Footage of 1985 Soviet TV Adaptation of Lord of the Rings Resurfaces

The lack of subtitles actually makes it better

Good news, everyone.

The Guardian:

A Soviet television adaptation of The Lord of the Rings thought to have been lost to time was rediscovered and posted on YouTube last week, delighting Russian-language fans of JRR Tolkien.

The 1991 made-for-TV film, Khraniteli, based on Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, is the only adaptation of his Lord of the Rings trilogy believed to have been made in the Soviet Union.

Aired 10 years before the release of the first instalment of Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy, the low-budget film appears ripped from another age: the costumes and sets are rudimentary, the special effects are ludicrous, and many of the scenes look more like a theatre production than a feature-length film.

Well, that’s a rude description.

It looks no different than BBC productions of the time.

The score, composed by Andrei Romanov of the rock band Akvarium, also lends a distinctly Soviet ambience to the production, which was reportedly aired just once on television before disappearing into the archives of Leningrad Television.

Few knew about its existence until Leningrad Television’s successor, 5TV, abruptly posted the film to YouTube last week [part one | part two], where it has gained more than 800,000 views within several days.

“Fans have been searching the archives but had not able to find this film for decades,” wrote World of Fantasy, a Russian-language publication that has written about adaptations of Tolkien’s work.

“There should be a statue to the person who found and digitised this,” one commenter posted.

Earlier adaptations and even translations of Tolkien’s work in the Soviet Union were hard to come by, with some convinced that the story of an alliance of men, elves and dwarves fighting a totalitarian eastern power had been blocked by the censor.

But another suggestion for the sparsity of translations was that Tolkien’s intricate plot and linguistic invention made it difficult to translate into Russian without either adulterating the original or leaving Soviet audiences without any idea of what was happening.

According to World of Fantasy, a 1991 animated version of The Hobbit called The Treasure Under the Mountain was scrapped, leaving only six minutes of footage that is available online.

Jackson’s adaptation of the trilogy was a hit in Russia. Many young Russians watched a version dubbed by the translator Dmitry Puchkov under the pseudonym Goblin, which was notable for its expletive-laden reinterpretation of the text. In that version, Frodo is called Fyodor Mikhailovich, Legolas has a pronounced Baltic accent, and Aragorn yells “Whoever doesn’t hit [an orc] is an ass,” as his archers let their arrows fly during the defence of Helm’s Deep.

I wish people would do English dubs of American films and make them better.

Like that movie Kung Pao.

I would do my own dubs of films such as The Bourne Identity. But I just don’t have the time.