Trent years after its only television broadcast, a Soviet adaptation of Lord of the Rings thought to be missing was unearthed and posted on YouTube last week, delighting Russian-speaking fans of JR R. Tolkien.
Based on The Fellowship of the Ring, first part of the famous saga, and aired on April 13 and 14, 1991 by Leningrad television, now Saint Petersburg, Khraniteli (“The guardians”) is made in the Soviet Union (USSR).
Released ten years before Peter Jackson’s hit film trilogy, this low-budget film is “As absurd and monstrous as divine and magnificent”, point Tea Guardian. At that time, the filmmaker has just made Meet the Feebles (1989) and is about to release Dead alive (1992), a gory parody film that won him the Grand Prix at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival. The New Zealander has not yet looked into the trilogy.
Director Natalia Serebryakova delivers a rudimentary and sometimes absurd version of the fictional world of Middle Earth, “Number of scenes more resembling a theatrical production than a feature film”, according to our British colleagues. The soundtrack does not help matters: composed by Andrei Romanov, one of the founders of the rock group Aquarium – who also acts as narrator – it reinforces the deliciously kitsch atmosphere of the film.
Uploads on Youtube on March 27 and 28 by Petersburg TV-5, the successor to the public channel Leningrad, the two parts of the film totaled nearly 850,000 views on Tuesday, April 6.
In 1991, the USSR finished breaking up, and Khraniteli is a reflection of the Soviet debacle. “Absurd costumes, dismal make-up, no directing of actors, no editing work… all of this evokes a country in the process of collapsing”, portrayed Russian artist Irina Nazarova, with the BBC.
More than the film itself, it is the conditions in which the shooting was carried out that attracts attention, she notes.. “It was shot without anyone’s help. Back then, people could wait for their wages for six months and did not know how to feed their children. “ “There were only four horses to camp the Nazguls, to give the impression that there were eight of them, they had to be passed through a second time in the frame”, testify Valery Dyachenko, who played the role of Frodo, on the Russian channel 360 °.
“The Lord of the Rings” banned in the USSR
Russian Tolkien fans have long sought Khraniteli in the archives, without managing to get hold of it, as the review explained World of fantasy in 2016.
Tea Guardian recalls that interest in the British writer emerged in Russia shortly after the release of the three volumes of Lord of the Rings, from 1954. But the trilogy which tells of the alliance of men, elves and dwarves fighting against a totalitarian Eastern power was seen as an allegory of the conflict between Western individualism and totalitarianism communism, which to him was worth to be banned by the Soviet authorities.
In the 1960s, an abridged version, called The history of the ring, circulating secretly in the Soviet Union. It is followed by translations distributed in the form of samizdat, these works secretly distributed in mimeograph or mimeographed form. It was not until 1982 that a redacted version of The Fellowship of the Ring, translated by Vladimir Muravyov and Andrey Kistyakovsky. After the collapse of the USSR, several translations of the trilogy were published.
According to World of fantasy, it was not the first adaptation of Tolkien’s work on Soviet television. In 1985, the Leningrad channel had broadcast The Fantastic Voyage of Mr. Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit, a low-budget adaptation with ballet dancers from the current Mariinsky Theater and a mustached narrator as Tolkien.
The site reports that in 1991, a cartoon project inspired by his work, entitled The treasure under the mountain, was launched and then discontinued. Of adventure, there are only six minutes left, available online.