Soviet Lord of the Rings TV Movie

In 1991, a Lord of the Rings TV adaptation titled Khraniteli aired on Soviet television. By all accounts, it’s the only Lord of the Rings adaptation made in the Soviet Union – and it was also thought to be lost forever. However, much like the One Ring itself, the Soviet Lord of the Rings TV movie has resurfaced – on YouTube. It’s a charmingly low-budgeted affair, looking more like a TV game show than a J. R. R. Tolkien adaptation, and you can watch it in full below.

Soviet Lord of the Rings TV Movie Part 1

Soviet Lord of the Rings TV Movie Part 2

Before Peter Jackson made cinematic history with his Lord of the Rings trilogy, there was Khraniteli, the only adaptation of the Tolkien books produced in the Soviet Union. After airing in 1991 on Leningrad Television, the adaptation was thought to be lost – but now it’s on YouTube, as The Guardian points out. Leningrad Television’s successor, 5TV, abruptly posted the film to YouTube last week – and you can check it out above.

Featuring a score by Andrei Romanov of the rock band Akvarium and some incredibly cheap production design, no one is going to confuse this Lord of the Rings with Jackson’s films. The Guardian also points out that this wasn’t Leningrad Television’s first crack at adapting Tolkien – they also released an adaptation of The Hobbit in 1985. The adaptation featured “ballet dancers from what is now the Mariinsky theatre and a moustachioed narrator standing in for Tolkien. The abridged production, titled The Fantastic Journey of Mister Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit, skips over the trolls and elves in an hour-long romp that was long believed to be the only finished Tolkien adaptation produced during the Soviet Union.”

And the Lord of the Rings adaptation Khraniteli appears to be just as unconventional in its approach. The sets look like, well, sets, and the special effects – if you can call them that – are delightfully hokey. This appears to have had almost no budget, and that only lends to the charm. There are no English subtitles on the two videos above but if you’re familiar with the overall story you can kind of follow what’s happening. This version also includes the character of Tom Bombadil, who didn’t make it into Peter Jackson’s films – not even the extended cuts. And eventually, Gollum also shows up here, in the form of a man wearing what appears to be a homemade Yoda costume. It’s pretty damn magical.

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