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April 5, 2021 8:23 PM   Subscribe

Guardian: Soviet TV version of Lord of the Rings rediscovered after 30 years. Parts one and two of the 1991 TV movie are now available on Youtube. Although there are no English subtitles, the visuals are not to be missed.

Including a speaking role for Lobelia Sackville-Baggins!

Previously: the Russian Hobbit.
posted by Countess Elena (36 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
Although there are no English subtitles, the visuals are not to be missed.

For that added flavor note, have Youtube auto-translate the russian (via the CC button) and then have it translate automatically into English (or your native language), via the cog-symbol.

Already: better than the original.
posted by not_on_display at 8:48 PM on April 5 [5 favorites]


I'm going to be very disappointed if the orcs aren't the good guys in this version.
posted by philip-random at 8:50 PM on April 5 [6 favorites]


Gandalf's fireworks effects were... something.

I'm not sure what, but they were something.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:00 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


Oh God almighty. Is that supposed to be Goldberry? Man, they got started and just kept goin', didn't they.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 9:17 PM on April 5


I really do not approve of their Aragorn casting! Or, well.... Any of the casting, to be honest.

But I won't trust a soul who isn't delighted by those ridiculous shin-high hobbit-fur boots.
posted by meese at 9:37 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


Within the next six months I guarantee that at least one of my friends will seriously consider dressing up for Halloween in a recreation of that weird purple Gandalf smock. Now I have some time to ponder whether to greet them with a casual "Oh, Russian Gandalf" or to let them have the pleasure of explaining the costume while I secretly covet their weird purple Gandalf smock.
posted by Avelwood at 9:44 PM on April 5 [5 favorites]


50 ruble budget for wardrobe
20 ruble budget for special effects
15 rubles to hire the high school math teacher as director.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:49 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


One ring to unite the workers, one ring them to feed,
one ring to bring to each according to his need!
posted by oulipian at 10:04 PM on April 5 [25 favorites]


The last thing to do is create an edited version that is *mostly* Peter Jackson's but then splices in the Tom Bombadil and Goldberry scenes from the Soviet one. Then, finally, the complete cinematic experience will be available for viewing the way Tolkien intended.
posted by mark k at 10:14 PM on April 5 [13 favorites]


OMG the fireworks!!

(I guess that should be “Bozhe moi, the fireworks!”)
posted by darkstar at 10:31 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


FTA: 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.
...
The first Soviet samizdat translation of The Fellowship of the Ring was produced in 1966


Uh huh. Gotta put the linguistic chauvinism first.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 10:49 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


LOL!! “Intricate plot” being too much for the Russian language???

I mean, Tolstoy is right there.
posted by darkstar at 10:55 PM on April 5 [16 favorites]


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.

As if this writer for The Guardian didn't grow up watching The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe on the BBC.
posted by Gary at 11:26 PM on April 5 [14 favorites]


The actor playing Bilbo near the start actually looks quite like Ian McKellen, which makes for a nice dissonance!
posted by domdib at 11:56 PM on April 5 [3 favorites]


For that added flavor note, have Youtube auto-translate the russian (via the CC button) and then have it translate automatically into English (or your native language), via the cog-symbol.

"...over the dominion of serial plasticine muzzle wounds..."

YouTube's language model needs some WORK.
posted by The Tensor at 12:19 AM on April 6 [5 favorites]


The Hobbit seems to be almost designed for easy adaptation into an orthodox Marxist allegory, with Bilbo playing the part of a dashing young cadre who cleverly unites disparate workers and peasants against their draconic overlord. I can totally understand people thinking LOTR was anti-Soviet, though.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:38 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


The last thing to do is create an edited version that is *mostly* Peter Jackson's but then splices in the Tom Bombadil and Goldberry scenes from the Soviet one.

LOTR: Bombadil
Directed by Peter Jackson. Runtime 284 minutes.
posted by benzenedream at 12:58 AM on April 6 [4 favorites]


Whooa, Feyd-Ruatha is fucked up in this one.
posted by away for regrooving at 1:20 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


*sees terrible hobbit costumes, effects* noooooooo
*encounters sweet gender bending clown barrow wight* YESSSSSSSSS
posted by phooky at 4:46 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


Every single one of the Soviet hobbits does a Kenneth Williams-style reaction face at some point and I love it.
posted by terretu at 5:38 AM on April 6


I've seen sweded films that were better produced than this.
posted by jabah at 6:22 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


"...over the dominion of serial plasticine muzzle wounds..."

YouTube's language model needs some WORK.


no it does not. One of my great pleasures of late has been to watch old movies with the sound off, the CC turned on, the random dada gushing forth.
posted by philip-random at 7:33 AM on April 6


“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.
They may, in their search, have come across it and failed to recognize it. I just watched the Council of Elrond make decisions that will affect the fate of all the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth and it looked like a scene from an adaptation of a Turgenev novel where Barazov agrees to sell some of his family’s farmland to Kusnetsov.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:35 AM on April 6 [4 favorites]


I am rarely gobsmacked anymore but here I am gobsmacked. Wow!

It's not a reasonable comparison, for any number of reasons, but Terminator 2 also came out in 1991.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:41 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


Oh how wonderful! Also a big surprise that Quentin Crisp plays one of the Hobbits. The next few minutes of video there are really worth a watch. I think it must be Weathertop? The visual effects are, well, they aren't playing into Soviet cinema's strengths.
posted by Nelson at 8:03 AM on April 6 [2 favorites]


and it looked like a scene from an adaptation of a Turgenev novel where Barazov agrees to sell some of his family’s farmland to Kusnetsov.


Okay, that gave me my best belly laugh in many days! :D
posted by darkstar at 9:15 AM on April 6


I was supposed to get stuff done today!
Also, seconding suggestion to turn on the auto-russian-to-english translation CC.
It's... eh... helpful?
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:38 AM on April 6 [2 favorites]


Oh man. Someone needs to do a mashup of this with The Littlest Hobo [link: The 5 Labours of Hercules], it looks like they had the same cinematographer.
posted by benzenedream at 9:54 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


no it does not. One of my great pleasures of late has been to watch old movies with the sound off, the CC turned on, the random dada gushing forth.

Making accessibility issues into one's personal entertainment is a really shitty thing to do, especially for those of us who rely on things like CC and subtitles for being able to completely understand what is going on.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 11:42 AM on April 6 [3 favorites]


OMG the fireworks!!

(I guess that should be “Bozhe moi, the fireworks!”)
The fireworks were by Gandalf: they were not only brought by him, but designed and made by him; and the special effects, set pieces, and flights of rockets were let off by him. But there were also a generous distribution of squibs, crackers, backarappers, sparklers, dwarf-candles, elf-fountains, goblin-barkers and thunde-claps. They were all superb. The art of Gandalf improved with age.

There were rockets like a flock of scintillating birds singing with sweet voices. There were green trees with trunks of dark smoke: their leaves opened like a whole spring unfolding in a moment, and their shining branches dropped glowing flowers down upon the hobbits, disappearing with a sweet scent just before their touched their upturned faces. There were fountains of butterflies that flew glittering into the trees; there were pillars of coloured fires that rose and turned into eagles, or sailing ships, or a phalanx of flying swans; there was a red thunderstorm and a shower of yellow rain; there was a forest of silver spears that sprang suddenly into the air with a yell like an embattled army, and and came down again into the Water with a hiss like a hundred hot snakes.And there was also one last surprise, in honour of Bilbo, and it startled the hobbits exceedingly, as Gandalf intended. The lights went out. A great smoke went up. It shaped itself like a mountain seen in the distance, and began to glow at the summit. It spouted green and scarlet flames. Out flew a red-golden dragon - not life-size, but terribly life-like: fire came from his jaws, his eyes glared down; there was a roar, and he whizzed three times over the heads of the crowd. They all ducked, and many fell flat on their faces. The dragon passed like an express train, turned a somersault, and burst over Bywater with a deafening explosion.

'That is the signal for supper!' said Bilbo. The pain and alarm vanished at once, and the prostrate hobbits leaped to their feet.
Not 100% sure they nailed it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:06 PM on April 6 [3 favorites]


For anyone wondering about the particular (super low-tech) format, one of the Youtube comments has an explanation:
To the foreign people in the comments - It is a theater stage play recorded in the format of tv film. Such kind of format was popular in Soviet Union.
Supposedly this was a popular format on Soviet TV in the 1980s that was known as a "telespektakl" and was on its way out by the time this was filmed.

Those additional tidbits are found in a Slashdot thread, which also includes these other gems of highly varying quality:

* Hobitit (The Hobbits, 1993) Mini Series, Finnish, All 9 Episodes (no subtitles, sadly--not even auto-generated)

* Russian Winnie the Pooh (incl. newly translated English subtitles)

* Deep blue sea, light white foam (Armenfilm) with english subtitles, animated short by Robert Sahakyants, 1984.

* Comrade Detective. Available on Amazon Prime, this is a 1980s Romanian "gritty and sleek buddy cop show" digitally remastered and dubbed into English by a cast featuring Channing Tatum, and Joseph Gordon Levitt

And finally:

* Worker & Parasite
posted by flug at 1:12 PM on April 6 [7 favorites]


The special effects are judiciously deployed, with more attention, naturally, being given to segments that do not require elaborate effects, like Bilbo's eleventy-first birthday party. We get an elaborate dance there, and it is made clear that the number of guests falls somewhat short of the canonical 144 hobbits. Short by... 132, in fact.

Tolkien emphasizes the numbers in the crowd a couple of paragraphs after the fireworks, by beginning, "There were any Bagginses and Boffins, Tooks and Brandybucks..." an proceed to rattle off more families than we see individual hobbits in the linked video.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:16 PM on April 6


🎶 ni vedut khobbitov v I-zen-gard! 🎵
posted by metabaroque at 1:45 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


Anne Shirley: I've always wanted puffed sleeves.

Soviet Tom Bombadil Monkey's Paw: no not like this.
posted by away for regrooving at 1:48 AM on April 7 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure Comrade Detective was made in the last few years and is a satire of both 1980s Romania and Iron Bloc anti-capitalism culture and American TV cop shows.
posted by Snowishberlin at 8:45 AM on April 7 [1 favorite]


I feel very glad that this exists without having the slightest desire to watch it.
posted by Phanx at 5:40 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


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