The Lord of the Rings (1978) (part 2 of 11)
Suddenly, we cut to a plain red-and-black drawing of a quaint village. My guess is it’s the Shire, the hobbits’ homeland, or a cut-price version of same. Gollum’s highly unconvincing yells of “we hates it forever!” continue to sound in the background, indicating he’ll be back later (the Tap Washer is like his crack pipe, after all).
Then the drawing slowly segues into a properly animated form of itself, which I concede is a rather neat effect. The OPN says, “It was Bilbo Baggins who took the Ring back to the Shire!” Did I call it, or did I call it? “His home,” OPN adds. Yes, I think we got that, mister. Anything else you’d care to tell us?
Enter Gandalf, a fully rotoscoped wizard riding his horse-drawn cart into the Shire. So I guess the story proper has finally arrived to bore us. Gandalf the Grey is a powerful (but kindly) wizard who likes the hobbits, and he’s come to town for Bilbo’s 111th birthday party. Unfortunately, the filmmakers were so stupid and inattentive that they didn’t take the name “Gandalf the Grey” as a cue to actually make the wizard’s robe grey. Instead, it’s bright blue. “Hey,” they must have said to themselves, “just because he’s called the Grey doesn’t mean he is grey. I mean, we’re only recreating this story as faithfully as we can. So there’s no need to obsess over little details. Oh, and pass that joint, will ya?”
OPN returns and identifies the character as “Gandalf the Wizard“, so at least they were sensible enough to scrap the name. They might be totally clueless, but at least they tried to cover their arses.
We go to Bilbo’s 111th birthday, and although all the hobbit partygoers are at least fully and properly animated, they look eerily like people with Down’s Syndrome. I mean, they’ve got the widely-spaced eyes, the lack of neck, the goofy grins, etc. Bilbo makes his famous drunken speech on top of a box, shouting stupidly and waving his arms about. As a previous reviewer once noted, rotoscoping has the unfortunate effect of making all the characters appear jittery and fidgety. And if Bilbo were twitching any more, he’d fall right off his block. His speech is about how he “has” to leave the Shire forever, although we never find out why.
While Bilbo speaks, we find Gandalf the Not-Grey talking to Our Hero, Frodo Baggins, Bilbo’s nephew. As noted in the character list, Frodo bears an uncanny resemblance to a chipmunk with a dishcloth on his head, which is why I’ll be referring to him as Alvin for the remainder of this recap.
Alvin and Gandalf exchange inane dialogue about how Bilbo “hasn’t changed a bit”. Just then, Bilbo conspicuously (and I mean really conspicuously) puts on the Tap Washer of Doom and vanishes in a puff of cheesy sparkles (which, I should note, is only the merest hint of the gay innuendo to come).
This causes Gandalf to make a silly I’m pissed off so I’m jerking my fist gesture. But don’t concern yourself too much with Gandalf and his stupid gestures, because he only makes them at select times. Like, whenever he’s mad, or concentrating, or awake at all. You know, times like those.
Bilbo reappears in his house, and Gandalf bursts through the door to hassle him about using the Tap Washer. To my horror, he’s rolling his Rs just as badly as OPN. Adding to the ridiculousness, he actually wags his finger at Bilbo while hectoring him about how he has to leave the Tap Washer for Alvin. What is he, Bilbo’s mother?
Not to be outdone, Bilbo throws his own hissy fit, waving his hands around spastically and ranting about how he wants to keep the Tap Washer for himself. He refers to it as “my precious”, despite the fact that they haven’t established why this is so horrifying. Had they done so, this would indicate that he, too, is becoming obsessed like Gollum, who always calls the Tap Washer “my precious”.
The filmmakers do try and suggest this is a Bad Thing, because Gandalf gets really pissed at Bilbo and yells, “Do not say that again!!!” As he says this, he squeezes his hand into a fist in front of his face before lowering it vehemently. The review I mentioned earlier refers to this particular gesture as “milking the giant cow”, and I honestly can’t think of a better name for it.
Although this gesture isn’t the least bit scary, Bilbo goes all wide-eyed and quickly changes his tune. Then there’s a brief shot of him finally leaving town, rocking from side to side for no reason, and that’s the last we’ll see of him for a good long while. And no, I’m not sorry about that.
There’s a wide shot of the Shire, now in wintertime, and we’re about to see one of the more bizarre effects in the film. Which is saying a lot.
The view slowly shifts from winter to spring, then to summer and autumn. Which is fine. But then OPN says, “Seventeen years passed sleepily in the Shire”, and the same four shots are shown in rapid succession, several times over. They’re shown at a rate of about four per second, enough so that the screen goes all flickery. Beats me why they did it that way, but it sure was weird, not to mention pointless. I guess a “17 years later” card would have been too subtle.
It goes back to summer one last time, and mercifully stays that way, and we zoom into Bilbo’s home. Apparently, it now belongs to Alvin, who’s asleep in his chair (the filmmakers helpfully dub in stupid snoring noises, just in case we might think he likes to smoke pot until falling into a coma).
He gets woken up by someone knocking at the door. Waving his arms around in exasperation (and frankly, I can’t blame him), he goes to answer it. Much to my dismay, he finds Gandalf on the doorstep. Alvin is inexplicably happy to see him, and actually does a stupid little jig on the spot, shouting, “Gandalf! It’s really you!!” like he’s a little kid who’s getting a surprise visit from Santa Claus. “It’s been so long!” he adds.
“Seventeen years”, Gandalf needlessly qualifies. That long, eh? Not nearly long enough, in my opinion. “Since Bilbo left,” he further exposits, which I think Alvin can figure out for himself. Then again, maybe he can’t.
Gandalf barges in without waiting for an invitation, and immediately starts twittering on (complete with attendant hand-waving) about how the ring Bilbo left behind may actually be the Evil Tap Washer of Doom which belonged to Sauron. Hey, great. He sits down at the fire and asks for it. Alvin reluctantly hands it over, and Gandalf asks if he sees any markings on it. Then he casually tosses it into the fire.
Alvin reacts with horror to this, and pulls one of the most ridiculous expressions I’ve ever seen. I inadvertently paused right on it in order to write this bit, and I think you’d be missing out if I didn’t provide a screencap to show you just how stupid it looks.
Alvin tries to pull it out of the fire, but Gandalf stops him, asking if he “already desires it so much”. Alvin hastily denies this, and asks what the point of throwing it in the fire was. Gandalf stands up and starts lecturing him. Sounding exactly like OPN now, he actually bulges his eyeballs as he speaks. And yes, he waves his hands around a lot, too. Thanks for asking.
Hilariously, he pronounces “Sauron” as “Sore-on”, which sounds like something you apply directly to facial herpes. Alvin’s bemused expression pretty much sums up my own feelings about Gandalf’s horribly overdone pronouncements. Although, he eventually reacts with horror when it occurs to him that Uncle Bilbo might be corrupted by the Tap Washer’s evil. But Gandalf advances, finger-first, and informs him that he’s the one who’ll be feeling the heat for this one. So suck on that, loser!
Gandalf pulls the Tap Washer out of the fire with his bare hands and hands it to Alvin, who keenly notices it’s not even hot. Then Gandalf begins reciting the famous poem that’s written on the ring.
There are two notable things about this scene: One, the words which were supposed to appear on the Tap Washer don’t, so Gandalf apparently just pulls the poem out of his arse. Two, while reciting it, he strides around the room, making goofy gestures that mostly put me in the mind of Dr. Doom in Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four.
I mean, at one point he actually twirls around on the spot like a ballerina. No, I am not kidding. And when he says the line “and in the darkness bind them!” he wraps his own arms around himself in order to illustrate the point. Good gods, is he for real? Anyway, the gist of it is that the Tap Washer is indeed the evil Tap Washer of Doom which belonged to Sore-on, and if it isn’t destroyed, the now-resurrected Sore-on could get it back and return to full power and enslave the world.