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Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated version of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was an interesting but muddled creation

October 7, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 7, 2015

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, a fantasy-adventure trilogy first printed in 1954–55, was a seminal publication. Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings, an animated feature based on Tolkien’s work that was released in 1978, is an obscurity.

There was probably a time when Bakshi’s movie was prized by a certain subculture. When it came out, the fantasy-adventure genre was only beginning to emerge from fringe culture. The fantasy-adventure role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons — which owes a great debt to Lord of the Rings, like countless other fantasy books, movies and games — had been released in 1974. By the time of the Bakshi animation’s release, D&D had sold out multiple printings and inspired both a burgeoning line of supplementary products as well as a brand-new magazine. (The Dragon switched from bimonthly to monthly publication in April 1978.)

I have extremely vague memories of having seen Bakshi’s movie in a theater when I was (very!) young. But aside from a nightmarish sequence or two involving the hideous Nazgûl, the movie didn’t make much of an impression. The narrative was too convoluted, the plot too sprawling; there were too many things that went over my head.

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