The Lord of the Rings (1978) (part 4 of 11)
Then we go to the hobbits leaving the Shire in a merry little group (yeah, whatevah). Merry and Pippin have already joined the quest. We don’t even get to see Alvin meet them; They’re just suddenly along for the ride, and the only explanation we get is Sam muttering something about Alvin’s “cousins” insisting on coming. Hell, we don’t even learn their names for several more scenes. Thus, for reasons that will soon become obvious, I have dubbed them the Idiot Cousins.
This is followed by a nauseating montage of the hobbits travelling, including a really awful bit where they “sing a song”. It’s just a lot of tuneless la-la-la’s, which is technically only a “song” if you’re so drunk that you’re about to die of alcohol poisoning. But since this movie is rapidly inspiring me to approach that state, I guess it doesn’t really matter.
The montage finally ends when they encounter a Black Rider (gods, that sounds so cliché now). The Rider, of course, is a Ringwraith who was sent to look for Alvin and the Tap Washer, and I gotta admit this sequence actually is kinda spooky. When the hobbits hide in the gap under a tree root, the framing is exactly the same as Jackson’s version, so I guess he inexplicably decided to pay another little tribute to this film.
For some reason, the Black Rider has a terrible limp, and lurches around like a zombie. Also, he has glowing red eyes. This is a perfectly acceptable Sign of Evil™, but his horse has glowing blue eyes. So where was Bakshi going with this? And if the Rider were into bestiality, could he have a horrible horse-man child with purple eyes? Also, the Black Rider makes little agonised moaning and groaning noises the whole time. Maybe he’s watched the finished film.
Once the Rider has cleared off (without bothering to search the area properly, of course, because then the movie would be over), Alvin and the Chipmunks have an argument. It turns out that the Idiot Cousins have been doing a little spying, and already know what Alvin is up to.
Alvin gets pissy at them for stalking him, but they happily declare that they’ll stick with him through thick and thin. That’s what I was afraid of. Alvin once again acts like this is all cute and endearing, and he eventually says they can come along (dammit!). They all talk loudly about how they’re going to stay in a town called Bree, at an inn called the Prancing Pony. This leads me to conclude they must be really stupid if they’re telling the world exactly where they’re going, even after that supposedly scary encounter. Alvin mentions that he wishes Gandalf was with them, for no reasons I can see.
They reach the Prancing Pony, which is full of non-animated, tinted people making merry. It’s truly a bizarre sight, because the footage has a strange, psychedelic effect applied to make the actors look like drawings.
Either Merry or Pippin decides to go out for some fresh air, leading the other one (I have no clue which one is which, so if I have to refer to one by himself, I’ll just call him Idiot Cousin) to shout, “Remember, we’re ESCAPING IN SECRET!” You know, just in case any eavesdroppers were having trouble hearing him. That sound you just heard, by the way, was me face-palming.
Alvin is then called on to sing a song, which he does, and it’s such a horrible, horrible song that I’m not going to say anything about it, except mention how invisible backing instruments start playing behind him, much like what happened for Arch Hall, Jr.
While all this is happening, the Idiot Cousin is wandering around outside. Where is he going? Hell if I know. He gets stalked by a few of the Black Riders, who summon up some sort of blue smoke that knocks him out. Whereupon, they just walk off and leave him lying there. The bastards! Why didn’t they kill him? How can we be at all afraid for the heroes, with enemies like that?
Inside the tavern, everyone is dancing to Alvin’s song like it’s actually catchy or something, while a Mysterious Figure© watches them from the corner. Then Alvin falls off the table and turns invisible. What? Oh, yeah. The Tap Washer makes you invisible if you put it on. But I have no idea why everyone could still see Sore-on while he was wearing it. (Oddly enough, that’s a problem in Peter Jackson’s version, too.)
Now, I realize this event also happens in the book, but I find it very hard to believe anyone could accidentally put on a ring by falling off a table (in Jackson’s version, you see it fall onto Frodo’s fingertip, but in this one, you don’t see anything). Then again, I better keep in mind that it’s magic. Ah, magic. Is there anything it can’t explain away?
The people in the tavern freak out at this vanishing act, although not seeing Alvin anymore should really count as a treat. When Alvin reappears (stupidly, while everyone is still watching), the innkeeper yells at him and the hobbits run up to their room to escape. Here, they find the creepy Mysterious Figure© waiting for them.
The guy, of course, is Aragorn, a badass warrior whom Gandalf arranged to meet up with the hobbits in case he himself couldn’t make it. He’s voiced by the great John Hurt, who’s one of only two name actors in the movie. Hurt gives an okay performance here, but it’s easily missed, given how bad Aragorn’s characterisation is, and how ugly they drew him. He’s got a broken nose and a wrinkly kind of face which once again reminds me of Arch Hall, Jr. He also appears to be wearing a sleeveless mini-dress. No, I really mean that. Anyone here ever played Monkey Island? Because this guy is giving me some serious Herman Toothrot flashbacks. Henceforth, Aragorn’s name shall be Herman.
Upon meeting up with the hobbits, guess what Herman does? That’s right—he starts lecturing them about how stupid they are. He’s absolutely right, of course, but this still makes it kind of hard for me to like him. When the innkeeper comes in with the Idiot Cousin who got sedated, Herman shouts at him, too. Sam thinks they shouldn’t trust Herman, and it’s not good when the one person making the most sense is the Odious Comic Relief.
Regardless, Herman announces he’s a friend of Gandalf’s—yet another reason not to trust him—and he’s here to protect them. Yeah, whatever. If you’re going to wear a miniskirt, Herman, you should probably be protecting yourself. Against Sam. He’s a lot shorter than you are, if you catch my drift.
He also reveals that he owns a broken sword. The movie never really explains this, but the sword belonged to Mister Silhouetted Hero from the opening, and it broke when he cut the Tap Washer from Sore-on’s finger. Herman is actually his descendant and heir to his royal line, but refused the throne out of shame over his ancestor’s having fallen into the Tap Washer’s evil power. With me so far? I hope so. The book’s explanation was even more confusing, and this movie is a million times worse.
Later on, the Black Riders enter town, and ride through the streets for a while, whereupon they suddenly fade into thin air [?], only to reappear in the hobbits’ bedroom. Hey, there’s a neat trick! While “suspenseful” music plays, the background turns into a bizarre red-and-yellow tie-dye effect. See? I told you there’d be a lot of psychedelic stuff, and when Jet speaks, she does not lie.
The Black Riders hack away at the beds for a while, until they finally clue in to the fact that no-one’s in them. Well, maybe if you’d killed that Idiot Cousin instead of leaving him alive to tip off the others, they wouldn’t have gotten away. The tie-dye background vanishes, and the Riders move to the centre of the room, screeching. And I kid you not, they do a kind of go team! circle thing, complete with arm-waving. What are they, cheerleaders? Well, if that’s how you want to play it, Mr. Bakshi, from now on, they shall be the Black Cheerleaders.
In case you’re wondering where the hobbits are, we cut to a shot of them in Herman’s room, all snuggled up asleep, while a bored Herman watches them. So the Black Cheerleaders, having missed the hobbits… run out of town. What the hell? They’re practically invincible warriors of eeeeee-vil! Why not trash the whole inn until they find who they’re after? I’m sorry, but servants of eeeeee-vil who are so pathetic they can be foiled by simply moving to a different room aren’t exactly making me scared. Yes, I know that happened in the book, too. It’s still dumb.