The Lord of the Rings (1978) (part 11 of 11)

Meanwhile, Herman, Legolas and Gimli are still looking for the Idiot Cousins, sadly unaware that they’re gone forever. They see a sinister shadow—well, okay, they see a guy with a cloth draped over his head approaching. No, really. It’s not even a hooded cloak. It looks like he threw an old bedsheet over his head.

Caption contributed by Jet

The Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan after missing laundry day.

They think it’s Aruman and start to attack, but Bedsheet Guy somehow makes their weapons catch fire and fall from their hands. He throws off the bedsheet, revealing himself to be Gandalf, now resurrected as Gandalf the White. And let me be the first to say: Whoop-de-shit.

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There’s a happy reunion, blah blah blah, and Gandalf explains how he and the Balrog fell into some sort of alternate reality, and how he killed it before returning to the real world as a White Wizard (sort of like graduating to a Black Belt, it would seem). This “story” is accompanied by several static (and eyeball-squeezingly ugly) paintings, none of which are animated in the slightest. Plus, the Balrog in these paintings looks nothing like the animated one we saw earlier. This might be a crazy theory, but I think the filmmakers decided to cut corners somewhere.

Caption contributed by Jason and Albert

A (yawn) happy reunion. (Also, for a guy who wears tight pants, Legolas doesn’t seem to have much of a package.)

Caption contributed by Albert

The “new” and “improved” Balrog.

Suddenly, things take a complete left turn. Gandalf wants them to go to Edoras, the capital of Rohan (stupidly, he pronounces it “Airdoras”). According to Gandalf, the King of Edoras, Théoden, is old and totally dependent on his creepy advisor, Grima Wormtongue. There’s footage of the two of them together, and Grima looks very creepy indeed. It’s partly the sleazy moustache, but mostly it’s the way he’s stroking Théoden’s face. Give me Brad Douriff’s version any day. We then find out the Riders who saved the Idiot Cousins were led by Théoden’s nephew.

Caption contributed by Jason

“This thing, it grabs hold of us again… at the wrong place… at the wrong time… and we’re dead.”

There’s a short scene of Aruman giving his orcs a pep-talk, with Grima by his side. So I guess Grima’s up to no good, huh? Man, the subtlety here is killing me. The orcs cheer and beat on drums in response to Aruman’s speech, and two of them blow trumpets. Since they’re wearing immobile masks, they’re hilariously unable to do a very convincing job of this last action. In fact, one of them clearly touches the mouthpiece to his upper teeth. Nonetheless, we still hear the orcish war-trumpet, which sounds exactly the same as Boromir’s kazoo. Interesting. I guess they all shop at the same place for musical instruments.

Caption contributed by Albert

“Tonight, let us make them remember! This is Isengard, and we are not afraid!!

Cut to our zeroes travelling together on horses (where the heck did they get those from?), while Gandalf exposits about how they and the Riders can go to an old fortress called Helm’s Deep. Supposedly, they’ll be protected there from the invading orcs.

They arrive at Edoras, and march Gandalf-first into the throne room. Here, King Théoden is sitting with his daughter Eowyn behind him. Sadly, one of my favourite characters from Peter Jackson’s movies doesn’t get a single line in this one. But given how badly they mangled everyone else’s characterisations, that has to be for the best.

Naturally, Grima is creepily sitting next to the king and petting his hand. Wait, wasn’t he just in Isengard with Aruman one scene ago? How in the blue hell did he come all this way in that amount of time?

Anyway, Gandalf proves that death and resurrection have done nothing to improve his personality, because he instantly starts lecturing Théoden about how they have to fight back against the orcs, blah blah blah. Théoden is unimpressed, which would make perfect sense even if he hadn’t been seduced by Grima. He points out he’s in charge here, not Gandalf, and… good point.

Gandalf whines about how Grima’s lies are corrupting Théoden’s mind and stopping him from doing anything. Théoden insists that he’s not being controlled. Which might have been convincing, if he hadn’t tried to stand, only to be pushed back onto his throne by Grima. Nope, doesn’t look like Grima’s turned him into a puppet at all. More like a rubber doll.

So Gandalf breaks out the magic, yadda yadda, and easily defeats Grima. He then more-or-less bullies Théoden back to normal. Wow, he’s good. Once Grima’s been exposed as Aruman’s pet and chased away, Gandalf immediately takes his place at Théoden’s side and starts telling him what to do. And this is better than having Grima call the shots how? Oh, yeah, all the pawing.

Anyhow, the Riders set out to fight, with Gandalf and crew beside them, and this is about when the movie gets really boring. Having run out of exposition to butcher (or not bother with), the movie now descends into an endless succession of extremely dull battles. Gandalf goes to find whatsisname, Théoden’s nephew (no, I don’t think we ever actually hear his name), leaving Herman and Théoden to speculate about whether there’s any hope. Yawn. At least give us more gay innuendo, or something.

Then we check on Sam and Alvin, who now have Gollum leading them on their way. Walking, ugly scenery… we see something like a pterodactyl, which screeches and scares the shit out of the Grinch. On top of the creature is one of the Black Cheerleaders, who’s apparently had his steed upgraded. Gosh, if only he’d bothered getting a pterodactyl way back at the beginning, this movie could’ve ended hours earlier!

The Cheerleader flies around for a bit, and then… cut to later on. I guess that, once again, the Cheerleader just gave up. Alvin is now complaining about how “heavy” the Tap Washer is becoming. The Grinch simpers up to him, offering to carry it on his behalf. Alvin blows him off, and they continue on. Did I mention things get really boring around now? Next, Sam and Alvin are asleep, and the Grinch mutters to himself, debating whether or not to kill them. Well, I know what my vote would be.

Naturally, this part pales in comparison to Andy Serkis doing the same scene in Peter Jackson’s version, and calls to mind how brilliantly he switched from one personality to the other with a mere change of expression. This version, however, consists of nothing but a long and uninteresting monologue. The Grinch’s Evil Side wants to lead the hobbits to someone (only identified as “she”) who’ll take care of them, so he can steal the Tap Washer. (I’ll spill the beans and say that “she” is the giant spider Shelob, but we never see her in this movie.) But the Grinch finally decides to go along with his Frosted Side, and he pats the sleeping Alvin on the head.

Sam wakes up and says, “Here, what are you pawing at him for?” Yeah! That’s his job! This causes the Grinch to have an epileptic seizure. Oh, wait, I guess that’s a tantrum. He whines about how Sam doesn’t trust him, and Sam eventually backs down.

Now it’s back to Gimli, Legolas, and Herman. They’re at Helm’s Deep (that was quick), and Gimli is blathering about how he likes this place because there’s good rock here. Cut to a hill somewhere, and there’s lightning, and a pack of dogs come running over. I think these are meant to be wargs, the giant wolves that the orcs ride. But these are obviously just dogs, and much too small to ride. And no, we never see an orc trying to ride one, which would have been amusing, to say the least.

Suddenly, the sky’s full of red cloudy stuff. No, I have no idea what that’s meant to represent. Maybe the gods spilled their Kool-Aid. The guys up on the wall of Helm’s Deep see the orcs marching up in a big group, singing fight songs, and it’s actually quite melodious. Which is kind of odd, given the rough, snarly voices they’ve used so far.

Caption contributed by Jet

The bloodthirsty (and coloured) orcish horde.

The wargs attack some random guys, while people on the wall shoot arrows at the orc army. Happily, they hit the guy with the trumpet first. Some boring fighting ensues, and it’s so tedious I won’t bother to describe it in detail. Let me put it this way instead: A lot of arrows are shot. People die. The orcs rush at the walls, putting up ladders. Gimli and Legolas kill some of them. Ladders get tipped backward. More fighting.

And then the orcs use a battering ram on the stone wall, even though there’s a gate right next to them [!]. Then some weird sparkly crap comes shooting out of Isengard, comes all the way over to Helm’s Deep, and blows up the wall. What. The. Hell? Was that really necessary? In the books and Peter Jackson’s movie, the orcs just use gunpowder to blow a hole in the wall. But I suppose that wouldn’t have been “groovy” enough.

Caption contributed by Albert

“Shit, who let the Tron light cycles into this movie?”

The good guys retreat into the caves under Helm’s Deep, while we continue to hear the orcish battle-songs in the background. Again, they’re quite nice to listen to. In the caves, a lot of wounded guys are lying around, not moving. Though, that’s mostly because they’re not animated. Strangely, Théoden is still on his horse, so this must be one of those fabled ride-through caves. He tells Herman he’s going to go out and fight some more, because of Honour or some crap like that, and Herman agrees to go with him.

Now it’s back to Sam and Alvin. They’re sitting and resting, and Alvin is depressed. Sam mentions they’re low on food and only have enough to get to Mount Doom. Alvin is incredulous that Sam actually thinks they’ll still need food after they’ve waltzed into Mordor. Needless to say, Sam just looks bewildered. Alvin gets his big Oscar Moment™ when he goes on to say, “Just to get there! Just to get there! Oh, the [Tap Washer] is so heavy now, Sam… “

After Sam watches him suffer this anguish for a bit, what do you think he does? Comfort him as a true friend should? Try to cheer him up? Nope. He gets up and wanders off, whistling cheerily to himself [!!]. No, I really mean it. It really happens, and it’s quite possibly the most beyond-the-pale moment in the whole movie.

Caption contributed by Jet

“Okay, Mr. Alvin. Good luck with allllll that.”

The Grinch comes along, telling them it’s time to move on. While he babbles, Alvin casts a despairing look at Sam, probably thinking, “Well, now I know who my real friends are.” The Grinch wants them to take them to some secret stairs (obviously, the ones leading to Shelob), and they walk off.

And this… this is the last we’ll see of Sam, Alvin and the Grinch, if you can believe that. Yes, that’s it. We never see Mordor. We never see Mount Doom. We never find out what happens to the Tap Washer. Which basically defeats the entire purpose of the whole movie.

Instead, we cut back to the orcs outside the caves at Helm’s Deep. The orcs are battering the door, trying to get in, when suddenly they hear a battle kazoo. They immediately shit themselves and run off. What? These guys can be scared off by a kazoo?

Herman and Théoden show up with an army of Riders, and they go around gruesomely slaying orcs for an interminable period. Grape-juice blood squirts everywhere. Suddenly, the heroes realise they’re totally surrounded by orcs. Way to go, guys. Inexplicably, the music grows heroic and triumphant at this point. Wait, who are we rooting for, again? The orcs start closing in slowly, and it looks like it’s The End for our heroes. What a shame.

This advance goes on forever, until Théoden starts yelling, “Gondor!” or something at the top of his lungs. Or perhaps he’s saying “Gandalf”, because that’s who shows up at this moment. Gandalf and some other guys rush in and vanquish the orcs in minutes. There’s lots of slow-mo carnage, and then Gandalf, standing in a shaft of sunlight, throws his sword in the air. The Narrator leaps in and delivers the following spiel:

Narrator: The forces of Darkness were driven forever from the face of Middle Earth by the valiant friends of [Alvin]! As their gallant battle ended, so too ends the first great tale of… The Lord of the Rings!

Then the movie ends. No, really. The End. And it really was the end, since the planned sequel was never made. It’s a shame, because I for one would have liked to see how they ruined the scenes where Sore-on gets his arse kicked. Whoops. Hope I didn’t spoil anything for you.

I started out thinking this movie would be boring and inept, and I quickly realized I was wrong. It’s boring, inept, confusing, ugly, poorly acted, incompetently scripted, and has an equally ghastly soundtrack.

It’s also annoying as hell, mostly for making all the characters act like moronic pricks. Not one of them was likeable, even for a minute. Legolas is a snob. Gimli never does anything. Gandalf is a bullying dickwad. Aragorn is… well, also a bullying dickwad, and a miniskirted one at that. Frodo is whiny and useless. Merry and Pippin well-earned their Idiot Cousins nickname. And Sam… don’t even get me started. I kept hoping he would die, despite already knowing from the books that he survives.

I understand that Tolkien was mortified by the idea that his books might one day become animated movies. But luckily for him, he died before this movie was made. Had he seen it, I’ve little doubt he would have hunted down and personally killed everyone responsible for this monstrosity. It’s what I would have done. Anyway, to summarise:

It burns us! It freezes us! It bites us!

Arya

[removed by request]

Multi-Part Article: The Lord of the Rings (1978)

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