Review: The Lord of the Rings (1978) Blu-ray

The Lord of the Rings by Ralph Bakshi Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Warner | DIRECTOR: Ralph Bakshi | CAST: Christopher Guard, William Squire, John Hurt
RELEASE DATE: 4/6/2010 | PRICE: DVD $19.98, Blu-ray $29.99
BONUSES: featurette
SPECS: PG | 134 min. | animated fantasy | 1:85:1 | Dolby 5.1

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The Lord of the Rings animated movie scene by Ralph BakshiThe remastered version of Ralph Bakshi’s animated The Lord of the Rings looks bright and beautiful on Blu-ray. The high-definition picture isn’t as pristine as modern animations, especially digital movies such as Astro Boy. In Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings, some grain can be seen in the video, but it adds to the nostalgia of watching this 1978 film.

The movie covers the first book in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, and halfway through the second, The Two Towers, stopping after the defeat of the orcs at Helm’s Deep. Fans of the more recent live-action version of The Lord of the Rings, directed by Peter Jackson, will enjoy seeing similarities in this older animated version, such as in the hobbit line of “Proud feet!” during Bilbo’s birthday celebration.

The sound is fine. Viewers won’t recognize many of the voice actors, but listen closely, and you might make out John Hurt of Hellboy fame as Aragorn.

The animation is far away from modern audiences are used to with Disney’s clean lines, but Bakshi’s round hobbit faces are charming. Some parts don’t have the drama of Jackson’s version, such as the gorilla-like Balrog, but the movie still has the spirit of the story.

This version of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s celebrated book trilogy is the first animated movie made using rotoscoping, where animators draw over live-action footage for realistic action. Bakshi discusses his use of the method in the featurette “Forging the Darkness: The Ralph Bakshi Vision for the The Lord of the Rings.” With interviews from Bakshi, his children and people he worked with, the featurette describes Bakshi’s childhood. We learn that if it wasn’t for a high school principle who sent Bakshi to an art school as a way to get rid of the misbehaving student, Bakshi might never have made the ground-breaking Fritz the Cat and later this Lord of the Rings.

The featurette is the only special feature on the Blu-ray disc, but it’s one Bakshi fans will enjoy.

Also, the Blu-ray package comes with the movie on DVD and a downloadable digital copy.

Warner debuted Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy on Blu-ray the same day.


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About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.