The Lord of the Rings (1978) Part 1

So it starts the same way as Fire and Ice – we have music playing while credits roll on a black background. It’s… awkward.

Fantasy Films presents a Fantasy Movie! Because FANTASY!

During this, the theme music is playing… and it’s kind of weird. It just keeps going, without building to anything, like you’re watching an epic fantasy loading screen.

Peter S. Beagle? The Peter S. Beagle who wrote one of THE classics of fantasy literature, The Last Unicorn? He wrote the screenplay for this?

Well, clearly this adaptation will be awesome!

… oh, wait. It’s directed by the guy who made Fire and Ice. I hope that Saruman doesn’t try to bugger the Fellowship with giant phallic icicles.

Thankfully, the credits last less than a minute, so we’re only SOMEWHAT bored when we finally get to the movie. So, are we going to leap right into the action, or are we gonna get an exciting prologue like in Jackson’s movie?!

We’re banging things with hammers!

… or we’re gonna see indistinct figures through red burlap. THE HELL?

Long ago…in the early years of the Second Age…

… Mick Jagger was born.

…the great Elven-smiths forged Rings of Power.

And then they proposed to their girlfriends!

All the single ladies… all the single ladies…

Nine for mortal Men.

… and conveniently, they all stood in a row to be photographed. Also, I’m pretty sure the guy one over from the right is not wearing pants.

Seven for the Dwarf-lords.

… and Pyramid-head. Seriously, don’t try to tell me that isn’t him off to the left.

Three for the tall Elf-kings.

Because tallness is their only interesting characteristic. Not, say, their immortality…

Also, if I can be a total nerd, only ONE elf smith created the three rings. And they weren’t all meant for Elf-kings; sure, Gil-galad had two of them, but he was supposed to give them to Elrond and Cirdan (then to Gandalf). And the third one was for Galadriel, who wasn’t a king of any kind because HELLO SHE WAS A WOMAN.

But then, the Dark Lord learned the craft of ring-making…

… when he wasn’t terrorizing people as one of the Knights of Ni.

Yes, apparently the lord of evil likes to do some quick forgework while wearing a ginormous horned helmet and a big flapping cape… which seems kind of inconvenient. And hot. Very hot.

Then again, if this prologue is anything to go by, the entire world is on fire, so maybe the heat doesn’t bother him. Seriously, it looks like someone is watching a volcanic eruption through a layer of burlap.

…and made the Master Ring. The One Ring to rule them all.

And why does it rule them all? Why did he make it? Who is “the” Dark Lord?

… any answers?

Oh, for crying out loud. Is he parrying a couple of SWORDS with the Ring? You can’t do that! Yes, the Ring is meant to be a weapon… but not a physical one! A very small piece of jewelry is the worst possible defense against a sword… as Sauron eventually finds out!

Seriously, random guys with swords… just move your swords an inch to the left, and you can actually HIT him instead of his finger jewelry.

So we see the world’s shittiest battle sequences, as people sort of nonchalantly slash each other with swords and make comical groaning noises. And no, we can’t see who or what anyone is, because everybody is a big black human-shaped blob. Elves? Dwarves? Men? Orcs? I can’t tell.

Seriously, who are those people? Tell me who they are! I cannot tell just by looking.

This doesn’t make for a gripping action sequence. It’s confusing and awkward.

With the One Ring, Middle-earth is his and he cannot be overcome. As the last alliance of Men and Elves fell beneath his power…

… they realized that instead of constantly attacking his finger jewelry, they should have maybe attacked HIM.

…he did not notice the heroic shadow who slipped in.

Not a heroic PERSON. Just his shadow.

Yeah, the only person you can identify in this prologue is Sauron, and that’s ONLY because he has a helmet that makes him look like Darkness.

And aside from those horns… he just looks like a guy in a Superman cape. Not very imposing. I sure don’t see why he’s supposed to be the spooky Big Bad of Middle-Earth.

Then suddenly a… person you can’t identify comes lunging out… but you can’t really see him because he’s standing in front of two other guys… AND EVERYONE IS A BLACK BLOB. But he sort of hacks very anticlimactically at Sauron’s hand, and Sauron looks like he’s going, “Owwww, that stings!”

It was Prince lsildur, of the mighty kings from across the sea, who took the Ring.

… and here we have one of the problems with this script.

See, one of the keys to a successful adaptation is giving your audience the information they need to know to understand what is going on. Consider the voiceover in the Jackson prologue:

Three were given to the Elves, immortal, wisest and fairest of all beings…
Seven to the Dwarf Lords, great miners and craftsmen of the mountain halls.

See, that narration is actually very useful. Without making the characters tell us things they already know, we’re told that Elves are wise and immortal, and that Dwarves are miners, craftsmen, and live in the mountains. This is all important information for us to understand the story and the characters.

But the thing is, you need to not give them TOO much information. Too much info in a movie is distracting – you need to give the non-Tolkien-fan audience the information they need to understand the story (like Elf immortality), but not too much information that DOESN’T pertain to the main story in some way.

And this is a perfect example. We’re told that Isildur is “of the mighty kings from across the sea,” aka the sunken isle of Numenor. Fine. Dandy. Totally canon. The problem is that Numenor and Isildur’s origins aren’t really important in this story. Isildur’s role is to cut off Sauron’s finger, take the Ring, and die. THAT’S IT. His family’s origin point is not important.

So the mentions of Numenor are really just distracting. If a person who wasn’t familiar with Tolkien watched this movie, they would be asking, “What kings from across the sea? What’s across the sea?” And since Tolkien wrote a crazy-complex world behind all that, it would just keep drawing the person farther and farther away from the main story.

Oh, and after Sauron loses the Ring… which he could totally have bent over and picked up… everybody just stops fighting and acts confused.

Was this supposed to imply that Sauron was mind-controlling people with the Ring? Because that isn’t how it works.

But because he did not destroy it, the spirit of the Dark Lord lived on… and began to take shape and grow again.

And here we have the OPPOSITE problem: assuming your audience knows more than they do. This ASSUMES you know Sauron’s nature, what happened to him at that battle of four whole people, and his connection to the Ring. NONE OF THAT IS EVEN HINTED AT.

If I were a total LOTR noob who had never read the books or seen the movies, I would be SO confused by this. There’s NO hint in this opening narration that Sauron isn’t just some elf or man who decided to be all evil and stuff. And it’s never even hinted before this that he has any special connection to the Ring that might allow him to survive. It literally just tells us that he made the Ring to dominate the other rings, full stop.

Hell, just the “the spirit of the Dark Lord lived on” part is confusing. He doesn’t die or explode like in the Jackson version – he just loses his finger. That’s not usually fatal. So it’s like we’re being told that someone we didn’t know was dead… didn’t fully die.

“I love you, Ring Of Evil. Only you understand me!”

Are kings in the habit of just going everywhere with big ol’ crowns on their heads? It looks a little silly, especially when you’re just hanging out… by yourself… by the river.

Clearly Isildur wasn’t too bright, because a few bodyguards might have kept him alive.

Yup, he’s ambushed by orcs… who also look like the Knights of Ni. Isildur was apparently too stupid to live, since he decided to take them ALL ON ALONE, instead of either using the Ring to escape, or bringing ANYBODY who could have guarded him.

And as he dies, he inconveniently lets the Ring go flying off into the air. Apparently the orcs either don’t notice this, or they are too lazy to look.

But the Ring had a will of its own,

And that will was to go to Pizza Hut!

and a way of slipping from one hand to be found by another, so that it might at last get back to its master.

It would have gotten back to him sooner if those damn orcs had bothered to go diving in the river, because the Ring went straight down.

Dammit, this is just so UGLY. Who thought this burlap-filtered red-and-black abomination was a good idea? Looking at this is literally hurting my eyes!

And there the Ring lay, at the bottom of the Great River Anduin…

Until some schmuck came by with a metal detector.

…for thousands of years. During those years…

The Rolling Stones formed.

the Dark Lord captured the nine Rings that were made for Men and turned their owners into the Ringwraiths:

… yeah, you remember how I mentioned the canon? No, they were not turned into Ringwraiths AFTER the Ring was lost. That doesn’t even make sense, because Sauron wanted them as his lieutenants.

Terrible shadows under his great shadow, who roamed the world,

For some reason, Gandalf mumbles this line like he’s contemplating it. Also, “roamed” is pronounced “wormed,” which really confused me when I was little.

searching for the One Ring.

… and decent tacos!

In time, the Ring was found.

…by a metal detector!

Oh thank God. What a relief after nothing but glaring red.

Two friends were fishing in the Great River one day.

Which is exactly why I am opposed to fishing. One minute you’re killing God’s creatures at five AM in the rain, the next you’re possessed by an evil ring.

And that little tiny fish is apparently strong enough to drag what is obviously a hobbit into the river. His buddy doesn’t seem too worried.

Good thing there aren’t any rocks or anything in that river. Or more than one fish. Seriously, if I hadn’t seen him fall in, I’d assume he was in space. Or the Phantom Zone. Or that he was Peter Pan’s shadow.

So he does what anyone would do if they found a gold ring, and grabs it.

Give us that, Déagol, my love.

Why, Sméagol?

“Because Smeagol is like a magpie!”

Why is Smeagol wearing a corset?

Because it’s my birthday, my love, and I wants it.

I have already given you more than I could afford. I found this, and I’m going to keep it!

… why is he already Gollumspeaking? He’s only been exposed to the Ring for a minute, and already he’s halfway to Gollumspeak.

I know Gollum was already pretty corrupt before he encountered the Ring, but he wasn’t so bad that he couldn’t talk normally. This was before he’d even killed anyone!

Are you indeed, my love?

The way this movie shows it, it was a pretty short trip for Smeagol to become Gollum.

He used the Ring for thieving, and to find out secrets.

For instance, he found out what Bitsy Bottombumper and Toodles Pipplestalk got up to when Bitsy’s husband was out of town.

His own people began to despise the wretched creature…

… so he ran for Congress.

…and to call him Gollum.

… why?

I mean, I know canonically that he made weird gulpy noises that sounded like “gollum,” but the noises he makes in this flashback are more like someone getting sodomized with an icicle. So it seems like his family just went, “Hey, we’re sick of whatsisname. Let’s give him a gross new name!”

And yes, it IS very distracting that Gollum has apparently got a hot potato stuck in his throat. He makes all these gasps and choking noises, and he sort of looks like he’s having a seizure at the end. The only reason the Ring should be making these noises is if he ATE the Ring and it got stuck.

Yo, Bakshi, Gollum didn’t turn into that little zombie goblin overnight. It was a very gradual process!

Tortured and driven by the Ring, he hid in dark caves under deep mountains.

While making the aforementioned sodomized-by-an-icicle noises.

But the Ring slipped off Gollum’s finger, too.

And it’s a sign of the Ring’s power that it can slip out of red burlapvision!

And so it was that Bilbo found it, during his travels with the Dwarves.

… and who is Bilbo? WHAT is he? What dwarves? This line assumes that you just KNOW who Bilbo is, and what the hell he was doing there.

Again… Jackson did it better. Jackson’s didn’t mention WHAT Bilbo was doing there, admittedly, but that would require another ten minutes of backstory. What it DOES have an introduction to Bilbo, assuming that you don’t know who Bilbo is. It tells you what he is. It tells you where he’s from (which we see a scant six seconds later so it’s not too confusing).

“It was picked up by the most unlikely creature imaginable: A hobbit, Bilbo Baggins of the Shire.”

This line MIGHT have worked if it were a sequel to an adaptation of “The Hobbit,” and it sort of kind of… is, if you consider the three animated movies a trilogy. But it’s not really. This movie just isn’t able to stand on its own!

Oh, and Bilbo here is wearing a cloak with a pointy hood. He picks up the ring and looks at it, then panics and flails around in this really exaggerated way. Hobbits are supposed to be stealthy, so… yeah, not so much here. In this movie, I’m amazed they don’t get lost in their own shirts.

He has a little flailing freakout because, Gollum is also having a freakout.

Thief, Baggins. Thief!

“We were saving the last beer for dinner, precious! They drank it!”

Oh, and I’m going to give the movie leeway on the not-very-faithful-to-how-it-went-in-the-book way it’s presented here, with Bilbo finding the ring seconds before Gollum goes apeshit. Jackson did the same thing, and it’s kind of a necessary evil. Yes, Bilbo found the Ring a LONG time before Gollum went apeshit… but it wouldn’t be very effective if Bilbo just found it… end flashback. Or if Gollum went apeshit and Bilbo pulled the ring out of his pocket. Just wouldn’t work.

It stole our precious, our precious…. our birthday present.


Is that a scarecrow with giant foam hands?! Moving like a monkey? And in case you’re wondering, he looks NOTHING like that later in the movie. Because this part isn’t animated. Fuck.

(Okay, I have to admit that I was scared shitless of this when I first saw it. When I was seven. And no, I didn’t see in theaters, you idiots. I’m not nearly that old)

Thief, Baggins! We hates it forever!

…. punctuated with a weird “ARGGACK!” noise that I think means Gollum stepped in a lump of his own poo.

It also switches to a red-and-black image of the Shire OH SHIT PLEASE TELL ME THE WHOLE MOVIE ISN’T ANIMATED LIKE THIS…!!!!!

Oh thank God. It fades into an animated depiction of the Shire, which means my eyeballs may not actually burst into flames.

I gotta wonder what the hell those hobbit holes are all about. A lot of them look like thatched huts, not hobbit holes. Which, since the whole movie is rotoscoped, they might actually be if Bakshi found an appropriate picture to trace over.

And no, I’m not letting Peter Jackson’s depiction of hobbit holes affect how I see the Shire. I’m letting the AUTHOR do it.

And yes, there are some above-ground structures, but they don’t look like living places. All the homes we see in Hobbiton are underground.

It was Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit…

As opposed to Bilbo Baggins, tax agent?

…who took the Ring back to the Shire, his home.

Thanks for clarifying that… and nothing else.

Years later, Gandalf the Wizard, visited Bilbo on his going-away birthday party.

… okay, I’m gonna just tell you: the narrator is Gandalf. So why is Gandalf talking about himself in the third person?!

Also, the narrator is now pulling this “you should know everything” shit on the CHARACTERS. Because “going-away birthday party” sort of implies that this is KNOWN to be a birthday party… before someone goes away. If you had not read the book, you would probably assume that the guests knew Bilbo was leaving. But the scene that follows shows they did not!


So we are going to Bilbo’s birthday party, which is probably a HUGE deal because Hobbits love them some food, drink and any excuse to party. And presumably Gandalf’s little wagon is to hold those totally canonical fireworks.

Fucking hell, what ARE those things? Garden gnomes? Why are some of them wearing ice cream cones on their heads? And what’s with the weird super-deformed facial features, especially since three of our four hobbits really look pretty normal and human-appropriate?

And no, this party is apparently just people sitting at tables, drinking and hooting like this is the most fun they’ve ever had. And no fireworks.

WHY NO FIREWORKS? Isn’t one of the advantages of an animated movie that you can show things that aren’t normally possible in a live-action movie? Especially a movie made before CGI was a thing and Peter Jackson could create a dragon made out of fireworks which isn’t hugely feasible in the late 70s?

Oh, and I think that Bakshi must have cut some frames, because the hobbits all move in too-fast, jerky motions.

Meanwhile, Bilbo is giving a speech. Yeah, I guess we missed the whole party except the very end. Whee.

“In the middle of the earth in the land of the Shire lives a brave little hobbit whom we all admire…”

And that’s Gandalf there with the giant phallic stick.  A wizard’s staff has a knob on the end, knob on the end, knob on the end. A wizard’s staff has a knob on the end! What he does with it is magic!

I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like…

“Especially Bitsy Bottombumper. I’d REALLY like to get to know her!”

Also, Bilbo’s voice is awful here. He sounds like somebody’s senile flamboyant grandpa.

…and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve!

They managed to take an awesome joke from the book and suck all the funny out of it. Great job.

Bilbo just saw the critical reviews for this movie.

I never noticed before how much the art sucks here. It really sticks out that some of this is animated regularly, and some is rotoscoped. It’s bad enough that some of the shots don’t match other shots in the movie, but this shot doesn’t match itself! Gandalf and Bilbo look pretty normal, but they have these… abominations of hell sitting in front of them, with soup-bowl ears and giant facial wrinkles.

00:04:45,030 –> 00:04:48,310

Frodo, I can see your uncle Bilbo

hasn’t changed much.

00:04:49,190 –> 00:04:52,660

And though 1 1 1 years

is far too short a time…

00:04:52,750 –> 00:04:56,270

…to live among such admirable Bagginses

and Boffinses, Grubbs…

00:04:56,350 –> 00:04:58,550

…Chubbs, Brace-girdles, Goodbodies…

00:04:58,630 –> 00:05:01,830

-…Bolgers, Hornblowers and Proudfoots…


00:05:03,710 –> 00:05:07,180

…l regret to announce that this is the end.

00:05:07,590 –> 00:05:11,110

I’m going away. I’m leaving. Now.

00:05:12,430 –> 00:05:13,830


00:05:15,990 –> 00:05:17,500

Where did he go?

00:05:30,830 –> 00:05:32,180

Oh, Gandalf.

00:05:32,470 –> 00:05:35,270

Have you left the Ring for Frodo,

as we agreed?

00:05:35,510 –> 00:05:38,470

It’s mine, I tell you! It’s my own.

00:05:39,390 –> 00:05:41,190

My precious!

00:05:41,270 –> 00:05:43,660

It’s mine now, and I shall keep it.

00:05:43,750 –> 00:05:46,390

I won’t give my precious away, I tell you.

00:05:46,470 –> 00:05:48,700

Do not say that again!

00:05:51,110 –> 00:05:53,860

Give it to Frodo, and I will look after him.

00:06:03,310 –> 00:06:06,460

All right, I will.


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