Wednesday, September 1, 2021

My Precious

Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated film, The Lord of the Rings, is a strange beast. That's understandable, given the immense undertaking of adapting such a complex novel. From what I gather, the film was financially successful and Bakshi fully intended to make a second part to conclude the story, but, for a variety of reasons, United Artists decided against going ahead with it. Instead, fans had to make do with the 1980 Rankin/Bass TV movie The Return of the King (which is itself a very strange thing, though for very different reasons).

Despite this, there's plenty of evidence that either Bakshi or UA initially had high hopes for The Lord of the Rings. I make this assertion because there was a surprisingly large amount of merchandise released to promote it, including a line of action figures from Knickerbocker Toys. 

I didn't see the movie until sometime in the mid-1980s, after it had been released on VHS. However, I came across the figures – or, rather, one of them – while on vacation in the summer of 1979. This was a few months before I'd encounter D&D for the first time and before I'd even read Tolkien's works. The figure in question is the one pictured above – Gollum. Now, by this point, I had seen the 1977 Rankin/Bass TV movie version of The Hobbit, but I don't think I connected it to The Lord of the Rings. Even assuming I had, I was still baffled by the figure, as he looked nothing like the way Gollum was portrayed by Rankin/Bass (not that I'm defending that portrayal, mind you). Still, there was something intriguing about this emaciated little hunk of plastic and I bought it (very inexpensively, since the store where I found it sold lots of remaindered items at steep discounts).
 
I thought about the Gollum figure the other day while I was doing some cleaning and came across a few other mementos of my childhood. I no longer own the Gollum figure – Crom knows what became of it – but thinking of it briefly transported me back to the very end of the 1970s, in the final days of my pre-Dungeons & Dragons innocence, when "fantasy" was a chaotic, undifferentiated mass of weird stuff without any clear explanation or context. Looking back, it was a heady time for my imagination and I'd give a lot to be able to revisit it, if only for a brief time. 

16 comments:

  1. Folding Ideas did a really good look at the film and its creation, I think. Well worth a watch.
    https://youtu.be/Cr_rb_pitHk

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    1. Love that channel. They do some excellent work.

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    2. Ugh...couldn’t get passed the prefacatory fawning over Jackson’s movies as “indisputable cinematic masterpieces” in that video. A week ago I started rewatching them for the first time in about 15 years, and though I wasn’t a big fan of them at the time of release, they’ve only become worse with age.

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  2. But did anyone do a line of figures based on "Wizards"? I would love Max and Fritz figure minatures for a Gamma World game.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ujQ-nMc0WGE

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    1. Don't know of any minis. There were several larger scale models (all long OOP AFAIK) and Whitman Publishing did an RPG and several supplements.

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  3. Hi

    It has a nice soundtrack but the movie was a rotoscope mess.

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    1. The portrayal of orcs and the Nazgul in it was a thousand times better (scarier) than the Jackson movies which made them look ridiculously mundane. He (Jackson) had/has no grasp of suspense or for using the viewer's imagination to inflate one's fears. Pedestrian in comparison.

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    2. I completely agree with "squeen"; Jackson's a good comedic director (see Bad Taste, for one example), but even the Rankin & Bass Return of the King has a better grasp on the confrontation between Eowyn and the Witch King

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    3. Agree about the portrayal of Bakshi's Orcs and Nazgul:

      https://thumbs.worthpoint.com/zoom/images1/1/0517/22/lord-rings-original-ralph-bakshi_1_c84b2ca1649210c93d12e6840fa267b1.jpg

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    4. The Rankin/Bass Return of the King falls over for me when the Mouth of Sauron speaks with the voice of Dr. Benton Quest.

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    5. Jackson's earlier comedic horror films (the aforementioned Bad Taste, for ex) are clear warnings about how he handles "scary" on screen. Everything is out in the open, graphic as can be, and full of spectacle. There's no subtlety at all, no room for personal interpretation by the viewer. His nazgul and orcs and balrog are exactly what you'd expect them to be, for better or worse. Almost entirely worse, IMO.

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  4. I rather have Cheech Wizard figures.

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    1. Here you go:

      https://www.thetoychronicle.com/news/sfbi-bode-minis-by-vaughn-bode-x-mindstyle/

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  5. Interesting ... pre D&D/RPG fantasy is an interesting topic to explore. We sort of all became conditioned over the years by the dominant visuals promoted by D&D I guess.

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  6. James, great title for a post about a lost, childhood action figure.

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  7. An oldie but a goodie... http://flyingmoose.org/tolksarc/bakshi/bakshi.htm

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