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Tolkien Fans Go Bananas Over Unearthed Soviet Version of LOTR

They're watching 'Khraniteli,' which aired just once on TV in 1991, with fascination, amusement
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 6, 2021 7:24 AM CDT

(Newser) – If you're a JRR Tolkien fan who can't wait for the next project based on his work, take a trip back in time to a bizarre, previously made adaptation you've likely never seen. A full 10 years before Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring, the first in his Lord of the Rings series, came out in 2001, the Soviet Union produced Khraniteli, a 1991 low-budget film based on the same Tolkien book. The Guardian notes that the made-for-TV movie was said to have been broadcast just once before it vanished, but a YouTube version has suddenly and surprisingly emerged on 5TV's YouTube channel in two parts. Fans are going bonkers for it: The first part had more than 730,000 views as of Tuesday, while nearly 160,000 of the really dedicated made it to the second installment. Just don't expect the long-lost flick's sudden popularity to translate to an Oscar for best foreign film. As Samuel Axon from Ars Technica notes: "An Andrei Tarkovsky masterwork it is not."

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Instead, viewers seemingly can't take their eyes off the film because it's more or less a cinematic trainwreck, with "ludicrous" special effects, the most basic of costumes and sets, and a nostalgia-inducing score created by Andrei Romanov of the Russian rock band Akvarium, per the Guardian. The paper notes Tolkien adaptations were sparse in the Soviet era, with some suggesting Tolkien's storylines were too iffy for Soviet censors, while others say the intricacy of Tolkien's plots and language would've made him difficult to translate into Russian. The BBC spoke with Irina Nazarova, an artist who saw Khraniteli when it first aired. Her brutally honest and hilarious take on the new viewing? "I felt shock and pity ... It really was laughter through tears." Nazarova's perspective aside, some fans can't thank 5TV enough for unearthing and posting the movie. "There should be a statue to the person who found and digitized this," one commenter wrote. (Read more Lord of the Rings stories.)

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