Did 'The Lord Of The Rings' Rip-Off ... 'The Lord Of The Rings'?
Still arguably the best epic film series about having to return a piece of jewelry, The Lord of the Rings trilogy turned 20 last month. Yup, if you conceived a baby during one of the lulls in The Fellowship of the Ring, that child is now technically an adult. But of course, Peter Jackson wasn’t the first filmmaker to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s books to the big screen. For starters, there was the Finish TV miniseries/waking nightmare.
But there was also legendary Wizards director (and less-legendary Cool World director) Ralph Bakshi’s animated The Lord of the Rings from 1978, which, sadly, was only able to tell around half of Tolkien’s story. While both Jackson and Bakshi were both, obviously, working from the same source material, it sure seems like Jackson incorporated specific elements from the ‘78 film in his version.
On his DVD commentary, Jackson admits that his first-ever exposure to The Lord of the Rings came by way of the Bakshi film. He also points out that his shot of the crusty Hobbit Proudfoot at Bilbo’s birthday party was “deliberately copied” from Bakshi as an “homage to the cartoon.”
As for the iconic moment where the Hobbits hide from the villainous Nazgûl beneath the roots of a tree, it wasn’t in the novel – but it was in the animated film. Jackson’s scene could also have been inspired by a painting depicting a similar tableau published in the 1987 Tolkien Calendar … which the artist later admitted was subconsciously “inspired by the Bakshi movie.”
Perhaps most damning is the scene in which the Nazgûl stab the crap out of the Hobbits’ beds, only to discover that they’ve relocated and left pillows behind in a Ferris Bueller-like deception.
While the book reveals that the Hobbits’ room was broken into, and the “bolsters slashed and flung upon the floor,” the incident is never actually depicted. Tolkien even implies that the townspeople of Bree might have been behind the attack. So where did Jackson get the idea for this scene? Well, here’s another clip from Bakshi’s movie …
One person who’s not happy about all this is Bakshi himself, who routinely points out the similarities in interviews and straight-up claims Jackson’s films were a “rip-off.” And it’s not too hard to see where he’s coming from; a film series that went on to make billions of dollars at the box office didn’t credit him, let alone financially compensate him, for what was clearly a substantive artistic contribution. On the other hand, Bakshi doesn’t seem to care about the degree of influence he may or may not have had on Finland’s creeptastic version.
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Top Image: New Line Cinema