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The Lord Of The Rings Adaptation You Didn't Know Existed

Somewhere in New Zealand, Peter Jackson is sitting on his Smaug-style pile of gold weeping because he just found out his adaptation of The Lord of the Rings isn't the definitive one. He and the rest of the world just learned about Khraniteli, a 1991 Soviet made-for-TV adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy series, which will surely replace Jackson's expansive film series as the movie people think of when they think of The Lord of the Rings. In fact, Amazon has just fired everyone involved with the upcoming LotR series, and replaced them with the cast and crew of Khraniteli.

Okay, we're kidding about all that, but if you're a fan of The Lord of the Rings, you need to check out Khraniteli, which was recently uploaded to YouTube. It's a delightful piece of Soviet kitsch that's a rare, true rediscovery.

According to The Guardian, Khraniteli aired on Soviet television network Leningrad Television just once in 1991 — the last year of the Soviet Union's existence. (Perhaps this movie was the final straw in the Soviet Union's collapse.) It was forgotten in the archives until last week, when Leningrad Television's successor network, 5TV, uploaded it to YouTube. The film has gone viral on the Russian-speaking internet, with the first part of the two-part upload having been watched over 800,000 times.

Властелин колец

Khraniteli is laughably, charmingly low-budget, with community theater-style acting, costumes, and staging. The special effects are absurd. Watching it with English auto-translation subtitles only makes it slightly more comprehensible than it is without. It's a real treat for bad movie fans. It also includes a section with Tom Bombadil, an old guy who helps Frodo and his friends on their journey. Tom Bombadil didn't make it into Jackson's films due to his lack of importance to the plot, but he's hamming it up in this one.

The Guardian reports that this is thought to be the only adaptation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy produced in the Soviet Union. Leningrad Television did produce an hour-long adaptation of The Hobbit in 1985, called The Fantastic Journey of Mister Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit.

Tolkien's novels were hard to come by in the Soviet Union, and the first book in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, wasn't officially published until 1982, though bootleg translations had been floating around the Soviet Union since the '60s. The final two books weren't published until years later.

If you're a former resident of the Soviet Union feeling nostalgic for the culture of the final years of the empire, or just a fantasy-loving Russophile with two hours to kill, you should definitely check out this amazing artifact.