This presentation is a decent condensed version of the first half of the story, but the 2nd half is missing entirely. The compressed nature of this film leaves out a lot of information, but if you have seen the Peter Jackson films, or read the books, it shouldn’t be too hard to follow; however, as an introduction to the Lord of the Rings, the movie will be very confusing. The nature of the compression is odd too as the early parts are done well, but as the film moves on the holes in the story are bigger and more frequent, making it seem that the film makers ran out of time, or film before the movie could be finished.
Some of the details of this version are also a bit strange. Sauroman is called Auroman, but only sometimes (if this was done to prevent confusion with Sauron, then why only sometimes?). And though he is Sauroman (Auroman) the White, he is inexplicably wearing red. Also strange is that the Gondorians, including Boromir, are presented as Vikings complete with horned helmets. While these artistic choices stand out like sore thumbs, the film does strive to be true to the source material and much of the dialog is pulled straight from the text.
As is true with many of Ralph Bakshi’s film’s rotoscoping in heavily employed, though this is an example of rotoscoping gone wrong. Many of the characters appear much like the characters in Tron, with animated hair over a sepia toned, live-action face. And during battles, its not easy to tell who is who.
In spite of its shortcomings, Lord of the Rings performed well at the box office. In 1978, this film which cost $4 million, earned back $30 million. Comparing this to the masterful trilogy made by Peter Jackson makes this film seem like an utter failure, but this version preceded Jackson’s by over 20 years, and even had some influence on artistic choices made by Jackson. So, over all, it’s not a complete waste (or at least it wasn’t when it came out) and at least it is not an insult to Tolkein’s works. Still it is hard to overlook the fact that half the story is left untold, and no sequel ever came. Maybe I would feel different if the film was called Lord of the Rings - Part 1 (To be fair, Return of the King was released as a TV semi-follow up to this film, though its presentation was in style of The Hobbit, complete with songs, and much more family friendly). Lord of the Rings fans, or fantasy fans in general should check this out, but its not really worth repeat viewings, and Bakshi fans would be better off sticking with Fire & Ice. As for Rings, it earns a C.