Rediscovered Soviet TV Version of “The Lord of the Rings” Is Kind of Insane

Seemingly lost for 30 years, the low-budget take is now on YouTube

Bilbo Baggins addresses his birthday party in "Khraniteli," a Russian language adaptation of "The Lord of the Rings" from 1991
Bilbo Baggins addresses his birthday party in "Khraniteli," a Russian-language adaptation of "The Lord of the Rings" from 1991.
Screenshot via YouTube

The Lord of the Rings has been made into everything from a Swedish live-action film to a Ralph Bakshi animated tale, but the most famous adaptation is certainly Peter Jackson’s 21st century film trilogy, which had a combined budget of just under $300 million. But a little-known Russian-language version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy classic has come to light, and it certainly cost, well, a lot less.

As reported by The Guardian, a Soviet television adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring from 1991 was just released on YouTube. Called Khraniteli, the “low-budget film appears ripped from another age: the costumes and sets are rudimentary, the special effects are ludicrous, and many of the scenes look more like a theatre production than a feature-length film,” as the newspaper notes. (There are also Soviet-era low-budget live-action and animated versions of Tolkien’s other Middle Earth classic The Hobbit that pre-date this TV film.)

This recovered version, which apparently only aired once, is now available in two parts online and even contains some elements from the books that never made into Jackson’s films, including an appearance by the character Tom Bombadil. What it’s lacking is modern-day special effects. “Huh, so this is what LOTR with a $5 budget would look like,” one YouTube commenter wrote. “When you bring LSD to Rivendell and have a hard trip with your bros: the entire dang movie,” said another.

There’s some theatrical charm here, but let’s hope Amazon’s upcoming take on the property ups the production quality.

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