The Lord of the Rings (1978) (part 3 of 11)

We then cut to somewhere outside, because the two of them have apparently decided to go for a stroll and loudly inform the entire neighbourhood of their secret plans. They carry on about how the Dark Lord knows the name of Baggins (because they captured and interrogated Gollum at some point), and so Alvin must leave the Shire.

Gandalf says Alvin has to figure out what to do with the Tap Washer. Alvin immediately wants to give it to Gandalf, but Gandalf refuses it. This causes Alvin to pull a disgusted face at him. Well, okay, Gandalf is pretty disgusting, but I don’t think the filmmakers were aware of this.

Caption contributed by Jason

“See, my eyes can focus in two different directions at once! To hell with Rivendell, let’s hit Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!

Then the bushes start rustling, and Gandalf hauls out an eavesdropper. It turns out to be Sam Gamgee, Alvin’s pal and gardener. Although, the movie never actually informs you of who Sam is, or how he knows Alvin.

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This is where the film takes a definite turn for the worse, because Sam has been turned into the Odious Comic Relief. When I watched Peter Jackson’s films, I was deeply moved by Frodo’s courageous and loyal friend who, despite his simple country upbringing, managed to find the strength to support Frodo through thick and thin, and without whom the quest would have never succeeded.

But in Bakshi’s LOTR, Sam has been turned into a giggling idiot. He’s supposed to be funny, but isn’t. The strange thing about this movie is that all the supposedly serious bits keep making me laugh, while the parts that are supposed to make me laugh just make me cringe. Namely, every scene with Sam in it.

Caption contributed by Jet

The Tap Washer brings down its awful curse: The Odious Comic Relief.

Sam starts strutting about like a windup toy, babbling about how he’s scared Gandalf will turn him into “something unnatural” (as if he isn’t already). Meanwhile, Gandalf and Alvin watch him with indulgent smiles on their faces, as if this display is somehow endearing. I’ve got news for you, Mr. Bakshi: it’s not.

Sam then utters one of the more unintentionally gut-busting lines in the movie. To wit:

Sam: Well, I heard a deal that I didn’t rightly understand, about an enemy and rings, and about elves, sir!

…which is more or less okay, but, as dozens of other reviewers have pointed out, no-one said anything about elves! Aargh! I can’t believe they would let that one slip. Meanwhile, as this doofus carries on, Gandalf gets a really obnoxious, patronising look on his face, like an evil version of your grandfather watching you sing “The Teddy Bears Picnic” for him when you were four.

Sam twitters about how he’d “love to see elves!” And to my fury, Gandalf takes this as his cue to say that Sam will be joining them on their journey to Rivendell, where the elves live. Also, since no recap is complete without gay jokes, I’ll add that Sam’s behaviour frequently suggests he has a more perverse reason for wanting to meet elves than the one given (i.e., no reason at all).

Gandalf then announces he must go and consult with someone named Aruman, whom I definitely don’t remember from the books. But the subtitles say Saruman, who definitely was in the books (he’s an even more powerful wizard than Gandalf). Throughout the entire movie, people will refer to the White Wizard (actually the Red Wizard, but we’ll get to that in a second) as either Saruman or Aruman, for no apparent reason.

The standard explanation is that test audiences got confused over the similarity of the names Sauron and Saruman. Although, there has to be at least fifty other more significant things in the movie to get confused over. And call me crazy, but I can’t see how it’s any less confusing to randomly switch back and forth between the two names. So, in order to avoid confusion for you, the reader, I’ll skirt around this and just refer to everyone’s favourite evil wizard as Aruman. Again, I’m choosing the goofier name to distance this mess even farther from Tolkien.

Anyway, Gandalf takes his leave, arranging to meet Alvin later on at an inn called the Prancing Pony. He cautions Alvin to be careful. This, coming from the guy who decided to discuss sensitive issues in a LOUD voice where someone was easily able to eavesdrop. Once Gandalf has mercifully departed, Sam does exactly what I was expecting him to do: he starts queening out. Doing an utterly idiotic little dance, he raves loudly about how he’s going to see the elves. And really, who wouldn’t be happy about going to see elves? They’ve got such tight bottoms! Ahem.

Sam struts away like a chicken with haemorrhoids, and finally gets the hell out of my hair for a while. Once he’s gone, Alvin rubs his head with a perplexed expression. Yeah, you and me both, pal.

Then we watch Gandalf’s journey to Isengard, Aruman’s tower, and it’s quite unconvincing, to say the least. Just imagine an animated character stumbling around in front of a static painting whose colour doesn’t match him in the slightest, and you’ll have the general idea. Gandalf then storms into Aruman’s chamber (yes, he just marches in, like my mother in a temper), and immediately starts doing what he does best: Hectoring Aruman in a loud voice while waving a finger in his face.

Caption contributed by Jason

Gandalf travels through the only realm more soul-numbing than Mordor: the Land of Awful Matte-Paintings.

Caption contributed by Jason

“Ah, hell! I was headed to Isengard, but I ended up in some Santa Claus movie!”

Aruman just stares grumpily at him, and I really can’t blame him. Unlike the copout where they conveniently forgot Gandalf’s colour title, they still refer to Aruman as “Aruman the White”, even though they dressed him in red. I’m not certain why they did that, but my guess is it’s to make him look more eeeeee-vil. Or more festive.

He also has huge hair, so much that it’s a wonder he doesn’t fall over under the weight. You can tell he’s also a wizard, because he, too, waves his hands around when he speaks. His voice is really dry, and strangely gnomelike, and the acting on display is just appalling (I mean, even more so than what we’ve already witnessed). The gist of their conversation is that Gandalf wants Aruman to help him do something about the Tap Washer and Sore-on. However, Aruman reveals that he’s gone over to Sore-on’s team, so to speak, and promptly attacks.

This is where things get really psychedelic. Aruman opens his robe (either so he can use his magical underarms, or kill Gandalf through the power of indecent exposure), and all sorts of weird lights start flashing in the background. It’s, like, so trippy, dude!

Caption contributed by Jet

Magic Underarms!

Then the walls abruptly fade away and they’re on top of the tower. Sweet! Teleportation technology in Middle Earth! Aruman marches off, leaving Gandalf mysteriously frozen in place on the tower for a few seconds. Then he comes back to life and starts shouting Aruman’s name in a melodramatic voice.

Aruman lets loose with a Boisterous Evil Laugh™, and we pan out abruptly from the tower to see how tiny Gandalf is in relation to it. This was clearly meant to be really dramatic ‘n’ stuff, but just comes off as comical, especially since there’s a disco ball spinning around in the background. Sure it’s blurry, but you can still tell it’s a disco ball. Shake ya groove thang, baby! Yeah yeah! So Gandalf is now Aruman’s prisoner and can’t leave. I just thought I should tell you that, because the movie doesn’t exactly make it clear. For all the viewer knows, Aruman just put him up there to admire the view.

Caption contributed by Jet

Note the disco ball in background.


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

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