Was there a 1980s live-action adaptation of the Lord of the Rings?
November 24, 2011 4:10 PM   Subscribe

Before Peter Jackson, was there another live action Lord of the Rings film attempt?

My father insists that back in the 1980s there was another - described by him as "a cinematic nightmare" - live action Lord of the Rings film. He remembers it as being an adaptation mainly of The Return of the King, with some bits changed.

We've both hunted the length and breadth of the Internet, with no success. Anyone else know anything about this, or is age finally catching up to him?
posted by AdamCSnider to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Best answer: The 1978 Bakshi version combined animation and live action. It ended rather abruptly, before the narrative events of Return of the King. There was an animated version of Return of the King by Rankin Bass, who also did a version of The Hobbit. Both were less than well-received by fans and critics.
posted by wilko at 4:38 PM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

The animated one was "acted" by people and then drawn based on that, but if I recall correctly they caught a lot of ire for making it sound like it was the whole thing when it wasn't, so probably not what he's thinking of. Here's a pretty accurate review. The balrog's fuzzy slippers are not to be missed.

There was a lot of fantasy stuff coming out then, so he may be thinking of something that was a blatant rip off of Lord of the Rings with the serial numbers filed off. There was plenty of that sort of thing to go around.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:47 PM on November 24, 2011

I reckon he's thinking of the Rankin-Bass animated 'Return of the King'. Does he remember a song at all? The most memorable part of the movie to me was that they used a minstrel as a framing device, singing of 'Frodo of the nine fingers, and the Ring of Doom'.
posted by Gordafarin at 6:41 PM on November 24, 2011

No, there was no previous live-action version. Your dad may be conflating the Bakshi or Rankin-Bass versions above with having heard about the Beatles' abortive attempt to do a live-action version in the late sixties.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:54 PM on November 24, 2011

The woeful Ralph Bakshi LOTR animation was actually rotoscoped, which would make it easy to misremember as live action.

Rotoscoping is one of those techniques that tempts the viewer to wonder why the film-maker bothered. For a good answer, see A Scanner Darkly.
posted by flabdablet at 12:42 AM on November 25, 2011

Your dad may be thinking of the Beatles' short-lived attempt to produce and star in a LOTR film.
posted by thelonius at 7:41 AM on November 25, 2011

The Beatles! I had never heard this before. But Wikipedia says it would have starred "Paul McCartney as Frodo Baggins, Ringo Starr as Sam Gamgee, George Harrison as Gandalf, and John Lennon as Gollum."

Personally might have gone for Yoko as Sauron, but not sure it got that far.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 1:19 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

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