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Soviet Union’s Lost ‘Lord of the Rings’ Movie Rediscovered After 30 Years and Released for Free

The Russian-language film posted on YouTube, earning over 800,000 views in its first week.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING, Elijah Wood, 2003, (c) New Line/courtesy Everett Collection

Elijah Wood in Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”

©New Line Cinema/Courtesy Everett Collection

As first reported by The Guardian, a Soviet Union-era television adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved works was recently rediscovered and uploaded to stream for free on YouTube. The Russian-language 1991 made-for-TV movie is titled “Khraniteli” and is based on the first novel in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Posted to YouTube in two parts, the streams have earned a combined 800,000 views and counting in one week. The Guardian claims the video is “the only adaptation of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy believed to have been made in the Soviet Union.”

“Khraniteli” aired on television in 1991 only once before it disappeared. The film’s score was composed by Andrei Romanov of the rock band Akvarium. For the last 30 years, the movie has remained lost in the Leningrad Television vault and it was not found until 5TV, the successor to Leningrad Television, uploaded it onto YouTube for free. According to Russia’s Tolkien website World of Fantasy, “Lord of the Rings” fans “have been searching the archives but had not able to find this film for decades.”

As The Guardian notes: “The Soviet version includes some plot elements left out of [Peter] Jackson’s $93m blockbuster, including an appearance by the character Tom Bombadil, a forest dweller cut from the English-language version because he was too long-winded and failed to move the plot forward.”

That a “Lord of the Rings” movie would disappear at the end of the Soviet Union is not too surprising, as Soviet-era adaptations and translations of Tolkien’s Middle Earth saga are nearly nonexistent. The first “Soviet samizdat translation of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ was produced in 1966, more than a decade after Tolkien’s book of that name was published,” The Guardian reports. “And the first published translation came out in the Soviet Union in 1982, although its sequels, ‘The Two Towers’ and ‘The Return of the King,’ were not released until years later.”

When Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy opened in Russia in the early 2000s, they proved immensely popular with audiences. “The Fellowship of the Ring” grossed just over $7 million in Russia (via Box Office Mojo), followed by $8.8 million for “The Two Towers” and $12 million for the final installment “The Return of the King.”

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