Friday, 25 April 2014

Lord of the Rings (1978) 70's Marathon 7#

Directed by: Ralph Bakshi
128 Minutes
Animation, Fantasy

One immediately thinks of Peter Jackson’s epic trilogy in the world of film, but many should know that this was one of Jackson’s influences for the film adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s adventurous novel. Ralph Bakshi’s adaptation when looking at it now is definitely sloppy in some areas, but by no means a ‘bad’ movie. You can see how he wants to do justice to this world of fantasy, and it must not have been an easy task at all. The films problem is this is a story that simply could not be told in a short time.

Bakshi originally wanted to split the film into two, but due to budget and time issues, it came out as one film. The films story follows the first two books, which makes the film troublesome already. The films budget was $5 million and they earned over $30 million, so by no means was the film financially unsuccessful. According to David Hughes book “Tales from Development Hell”(1), the backers of the film had pulled out, meaning the second film would not be made- which is what Bakshi had wanted. “They screwed me royally,” he said.

Bakshi said he would not make the film if the Tolkien family did not give him their blessing, and it is a surprise he got it; Bakshi brought films like Fritz the Cat (2) to the screen- the first X-Rated animated feature film.

What I did enjoy with the film is the sheer drive of passion you could see. The famous use of rotoscoping animation, which made Disney successful with films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the adventure, the backdrops and an attempt to show all the characters as best they could; This alone made the film inevitably entertaining. However, the film suffers with so many issues. The film moves extremely fast, and the introduction of the characters is very weak- especially with Mary & Pippin who just pop-up suddenly if you ask me. There are so many characters in Tolkien’s middle-earth, and it would be incredibly hard to introduce them all in the space of 2 hours- and we can see Bakshi trying to speed the process up, with Gandalf in voice-over telling other characters about some characters so we get the information about them.

The animation at times seems shoddy and dates, but as an alternative of the classic Disney animation, I found the animation not to be all bad. At least the lip-syncing was done okay. The action sequences are also entertaining to watch, that sometimes has a mixture of the live-action rotoscoping being used. This technique involved drawing over live-action footage, and with this film, I think it added to the film’s fantasy realm.

Overall, what the films real problem is it seems a tad too ambitious. If Bakshi had decided to make it an animated trilogy, I think the film would have turned in to a true classic. The film feels rushed at times, and sometimes feels like it has jumped 50 pages in the space of a minute. Nowadays it is being rediscovered thanks to the Internet, and many people during the late 70’s through to the 90’s do remember this film. I think all fans of the book should watch this film, and it is an essential for those who are fans of Jackson’s trilogy- here we can see the difficulties of adaptation, and the beginning of carrying an larger-than-life novel to the screen. 

(1) Tales From Development Hell is a book about several issues and problems that screenwriters and filmmakers have had trying to get their ideas and projects to the screen, including Lord of the Rings in the late 1960's, Darren Aronofsky's Batman: Year One and several others.

(2) Fritz the Cat is a gritty dark comedy about the adventures of the titular character, with scened of drug use, violence and nudity- some hate it some like it. After three viewings I think that it is a fairly good movie with some underlaying social messages, that shows the aftermath of the 1960's.


The rotoscoping that creates a unique style.


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