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on 2 February 2012
The only flaw with Ralph Bakshi's beautiful, scary and atompsheric animated version of Tolkein's classic is that it is not the whole story. The film's second part was never completed, leaving the story more than half way through after the first film ends -- however this is a complete movie in iteself. But apart from that one small problem, this is a brilliantly realized rendering of Middle Earth. The exceptional voice cast includes John Hurt and Anthony Daniels. The animation uses innovative techniques such as rotoscoping, so the battle sequences look and feel as though you are watching real people and creatures. The orcs are unforgettable, the elves magical, the hobbits endearing, the Ring Wraiths truly disturbing, and the sequence in Moria is eerie and exciting. Hand-drawn animation always wins hands-down over computer wizardry, but this film is definitely a must-see. We can only wonder what might have been had the project been seen through to completion.
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on 2 November 2011
It suddenly occurred to me the other night that I should get this on DVD. So I did. I had this film on tape all through my childhood recorded off TV. I loved it. Watched it last night, first time in years, and I still remember it. I love the characters and the environment's artwork, the music is awesome. It was nice to watch again, made me remember what it was like to be a kid again, all innocent and worry-less... It's a must have for me.
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on 8 October 2001
I remember going to see this when it was first released in the cinema. I was very disappointed at the abrupt ending and from the first appearance of Treebeard onwards the film seemed very rushed. Years later it is all explained as Ralph Bakshi began to run out of money and did his best to complete the movie at a climatic point - the battle at Helms Deep. The third criticism I have was of the representation of Treebeard himself, while a very difficult character to visualise - I think Bakshi could have done much better.
That aside, the first three quarters of the film, the script and especially the visuals and tone of the film capture middle earth in a way that I believe, to those that have seen this film, remains with you. I do not think it appropriate or fair to compare the animated version with the upcoming movies, that was then - this is now as the saying goes, technology of the 21st Century is making the new trilogy possible.
I am as excited as everyone else about the new movies, but I certainly will not use it as a vehicle to rubbish anything that came before it. The BBC Radio adaptation is also excellent and has its place and so does Bakshi's Lord of the Rings, as indeed will Peter Jackson's trilogy.
Buy the Ralph Bakshi version, you'll enjoy it. I bet you will even see some (now famous) images that actually first appeared here and have been borrowed by various artists and Peter Jackson. One example is the Hobbits hiding, from a Ring Wraith, under a tree on the way to Bree, take a look at this and then the Peter Jackson scene of this you will see that - well take a look for yourself.
Bear in mind it was this film that first got Peter Jackson interested in Tolkien's LOTR. What also comes out of this film is not just Bakshi's vision of Middle Earth, but the research and thoughts that came from his personal discussions with Tolkien's family.
I wish the new films the best of luck and will be there to watch them, but I also thank Ralph Bakshi for giving me a visual feast that I will continue to revisit.
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on 24 December 2013
Great version - it's a shame they never covered the remainder of the books, I would have loved to carry on watching. I had a look at the unofficial sequel (The Return of the King: A Story of the Hobbits) but I don't think it looks as good as this one - and it was not an official sequel so the two films do not meet up in the middle.

As a stand-alone movie therefore, this lacks a conclusion, but for what it is, it's really enjoyable and a great adaptation of Tolkein.
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on 24 January 2015
This is one of those films that the cliché "a flawed masterpiece" was invented for. Released in 1978, this was an (overly?) ambitious attempt to animate Tolkein's epic fantasy bestseller. Director Ralph Bakshi had a reputation as a bit of an iconoclast, determined to free the art of animation from the banal schmaltz that Disney had become, and make it a credible medium for adult audiences rather than just pap for kids. Long before CGI animation was a possibility, his Lord of the Rings was very innovative technically in filming large amounts of real live action and then rotoscoping this frame by frame into the animated backgrounds. This does result in some excellent fluid motion for characters, particularly in the battle scenes, and the best bits (for instance, Nazgul on horseback) look stunning. However many of the other animated characters are less successful, the hobbits looking rather 'cartoony' and as for Legolas, I laughed out loud when I saw him! And the balrog is just ahine! The backgrounds are often beautifully detailed by may remind you a little too much of Yes albums covers :)
The voice acting is also 'good in parts' but overall seems a little nondescript, with too many samey English accents from character to character. The orchestral score does the film no favours in my opinion, generally being rather uninspired, and the sound design is also rather undeveloped for a fantasy film like this.
The pacing of the story is rather uneven too, some sequences seem rather drawn out, others whizz by in jump cuts (with, inevitably, some bits of the book omitted - poor old Tom Bombadil!). The greatest flaw of all, of course, is that the film stops in the bloody middle of the story! Apparently the director wanted to put it out as "Lord of the Rings Part 1", but bizarrely the studio vetoed this, claiming it would put people off wanting to see the film (?!) Of course, what happened was that cinema goers at the time almost unanimously felt duped when the film "ended half way". In any case, despite the film making a healthy box office profit, Part 2 was never made.
Anyways - so much for the film itself, what about the BluRay? Well, that too is a little flawed. It's clearly made from a print, and is full of speckles and dirt from all that rotoscoping and compositing. Clearly, doing a frame-by-frame restoration from the original negatives so as to fix all these would be insanely expensive, so its not entirely surprising that it wasn't been attempted. Nonetheless, the phrase "this high resolution presentation may reveal limitations of the original source materials" certain applies here. I would have thought they could at least have stabilised some of the film wobble in places, but no. The 5.1 sound mix is rather tame too, although the dialogue is always clear. As a bonus feature, there's a fairly engaging half-hour documentary about Ralph Bakshi that sheds a fair amount of light on how and why the film looks the way it does.
All in all, if you like Tolkein and/or animation, this film certainly has some flashes of brilliance. Indeed, you may well spot certain shots which were homaged almost exactly by Peter Jackson in his film version (and also in HTV's 1980s TV adaption of Robin of Sherwood, for those who remember 'The Swords of Wayland'). I'm happy to own a copy, but much as its best bits deserve praise, it's hard not to come away with a shopping list of things about it that you think could've been done better! Ultimately that's as much a testament to the breadth and depth of vision in Tolkein's original book as anything else.
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on 6 November 2011
I am (far) too young to have seen this film on release. I had heard of it only in passing as it was referenced in regards to when I tried to read the books (which I must confess I just didn't engage with - heresy I know!) and the recent trilogy of films It's fair to say most of what I heard was negative and I steered clear.

Clearly though I did eventually buy this and all-in-all I'm glad I did. Is it finished/complete? No. Is it Structured well? Not great no but I've seen worse. Does it clearly suffer from budget constraints? Oh yes and then some! However this is what in many ways I feel saves the film. What would in my ignorent eyes have other-wise been a hit and miss version of Tolkiens' tale, is given the lifeline of letting the audience (predominently in hindsight) fill the gaps in our minds. Imagine what could have been. I genuinly do mean this as a compliment, not to say it was a failure but that it just didn't have the money behind it to do what it wanted to... just look at the last 15 mins - to those unaquainted with the film, it's somewhat rushed!

Personally I found the mix of cartoon with actors in get up quite good. It reminded me of the sort of thing you would see when you were a kid, not great effects but it creates an appropriate mood in my mind.

No, it's not in of itself a GOOD film. In fact truth be told, without the backstory of it's creation problems and the support of it's inevitable association with the iconic Lord of the Rings brand (I appreciate that brand is not the right word, indeed when this was made it had more cult status) then it was a very poor film. But I feel that with the things I've stated above, this film becomes something much more Interesting...
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on 12 April 2015
Nerd moment here: I loved this as a child; dark, creepy, a little scary in places. Watching it as an adult I still found it had the same wonderful mix that enthralled me back then. It has many faults and is indeed an unfinished work but there's something about the atmosphere of this version that the Peter Jackson films didn't come close to. That could be nostalgia talking but I think it's a genuinely great realisation of Tolkien's world.
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on 26 March 2013
From a child I loved this. Sure its unfinished and ends at Helms Deep, but that doesn't matter, this is Bakshi at his finest.
Not too much to say about the blu ray, the picture and sound are about as good as they will ever get but not that different to the dvd version to be honest. There is however a nice documentary on the making of the film which will appeal to Bakshi fans like my self.
For the money I would recommend upgrading, absolute bargain!!!
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on 1 March 2015
This took me right back to the cinema in 1978, a great depiction of the story with little missing. It was a crying shame that he second part was never completed/filmed as the film would have been so much better with a natural ending. By today's standards, this version lacks a certain continuity despite it's cleverness and fails in m,any ways to capture the interest that modern viewers need. Back in 1978 however, this film was state of the art, in fact better than that, the Rotoscope system employed, works very well throughout but is no real contender for beating CGI today. The mind set of those of my age group will enjoy this film much as they enjoyed the music of that era, when asked about modern music however, their answers would probably embarrass you, same here with this film.... of it's time despite it's semi-perfection...... excellent in my book !!
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on 22 December 2008
I have loved this film for years, since I watched it as a child, it got me reading the books and now my kids love it too. We have the films -which are fantastic- but watch this more.
I know it's incomplete, I know it's showing it's age, but come on, what film doesn't? How many book adaptions transfer more than a potted version? Even Jackson's work which takes about a week to sit through doesn't do the books justice.
Visually beautiful (remember the beholder thing before commenting on this) and just very different experience than most animation, it has comedy moments, moody scenes, great use of sound, and good cast.
Until a film is made that portray the Hobbits, especially Sam in the correct way (read the books, he is the true hero, all would be lost without him) with innocence and heart of gold, this is, for me, the 'proper' version.
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