July 25, 2021

The Lord of the Rings: everything we know about the 70s live-action movie

Few books have had such great adaptations as the The Lord of the rings, by Peter Jackson, which were recognized by the public and critics and marked a before and after in the history of fantastic cinema. What not everyone knows is that 30 years before The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring hit theaters – 91% of the rights to the saga had been acquired by United Artists and the three novels would be adapted into a two-and-a-half-hour feature film.

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The one in charge of accomplishing this feat would be the British director John Boorman, who before working on the adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s work presented a script about the magician Merlin to the studio; the producer David Picker commissioned Boorman to adapt instead of Merlin The Lord of the rings. The filmmaker was unfamiliar with the book but was quickly drawn to the material, as it was heavily influenced by Celtic and Norse mythology and the Arthurian legends that he was so passionate about.

Together with screenwriter Rospo Pallenberg, with whom he would later work on several occasions, Boorman embarked on the complicated adventure of adapting The Lord of the rings in a two and a half hour movie. In the early 1970s, special effects were a problem, so they had to figure out how to try to cut production costs, and by cutting a 1000-page story by two and a half hours inevitably many elements had to be discarded.

While Boorman was working on the script, he received a letter from Tolkien asking what the adaptation of his work would be like. Knowing that it was a live-action feature film relieved the writer, as he feared that an animated feature film would be made. The Lord of the rings. What Tolkien still did not know was that Boorman and Pallenberg’s script had huge changes to its story, which would have received his utter disregard.

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After six months of work the script was finished, but at that time United Artists had several box office failures and was in crisis, the producer who commissioned the adaptation of The Lord of the rings he had left the studio, and Boorman was devastated to find no one to produce it for him. Eventually the rights ended up in the hands of animator Ralph Bakshi, who made the animated film The Lord of the Rings – 50%, released five years after Tolkien’s death.

The most interesting part of this story is the numerous changes that would have angered Tolkien purists and Tolkien himself had he seen it, it was a film inspired by The Lord of the rings but with more from Boorman and Pallenberg than from its original author. To begin with, when Aragorn first appeared, he would carry the Narsil sword broken into two pieces and use them as two swords. During the trip to Moria Arwen would tell him (through a vision) to give one of the two pieces to Boromir, and he would do it in a kind of ritual where the three of them would kiss the Narsil fragments and kiss each other. After the fall of Boromir, Aragorn would receive back the fragment.

In their attempt to save money and not rely on complicated special effects, Gandalf and Saruman would have a duel of words inspired by African wizard duels, presumably ending with the good wizard succumbing to the spells of his enemy:

Gandalf: Saruman, I am the snake about to strike! (Saruman, I am the snake about to attack!)
Saruman: I am the staff that crushes the snake! (I am the rod that crushes the serpent!)
Gandalf: I am the fire that burns the staff to ashes! (I am the fire that burns the rod to ashes!)
Saruman: I am the cloudburst that quenches the fire! (I am the storm that puts out the fire!)
Gandalf: I am the well that traps the waters! (I am the well that catches the water!)

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Arwen would appear on several occasions but she would not be Aragorn’s wife, she would be played by a thirteen-year-old teenager. We would first see her in Rivendell, where Frodo is taken after the defeat of the Nazgul at the fords of the river Bruinen. The hobbit would be lying naked on a glass table, covered in green leaves and surrounded by elves singing songs; Arwen would extract the shard of Morgul’s dagger from Frodo with a red-hot knife.

The Council of Elrond was the scene of one of the most interesting scenes, as the history of the Rings of Power and the defeat of Sauron would be presented in a kind of Kabuki play combined with rock opera and circus performance. Later at the gates of Moria, Gandalf would bury the dwarf Gimli in a hole, cover him with a cloak and beat him almost unconscious, in order to awaken his subconscious ancestral memory, that he would remember the password and they could enter the mines. .

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One of the most scandalous changes to Tolkien’s work, and one that the author would not have liked at all, is a sex scene between Frodo and Galadriel in the forest of Lothlorien, prior to the scene where the hobbit looks for him. Galadriel’s mirror. Celeborn, the elf’s husband, would not appear in this version. The most infamous of the case is that in an interview with The Guardian, Boorman said that the actors who would play the hobbits would be children of 9 or 10 years with a lot of makeup and whose voices would be dubbed in post-production by adults.

Everything previously presented contains very large changes with respect to the original material, but it is the most “faithful” part. The film would be divided into two parts, the first one more or less followed the events of The Fellowship of the Ring, but the second part would have many more creative freedoms.

In the battle outside of Minas Tirith, because the special effects were not very advanced, the winged beast that the Witch King was flying would be omitted, instead he would ride some kind of skinned horse, a terrifying image that did not It appeared in Tolkien’s book, but that is one of the best changes Boorman and Pallenberg came up with. A great moment would also take place during that important battle: Narsil would magically reforge himself just before Aragorn was proclaimed king of Gondor.

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Eowyn’s healing at the hands of Aragorn is another sexually charged moment, and having healed the lady of Rohan and consummating their love carnally, they would marry. Arwen here did not end up as Aragorn’s wife, she would go along with Gandalf, Frodo, Bilbo, Galadriel and Elrond from Middle-earth in the final scene.

The failed project was a huge disappointment to Boorman at the time, but served as preparation for Excalibur – 82%, a film that adapts the Arthurian legends and that to date is one of the best adaptations that have been made on the Matter of Britain. In its mind-blowing scenes inspired by Pre-Raphaelite painters we can imagine what it would have looked like The Lord of the rings under his direction.

Yet even Boorman knows that had his feature film The Lord of the rings, the trilogy of Peter Jackson it would not have existed, and he acknowledges that what Jackson and his team did is a milestone like no other. In an interview with Vulture In 2014 the director said of the Lord of the Rings trilogy: “I think it is one of the greatest works of art of the century.”

Sources:

Three Rings for Hollywood: Scripts for The Lord of the Rings by Zimmerman, Boorman, and Beagle

John Boorman’s The Lord of the Rings

John Boorman: ‘You think the holy grail is lost? No. I have it on my piano’

Director John Boorman on Young Christopher Walken, Lord Of the Rings, and Violence in Film

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