top notch and the most of the characters look like I imagined they would. Samwise is a bit too ugly for my tastes, but Aragorn looks AWESOME. The film has a great score that completely supports the movie. If you enjoy good fantasy stories but hate reading (the books are even better) give this movie a try, keeping in mind it was made 20 odd years ago.

Also of particular note: Peter Jackson's adaption of Fellowship follows almost exactly the same strand as Ralph Bakshi's (Jackson has said many times how much he admired Bakshi's effort).
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it's almost like trying to put judgment on some brave, weird, unique piece of interpretation, that only has half its limbs
Quinoa198417 September 2006
Godard once said a way to criticize a movie is to just make one, and probably the strongest kind that could be made about Ralph Bakshi's take on Tolkien's magnum opus the Lord of the Rings, has actually been made by Peter Jackson. The recent trilogy, to me, aren't even total masterpieces, but they are given enough room with each book to breath in all the post-modern techniques crossed with classical storytelling to make them very good, sweeping entertainments.

But as one who has not read the books, I end up now looking upon the two versions, live-action (albeit partly animated in its big visual effects way) and animated (albeit partly done with actual live action as the framework) in relation to just the basic story, not even complete faithfulness to the books. And with Bakshi's version, it's almost not fair in a way, as what we do see is really not the complete vision, not what Jackson really had (probably final cut). Robbed of Return of the King's big climactic rush of the story, and with the other two parts becoming rushed, I ended up liking it more for what it did within its limitations, though as such those same limitations make it disappointing.

What's interesting too, after seeing the Jackson films first- which I also slightly regret being that I might've reacted to this differently when I was younger and prior to five years ago- is that the basic elements of the story never get messed up with. Everything that is really needed to tell the Fellowship of the Ring story is actually pretty much intact, and if anything what was probably even more gigantic and epic in Tolkien's book is given some clarity in this section. The actors playing the parts of the hobbits and the other heroes, are more or less adequate for the parts, with a few parts standing out (John Hurt as Aragorn and William Squire as Gandalf).

The lack of extra characterization does end up making things seem a little face-value for those who've not even seen the other films or read the books and can't put them into context. But there is some level of interest always with the characters, and here there's a more old-fashioned sensibility amid the large aura of it being more. This is not a garden variety Disney adaptation- warts and all, this is a Bakshi film, with his underground animation roots colliding with the mythical world of Middle Earth.

And what Bakshi and his animation team bring to the film is one that ends up giving what is on screen, in all its abbreviated form, its hit or miss appeal. Along with being not totally complete as a film, or as stories, the form of the film is an experiment, to see if something can be entirely rotoscoped. The results end up bringing what seems now to be retro, but at the time of course was something that was a rough, crazy inspiration on the part of the filmmakers. Might it have been better with more traditional drawn animation? In some parts, yeah; it does become a little noticeable, as was also the case in Bakshi's American Pop, that the main characters move in such ways that are a little shaky, like some kind of comic-book form done in a different way. Still, there's much I admired in what was done.

The orcs, for example, I found to be really amazing in they're surreal surroundings. They're maybe the best part of the combination of the animation on top of the live-action, especially during parts where there isn't battle footage (that's really the real hit-or-miss section, as there isn't continuity from the good and bad rotoscoping), and the chiaroscuro comes through with big shapes on top of horseback. It's creepy in a good way. And the backgrounds, while also very rough and sometimes too sketchy, are beautiful with the mixtures and blasts of colors together. It's almost something for art-film buffs as much as for the ring-nuts.

So, how would I recommend this animated take on the Lord of the Rings? I don't know, to tell the truth. It's certainly a good notch above the other Tolkien animated film I've seen, the Hobbit (and I've yet to see the animated ROTK), and there is some real artistry going on. There's also some stilted dialog, an all-too-rushed Two Towers segment with the most intriguing character Gollum being reduced to maybe two scenes in all. And seeing something as fragmented like this ends up only reinforcing the completeness of the more recent films.

If you're a fan of the books contemplating checking this out, I would say it's worth a chance, even if it's one of those chances where you watch for forty minutes and then decide whether to stop it or not. As for it fitting into Bakshi's other films I've seen it's an impressive ambitious and spotty achievement, where as with Lynch's Dune it's bound to draw a dark, mordor-like line in the sand between those who hate it passionately and those who don't. I don't.
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Uniquely animated drama & characters true to source
cdunbar-331 July 2006
I'm fond of this film and it vexes me that so many "reviewers" rank it below the Peter Jackson trilogy. A filmed novel is always interpretive; in particular an animated film relies on the artist's vision and should be judged on its own terms. Speaking as a purist, this is a finer homage to Tolkien than the updated version. While this film has its flaws it stays truer to the source, especially so far as the characters are concerned.

In the Jackson version Tolkien's Frodo is barely recognizable: from the first scenes he is portrayed as a weakling, constantly wavering, manipulated by forces around him and never standing on his own two feet (this is physically and metaphorically true.) You wonder why fate chose this limp biscuit to carry the one ring to the Cracks of Doom. Jackson unforgivably rewrites Tolkien and robs Frodo of his finest moment when he allows Arwen to rescue him from the Ringwraiths...Bakshi's version respects the original, presenting a Frodo who demands the wraiths "Go back and trouble me no more!" Bakshi sustains Frodo's character as Tolkien conceived it. We see his decline as the weight of his burden increases. Frodo is so pivotal to Lord of the Rings you wonder why Jackson took such liberties (he does so with numerous characters)since character development propels the plot to its inevitable conclusion. Bakshi's film better explores the companionship between Legolas and Gimli in a few judicious scenes that are completely lacking in Jackson's version. Similarly we see Boromir horsing with Pippin and Merry, furthering the idea of fellowship. For my liking the camaraderie is more developed in the animated version than the live action.

Tolkien's poetry is an important ingredient in the novels and Bakshi makes tribute to this in one of my favorite scenes: when Frodo sings the "Merry Old Inn" song, minutes before stumbling into Strider. The cheery tune is chillingly juxtaposed with the darker theme music when seconds later, invisible to his friends but visible to the wraiths, Frodo is dangerously exposed. This is one of the most atmospheric portions of the film and chills me whenever I see it.

The well documented budget/time restrictions limit this film's final impact but had it been completed it may have resonated with more viewers. As it is, it's worth a look. Even its detractors admit that Peter Jackson derived much of his inspiration from this prototype.
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A misfire for Bakshi, that much is certain
dogenx28 September 2002
I won't dwell on the purists' outrage over Bakshi's liberties with story or characters. For the most part, they are correct. I'm certainly not coming to the filmmaker's defense, but in the context of the material's density, animation technology of 1978, et al., this guy really took a swing at bringing this thing to the silver screen.

Sadly, the film wasn't that good. Much of the animation was disjointed, and most of the backgrounds were crudely drawn and failed to create the correct atmosphere that one gets from reading the book. I will say, though, that I have always liked the rotoscoping, in particular that of the orcs. There is something exceedingly frightening about the way they are displayed, something today's CGI characterizations seems to miss. Bakshi used this technique in his other works as well, particularly in Wizards, which is a better, if different, film than his version of LotR. But mixing purely-drawn characters (hobbits) with those that are rotoscoped (orcs) just didn't look right here.

I must agree with some others who assert that some of the frame direction and scene selection is oddly similar to Peter Jackson's version of late. And if Jackson was influenced by at least SOME of the look of Bakshi's film, then what's the harm?

If you want to be dazzled, this version of LotR probably won't rouse you. There's many more misses than hits. But it isn't as bad as many would have you believe. If it weren't a Tolkien adaptation, I think it would be received much better.
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Fantastic effort by Bakshi
grahamsp5 April 2013
Through the years Bakshi's portrayal of Tolkeins masterpiece has taken a battering, which in my opinion is unjust.

Bakshi took a bold step with his revolutionary take on the film by introducing Retroscope animation and it was a total triumph. Having watched this film in the early eighties I was totally in awe of the fantastic use of live figures against the animated background. The scenes with the Black Riders and the Orcs are superbly done and add depth and dimension to the film.

Bakshi has to be also congratulated on the skill of casting accredited actors to voice certain characters. William Squire works brilliantly as Gandolf and John Hurt is superb as Aragorn.

The Director also sticks to the story line where possible with one or two improvisations along the way. The battle at Helms deep is also artistically brilliant and works on many levels. Add to that the fantastic soundtrack and you have a work of cinematic art years ahead of its time.

If you watch Peter Jackson's trilogy then you will be able to spot similarities but do not compare as they are two totally different films. The only negative about Bakshi's masterpiece is that he couldn't raise the funds to complete the story.

Do yourself a favour and sit down and watch this brilliantly made movie albeit cut short.
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Vastly Underrated Don't Listen To Tolkien Fanboys - Best LOTR Adaptation.
psychorobotape5 March 2008
First of all no adaptation is ever as good as the book, especially when you're dealing with master writer like Tolkien. This ADAPTATION wonderfully synthesizes Tolkien's universe with 1970s psychedelia, aesthetics, and liberal culture. Yes - the animation and background painting is sometimes a little "rough" in its technical execution but it's beautiful none the less, and very evocative in terms of giving a unique "sense of place" to each of the scenes. Beyond the absolute uniqueness in imagery is the absolutely outstanding voice acting - acting that's FAR superior to the acting in the new live action movies. And while the cell animation might not be the most "technically proficient" animation it superbly captures the expressive bodily and facial gestures of the acting while at once not forgetting to be subtle and nuanced. The background paintings vary from traditional "fantasy" motif to outright abstraction, but the transition to abstracted settings is always motivated by the narrative and contributes greatly to the themes of the film. If you're a person who has to have extensive computer rendering in a film so that everything is visualized for you then I can see how you might not like this movie but if you enjoy superior acting, transcendental imagery, and JRR Tolkien then this film is a must see.
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Movie super underrated.
Filaipus5 January 2011
This is truly one great masterpiece. Its a shame its so underrated.

And its a shame too it doesn't have a sequel :\

It will fell strange for those who watched the movies of Peter Jackson, as the characters are way different and even the places seem to be completely other things.

And you will laugh like hell when you see saruman.

The art is great and it surely deserved recognition.

And now i'm going watch it again :D

O yea, 10/10 for the movie, it deserves it. It may not be the LOTR of peter Jackson, but it is surely great.
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Not As Bad AS I Thought It Would Be
thomfur29 April 2004
My friend had the idea of watching the animated LOTR after seeing the Peter Jackson Return of The King. So I finally bought it off e-bay, thinking right from the start it was going to suck. Actually, it really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The animation was good for its time, they used a unique method of blending live action with animation to create some interesting effects, and the guy who did the voice for Frodo sounded somewhat like Elijah Wood.

Not the greatest adaptation of a book, but trust me, I've seen a lot worse. It skips quite a lot of things, since both Fellowship and The Two Towers are compressed into one two hour movie. Definatley worth a watch, kids might like, but still, absoutley no comparision with the Peter Jackson trilogy.
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For back then, this is very impressive.
TheLittleSongbird14 May 2009
I really liked this movie, and it is true, too many people compare it to the Peter Jackson films. Even more impressive was that they fitted two books into one film, many people consider that a mistake and that things were missed out, when actually considering the books aren't very easy to adapt, I thought this film wasn't too bad an attempt. The animation was very impressive, a little dated by our standards, but bear in mind people it was made in the 70s and that it is lower budget than that of Disney or Pixar. The music was very well done especially the orks' march to Isanguaard, very haunting indeed. Though speaking of the orks, a very young audience will find them very frightening, and will be deterred by the sight of blood. The film is also overlong and a bit slow, but anyone who's seen the Peter Jackson films will argue that they have the same problem. The voice talents are exceptional, standouts being Christopher Guard as the idealistic Frodo, William Squire as the wise Gandalf(very good but Ian McKellan was better but only marginally) and John Hurt's brave Strider/Aragorn. Some of the scenes in this film are very hard to depict, like the scenes with the Black Riders(the scene in the inn was genuinely creepy), and I must say, that in general, the execution of those scenes were well-above average. In conclusion, despite the flaws, this film is nowhere near as bad as people say it is. My dad and my brother are both die-hard LOTR fans, and they say that this film was very well done. 7/10 Bethany Cox.
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Uninvolving but not a total loss
utgard144 September 2015
Ralph Bakshi's attempt at bringing J.R.R. Tolkien's epic tale to the screen years before Peter Jackson is a valiant effort that falls short for more reasons than the obvious. Many purists will no doubt complain about what's been left out or the depictions of some characters. Others will say that the story ends abruptly and, since there was never a part two, it leaves the movie feeling incomplete. Still others will talk about the uneven mixture of traditional animation and rotoscoping. All of those are valid complaints but not major ones for me. Granted, I saw the Jackson films already so there was a certain degree of comparison that was inevitable, however unfair that may be. I'm certainly not going to slight the movie for not being able to compete with something made decades later with a budget over twenty times what this had (for the first movie of the trilogy alone). I'm also not going to nitpick what was left out or who didn't look like they should because the Jackson series gave fans a gazillion hours of footage of to cover almost every base. The animation is good for the era and I generally appreciate Bakshi's use of rotoscoping. The man was an artist, not an assembly-line animator like most at the time, and that should be praised.

The main problem I had with this is that it is not as emotionally involving as the Tolkien story demands. It's a story that deserves a deeper treatment than what we have here. That came later with Jackson, thankfully, but the lack of emotional resonance in this version is a major flaw. I also wish the music score wasn't so unexciting and forgettable. I've read that Bakshi originally wanted to use Led Zeppelin music. At first that sounds like a terrible idea but I can't help but wonder if that would have been so weird that it actually worked. Overall, it's a mixed bag that drags some and never really pulls you in like it should. Bakshi respects the material enough to follow it as closely as he can with the restrictions he had. He also creates some fine atmosphere and fills the movie with so many interesting visuals that it's hard to dismiss it entirely.
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Come to Middle Earth, a world beyond the furthest reaches of your imagination.
desotowright17 October 2007
When a small hobbit named Frodo Baggins inherits a magic ring from his uncle, the wizard Gandalf investigates and discovers that the ring is an ancient creation of an evil dark lord. Should the ring end up back in his hands, he will regain his power and destroy Middle Earth. Frodo and his loyal friends set out on a a quest to destroy the ring with a band of warriors. This is an underrated adaption of the classic novels as it only covers the first half of the story. Regardless, this is an epic and wonderfully animated film.

The animation is superbly done with rotoscope, which is tracing over live action footage. Ralph Bakshi worked well with the low budget he was given. The film also boasts a grand music score by Leonard Rosenman that fits every scene. There are a few plot holes with the script, but that has to be excused, considering the original deal was to make the book trilogy into two films, much had to crammed in the first one. My biggest gripe is some of the character design, Samwise was a bit too goofy, while the other hobbits act completely normal. The other characters are actually well written for the screen, and the voice actors do a great job, I was pleased that Legolas is actually a bit more helpful to the plot. The rotoscoped orcs are more comical than frightening, while the ringwraiths are eerie and nightmarish.

Another problem is that the evil wizard Saruman is called Aruman, thanks to the writers. Overall, I think a little more money, better writers and telling the story in three films would have done this a lot of justice, but there is something charming about it. Ralph Bakshi made a valiant effort of making screen adaption of these classic stories. The film suffers terribly from being overshadowed by the live action films, but it's still a great movie for animation lovers of all ages.
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An excellent production about an immense subject
shadow-4116 November 1998
I have been a fan of JRR Tolkien since I was about 8 years old, and I have never failed in my admiration for both him and his literary works.

I first read The Hobbit, then obviously The Lord of the Rings and was instantly hooked. Since then I have tried to collect every book that he has published, including his other University works.

The Lord of the Rings is an immense work and to turn it into an acceptable film requires a lot of time and patience. Ralph Bakshi has done a terrific job of representing Middle-Earth through some truly inspired animation.

It is unfortunate that he had to severely abridge some of the less important scenes but overall he has captured the main thread of things.

I was a little disappointed with Sam who was not, as portrayed, a country bumpkin. He was actually quite intelligent and it was through him that Frodo made the journey to Mount Doom without giving up.

It is a shame that the film ends just after the Battle of Helm's Deep as I was looking forward to the main battle at Pelennor Fields and the death of the Nazgul.

Overall Ralph Bakshi has done a wonderful job with the funding that was available, and without the aid of 'computers' to enhance anything.
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I keep trying to like this movie...
Aubries2 January 2006
But I just can't. I get that Bakshi's rotoscoping was cutting edge, but to me it just looks awful. That's not what kills this film, though. In a nutshell, the pacing makes the actual story nearly impossible to follow for anyone who hasn't already memorized it. In some parts, it moves too quickly (obviously there were time considerations), but other scenes drag out forever without actually contributing to the plot. The orc battle scenes in particular felt like the same images over and over and over and over again (drenched in the murky rotoscoping), to the point where it was impossible to tell what was actually supposed to be happening. It almost feels like Bakshi was more interested in splashing images on the screen than in telling a story. I guess if you like the images, and you already know the story (or aren't interested in it), then this movie will be great fun for you.

I won't bother with purist complaints about the movie not following the book. Literature and cinema are two related but vastly different forms, and what works for one often does not work for the other. If anything, part of the problem is that it follows the book too closely at times, not allowing for how awkward the written dialog sounds when actually spoken. The only real complaint I have about the adaptation is Bakshi's reading of Sam as a gay, retarded circus midget. I also get the sense that this portrayal was somehow intended to be comic relief. Why take such pains to render such an important character so impossible to take seriously?

I so wanted to like this movie. I really did. I kept thinking that I would like it better after reading the book (the first time I saw it was in the theater, and I didn't understand most of it), or when I had gotten old enough to appreciate it. I even thought it might be fun to do a compare and contrast with the new films. None of it helped. I understand that this movie has many devotees and many more apologists. I wish I could see whatever it is you all see when you watch it.
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Enchanting early Lord of the Rings adaptation
dkncd14 November 2007
With the release of Peter Jackson's famed "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, it is even easier to dismiss Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated Lord of the Rings film as inferior. I agree with the majority that Jackson's trilogy is the essential film adaptation of Tolkien's work, but that does not prevent me from enjoying Bakshi's ambitious pioneering effort. Jackson has admitted that he received at least some inspiration from seeing Bakshi's film and there are some clear similarities between their adaptations.

The film's colorful picturesque backdrops are excellent and the score is memorable. I was for the most part satisfied by the drawings of the characters. The pairs of Pippin and Merry and Eowyn and Galadriel are mostly indistinguishable from each other visually, the Balrog and Treebeard were unimpressive, but these points didn't bother me very much. However, the Nazgul are aptly drawn and made sufficiently eerie. The only character representation I was bothered by was Sam's; he was made to look unbecomingly silly.

This film is novel for its animation techniques. In addition to hand-drawn characters, live actors are incorporated into the animation through rotoscoping. It is quite apparent which characters are hand-drawn and which are rotoscoped, but none the less I found that the film's style was a novelty. The use of rotoscoped live actors for the battle scenes was a good decision and helped these scenes turn out well.

The voice acting was generally of high quality. Particularly good was John Hurt, who provided an authoritative voice for Aragorn. Aragorn isn't a favorite character of mine from the stories, but backed by John Hurt's voice he was my favorite character in this adaptation. My other favorite was William Squire, whose voice is appropriately strong for Gandalf. The only actor who seemed inappropriate was Michael Scholes as Sam, whose voice acting was irritating and added to Sam's unfortunately silly image. The only other bothersome part of the voice acting is the mispronunciation of character and place names. Particularly strange was the decision to frequently have Saruman referred to as "Aruman".

In producing this film, Ralph Bakshi expected to have the ability to produce two films. Hence, this film contains about half the story, from the start of "The Fellowship of the Ring" to the end of the battle at Helm's Deep in "The Two Towers". The obvious implication of this is that the film's story is a highly condensed version of the story from the books. I enjoy the original stories and more thorough adaptations, but the liberties taken to compress the story didn't bother me, even the choice to leave Arwen out of the story. Enough of the key elements of the story were in this film to keep me engaged for the duration and there was even a novelty in being able to breeze through half the Lord of the Rings story in 132 minutes. The battle scenes were impressive and in particular the orc march to and battle at Helm's Deep were tremendous.

Ralph Bakshi's version of "The Lord of the Rings" isn't perfect and no doubt a number of Lord of the Rings readers lament the cuts to the story. However, for me the drawbacks of this film were minor compared to the thrill of seeing an effective adaptation of half of a great trilogy. My only strong lament is that I am unable to see the second part of this "first great tale" of The Lord of the Rings since Bakshi was not given the budget to create a sequel.
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Blueghost9 April 2013
Every time I see this film I grin and them grimace some. Mostly grin because it is a respectable effort at a production, but I can't help but believe that the entire tale was never meant to see the screen via Bakshi. I remember opening weekend for this thing. The theatres were packed. Sold out. Or, more correctly, overbooked. Thousands thronged the theatre. Lines ran out into the streets. You couldn't get a seat for the life of you.

And then the film ran. And people walked out wondering what it was they had just seen. You hear critics give their opinion, but you don't hear fans voicing their amazement at the visuals, but also feeling like they were sold a bill of goods.

The artistry that went into this production is half good, half b-grade material. I think this project was given to Bakshi because he knew that the full tale would not be realized by old guard Hollywood who were paranoid of a culture that harkened back to mythology and days of yore.

At the time I saw the film I had a hard time following it, even with the added narrative supplied by the characters. One moment were in location A, then the next we're in location B with some new characters. Next we're in location C confronting some event, and so on and so forth.

In short, the Tolkien tale that people wanted never had a chance to materialize. It would take thirty years and an Aussie with some filmmaking know how, a track record, and a vision to propose the project and make all of Tolkien's ring saga come to life. In the meantime Tolkien fans had this half hearted effort that had some interesting visuals on one level, but lacked a lot of care on another level. Again, it was done intentionally.

Then again Bakshi's films tend to have an unfinished quality to them. If you look at American Pop, Heavy Traffic, or Cool World, or Wizards, you'll note that the production tends to fall apart somewhat at the end. Cool World feels very rushed at the end, American Pop actually keeps nearly all of its gloss but suffers the same here and there. So it is that we don't just get rotoscoped animation, but full on tinted footage of stuntmen or actors doing things that should have been rendered by hand.

The character design is also hit and miss. The hobbits are well done, the wizards are likewise keenly crafted, but the one dwarf in the film looks like a miner from 1849 California, and not a dwarf at all, while the "elves" tend to have feline eyes for some reason. The backgrounds are interesting, however. Taking a page out of Avante-Garde 1960s and early 1970s, the "sets" for this piece are more abstract at times, and it seems to work well from time to time with the piece that's being presented. Other times it feels like a budget saver.

What to say about it in the end? All in all the film is a rushed effort, and in my opinion never had a chance from the start. My opinion is that there was probably a fear that Tolkien's tales of white heros might have been seen as socially destabilizing for a country that was just coming out of some very hefty social upheavals regarding race, politics and social status; and this falls in line with Tolkien because orcs, men, dwarfs and elves were all different races, although the orcs are the ones who are cast as the heavies. I have no direct proof of that, but one wonders how Disney Studios might have handled a similar project; which, by the way, is right up their alley (minus some of the more graphic violence).

See it once. Odds are you've already made up your mind about this film. Me, I don't have too much love for it, but it's interesting to take a look at it every few years or so.

See it once if you're curious about it.
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My favorite screen version of the LOTR
Eisenwald765 February 2006
Peter Jacksons version(s) are better films overall from objective point of view. That being said, they are not my favorite screen versions of Lord Of The Rings, and let me explain why.

Firstly, the acting of the on-screen characters is just too ordinary and uninspiring with Jackson's LOTR. The whole cast is too run of the mill. "Are you claiming that those silly cartoon characters of Ralph Bakshi version are better actors than real people?" one could ask. Well, they are not really silly(save for Hobbits, later about them) and they certainly pack more personality than Jackson's party - even with much more limited dialogue time. And that is because of superior _voice_ acting of the Bakshi's LOTR. Take Aragorn for example. In this version his voice is deep and charismatic with full of authority(Aragorn the lord)and with a seasoned rasp(Aragorn the ranger). This is due to John Hurt's brilliant voice acting. Compare that to Viggo Mortensen's rather high pitched sound with no soul and the duel gets quickly uneven: Hurt beats Mortensen hands down.

And then there is Gandalf. Probably the most dominating(and the most popular) character in the whole saga. In this Bakshi version Gandalf(William Squire) is a real wizard. And by that I don't mean he shoots bolts from his fingertips(he does not), but his presence is just captivating. He is a mystical, powerful and can switch from gentle old man to a scary person with ease. Add to that his looks: Tall, old as the ancient oak, beard long as his body, sharp eyes, wizardy hook nose and of course, the classical wizard hat. A Perfect Gandalf, just like in the books. Ian McKellen's Gandalf in the other hand, is simply just too boring. He looks too human, sounds too human, acts too human and wears no hat or wields no sword. Yes a sword. In this Bakshi version Gandalf scores couple of bloody orc kills with his sword(as he did in the books). And those are stylish slow motion kills. Gandalf is not a power to be messed with. And it must be noted, that while I'm sad to say this, the great Christopher Lee didn't bring Saruman alive. Fraser Kerr in this movie did, even with a very limited screen time and lines.

Before I move completely to visual aspects of the movie, it must be mentioned that the voice acting and the general presenation of the Orcs are also superior to Jackson's pretendeous bad guys. Bakshi's orcs taunt their enemies(or each other) constantly with growls, screams and nasty language. They are more believable as monsters and are more faithful to the book in my opinion. And finally, the Black Riders - or the Nazgul. Those ultimate bad guys are scary ghosts in this one - not just some riders wearing black. And they speak with haunting voice, which mesmerizes their victim. My favorite scene in the film is when the Nazgul are chasing Frodo near the river. While Peter Jackson couldn't do anything but show the riders simply chasing the party, Bakshi throws in a nightmarish dream with some cool slow motion scenes and thundering sky.

But as much I like this film more than Jackson's, the latter are, if only technically, still better. And that is because of some key visuals. As you know Bakshi LOTR features a mixture of animated characters(all hobbits and the main cast) and real actors covered with paint. I don't really have a problem using real people in animation this way, but they just don't fit very well with traditional cartoon figures. This is especially true with humans(Riders of Rohan, tavern people etc.) Orcs are different matter, since they are meant to look very distinctive from other characters. Orcs, while played by humans with animation mix, look far superior to Jacksons version. They have brownish-green skin, shiny red eyes, flat face and pointed teeth.

Biggest screw up in this films visuals, howerver, are the Hobbits. While I prefer almost every character in Bakshi version compared to Jackson, the latter has clearly superior Hobbits, in fact they are perfect. With Bakshi you get some irritating and rather poorly drawn humanoid Disney bambies. And you are forced to spend a lot of movie time with them, so be warned. Again, the voice acting is OK with them too, but the actors mouths cannot save the "immersion damage" made by these little weasels. Well, I never really liked those halflings anyway.

General failures in the Bakshi script are well known. Limited playing time(with limited budget) and a lot of missing scenes. So while this film covers nearly half of the story, it doesn't do it in extensive detail compared to Jackson's version.

In a summary the Ralph Bakshi version of LOTR has a superior:

-overall atmosphere (it feels more like Middle-Earth) -overall voice acting -music (I really dig the fantasy score by Kont & Rosenman) -Gandalf -Aragorn (One of the John Hurt's finest roles) -King Theoden -Orcs -Black Riders -Elrond (He's not some fairy hippie in this one!)

While Jackson version is better:

-because it covers the whole story -overall visuals and special effects -Gollum/Smeagol -Balrog -Hobbits

Lord of the Rings by Ralph Bakshi, even with it's well known shortcomings, is one of the best animation films ever made and it captures the atmosphere of Tolkien's fantasy world very well, if not perfectly. I'll give it a score of 8½ out of 10.
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The Orcs are Cool!
jimforgod25 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This is a severally underrated film, due to several reasons; almost all of the people that see this today will compare it to PJ's epics and that is unfair considering a good 20 year gap between when the films were made and the fact that due to certain film studios the sequel was never finished and the complete difference in art and culture from then and now. Also it is worth a note that Tolkien fanatics take a swipe at anything that isn't strictly following the lore from the books.

Naturally I had a few issues; the first one would be how irritating Sam was he not only looked 'special' but he also talked like he had mental problems.. Secondly Sauruman looking like Santa need I say more, and thirdly Pants pants pants.. there is a notable lack of leg wear in this film and a lot of people have mentioned it, I personally never took much notice before but when I thought about it I find it hard to believe that idea made it through to the completion of the film.

One of my favorite scenes in the whole movie was the Fords of Rivendell and the Black Riders (Ring Wraiths) the art and the atmosphere of this entire scene was breath taking and the Rotoscope truly made the Black Riders an impressive if not terrifying sight. The moving in between the real world and the wraith world as the chase was unfolding was spectacular.

People are really negative about the Orcs in this film but I really like them, there simply designed but have a lot of character and are easy to identify with and remember. Despite the Orcs classic timidness, they form a potent force and its easy to see the threat that they pose to the free peoples of Middle-Earth, and they are really cool.

Also worthy of note are the actors of Aragorn, Boromir and Gandalf who really stepped up with a worthy performance and brought their characters to life.

In my opinion the best way to get hyped up to watch the trilogy is to watch this version first, it is such a great way to kick off a Lord of The Rings marathon.

I would give this film an 8/10 for artistic vision thanks to Bakshi on a shoestring budget.

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Animation is the way to go
Igenlode Wordsmith3 August 2009
I remember watching this late at night on black and white TV, long before a live-action version was so much as a twinkle in Peter Jackson's eye... and being very impressed. Finally getting my hands this week on a VHS copy that was being thrown away (and isn't that just par for the course..?) I had the chance to revisit this film, and found that it still stands up quite well, although it's not quite the success that memory had painted.

I have to confess to a certain bias here. Some reviewers announce themselves as confirmed Jackson-lovers, others as Jackson-haters; I'm not exactly either. I was a devotee of the BBC Radio adaptation by Brian Sibley originally broadcast in 1981, and instantly recognised the voice of Gollum here -- Peter Woodthorpe would reprise this performance almost note-perfect for the radio three years later.

I must say, however, that where I found Jackson's films an increasingly indulgent disappointment, the Bakshi version, for all that it has been cut to the bone, is actually more accurate. Yes, there are the usual, understandable changes (here it is Legolas rather than Arwen who is substituted for Glorfindel as the Elf sent from Rivendell to meet the party) and there is a great deal of telescoping of the action. (The only exception to the latter, as others have remarked, is the oddly extended sequence at the ford of Rivendell, where the Ringwraiths, having demonstrated a chilling ability to freeze and draw back Frodo in mid-flight -- which they deploy again when he defies them after crossing the river -- then for some unexplained reason simply chase after him in a prolonged straight gallop, which is initially nightmarish but pointless, plot-wise, and definitely goes on too long.) I would also agree that the Balrog is unsatisfactory, due partly to bad animation, and that Gandalf windmills his arms too much.

But having watched both approaches to the film, I feel more than ever that the animated route is the one to take. In a tale that is half-myth (oddly enough, one thing that is included is a snippet of Aragorn's story of Beren and Luthien) the extreme literalism required by live-action filming, where everything from monsters to mail-shirts has to be created in detail to appear on camera, is counter-productive: latex-faced (or CGI) monsters are less monstrous than sketchily-drawn shapes, heroic costumes tend to look rather silly worn on real bodies, and hobbits or dwarfs with non-human body proportions are easy to animate but hard to film convincingly. Many reviewers have cited the sniffing Ringwraith in the woods, with its crippled, half-human movements, as one of the scariest moments in the film -- it certainly frightened me silly when I saw it for the first time alone in the dark!

The extreme stylisation of the introduction (plus a voice-over done with great skill and economy to sum up the back-story in a few sentences) works very well to depict an almost mythical era, and the change to the comic-book rusticism of the Shire -- I particularly like the Proudfeet -- corresponds effectively to the similar change in tone of Tolkien's prose. I did feel that there were some missed opportunities where the potential of animation could have been used to great effect: Gandalf threatening Bilbo with his true power in the opening scenes, Bilbo seeming to become a Gollum-like creature under the influence of Ring-lust at Rivendell, and Galadriel's famous temptation speech all were drawn more or less straight, where it would have been trivial to distort the scene to reflect the hobbits' changed perceptions. But generally speaking the changes in detail and palette -- firelight hues at Bree, bright colours re-emerging at Rivendell and in the Fangorn clearing, dirty greys and browns for Moria and the desolate lands -- work well to reflect the mood of the various episodes, where a live-action approach simply doesn't allow you to blur the background or sketch in a stylised setting.

As a fan I didn't care for either Jackson's or Bakshi's depiction of Lothlorien -- again, I feel that the radio soundscape was the best evocation I've come across of a beautiful, slightly uncanny woodland paradise caught out of time -- and I feel that Bakshi got the elven singing at this point pretty badly wrong, but I do like the little montage at this point showing the various members of the Company relaxing together after their travails in Moria. Aragorn giving a hobbit-fencing-lesson here is as charming (and equally uncanonical) a spectacle as Boromir engaging with the hobbits in Hollin in the Jackson version.

The depiction of Aragorn as convincingly weatherworn Ranger is good throughout this film (Viggo Mortensen's scruffy Jesus look really didn't work for me), although it would have been interesting to see how they planned to 'clean up' the character in the second half for Gondor's benefit. John Hurt, unsurprisingly, gives a sterling vocal performance, as does a resonant William Squire in the part of Gandalf. The hobbits are, I suspect, intended to reflect contemporary youth as audience-identification figures: I find the animated style (their proportions are much more 'cartoonish' than those of the human characters) works well to differentiate them, and the whole 'hairy feet' thing as drawn here comes across as much more plausible than in more literal depictions, including much fan art.

Personally I have less objection to Boromir as Viking -- he was always a fairly bludgeoning type -- than to beardy-Aragorn (illogical: they were both Numenorians, after all), although I am clearly in a minority here!

The big flaw in this picture is always going to be the fact that it was an unfinished project, with a bizarre tacked-on voice-over ending attempting to resolve matters. A pity; it would have been interesting, not to mention less frustrating, to see what Bakshi planned to make of Shelob and Minas Tirith, never mind the Dead...
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Saw it in an actual movie theater!
jlcdwmartin12 January 2019
My Mom agreed to accompany me to a local theater about 1978-1979 to see this movie on a wide screen. The theater had originally been a church (!). We were the only people in the entire audience.-- As of now, 2019, I am most interested in seeing how different movie productions interpret the world of Middle Earth (Rankin -Bass, Peter Jackson for the moment). -- Summary: Great works of literature will always inspire new interpretations. Masterpieces like The Lord of The Rings have so much to teach us and inspire within us.
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fascinating but limited
SnoopyStyle15 March 2015
It's J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings books 'The Fellowship of the Rings' and 'The Two Towers'. Hobbit Frodo Baggins must guard the one most powerful ring against powerful dark forces with the help of Gandalf, Samwise and others.

Ralph Bakshi directed Wizard. Using the same rotoscoping of live-action footage, it has that fascinating 70s animation style. It's actually very effective for the material especially since the needed special effects haven't been perfected yet. The style is definitely a very interesting vision and gives an adult sensibility in the animation. However there are limitations with the compressed nature of the film and it also doesn't help that this movie never got the needed sequel. It ends in an unsatisfying cliffhanger. It's a fascinating cinematic oddity but not much more.
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