1980, NBC / Warner Home Video. Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. Orson Bean, Theodore Bikel, William Conrad, John Huston, Roddy McDowell, Brother Theodore, Glenn Yarbrough.
Decent Films Ratings
|?Kids & Up|
Content advisory: Much cartoon menace, stylized monsters, etc.
Buy at Amazon.com
From a National Catholic Register review
By Steven D. Greydanus
The Rankin-Bass team, following their own 1977 The Hobbit and Ralph Bakshi’s incomplete 1978 Lord of the Rings, returns to finish the job, sort of, with The Return of the King. The approach here is about the same as The Hobbit, with similarly uninspired Saturday-morning style animation and an even more intrusive, overbearing folk-ballad soundtrack that doesn’t even gesture lyrically, as the Hobbit songs did, to Tolkien’s poetry.
The film hits the most critical plot points, but is clearly aimed at the younger set, with little to interest even the most avid adult Tolkien and/or animation buff. Unfortunately, this style works even less well here than in The Hobbit, which really is a children’s story. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is a much more adult work, but Rankin-Bass essentially makes a kid movie out of it. Even so, for kids too young for the Jackson or even Bakshi versions, the Rankin-Bass cartoons might be just the ticket.
At least the voicework remains mostly solid, with Orson Bean as Frodo, John Huston as Gandalf, and Roddy McDowell as Samwise. The landscapes, too, are quite evocatively painted.