Friday, 21 June 2019

Big Gay Longcat reviews The Lord of the Rings (part three)

Merry and Pippin run straight into some Orcs (and the opposing animation style) and get captured. Boromir runs in and fights the Orcs until they shoot him full of arrows in a most unsporting way.

Even after he has been shot a few times Boromir still kills several more Orcs and scares the rest by making a scary face and raring at them, until they shoot him a few more times just to be sure. Only then does he finally get round to blowing his horn to alert the others, but by the time Strider, Legolas and Gimli get there the Orcs have gone and taken Merry and Pippin with them.

Strider promises the dying Boromir that he will go to Minas Tirith, and then Boromir goes

Strider quickly works out that Frodo and Sam have taken one of their boats and that it is only Merry and Pippin that have been captured, and the Three Hunters chase after them to attempt a rescue. They handicap themselves unnecessarily by running in slow motion - even Strider succumbs this time.

There follows a long sequence of the Orc force running with Merry and Pippin in tow before Pippin collapses and Merry's accent becomes Australian. As the Orcs halt, the Riders of Rohan attack them, wielding the animation style of the enemy against them.

Frodo and Sam are by now on their way to Mordor, and can even see their destination, Mount Doom, away in the distance. Gollum is following them. There have been glimpses of him before now, ever since the Fellowship passed through Moria and his glowing yellow eyes were visible, but now he enters the story properly.

Frodo spots Gollum and they ambush him.
"Don't hurt us! Don't let them hurt us, precious. Cruel little Hobbitses. Jumps on us like cats on poor mices, gollum. We'll be nice to them if they'll be nice to us, won't we, precious?"
Gollum mentioned cats! He is so effortlessly the best character in this.

When they tell him they are headed to Mordor, Gollum makes a run for it, and when they recapture him they bind him with the Elven rope which hurts him (the film does not explain why) until they take it off when he promises
"Smeagol will be very good. Smeagol will swear never to let Him have it. Smeagol will save it."
The first foreshadowing of Gollum's eventual fate, and the Ring's.

Back at the battle between the Rohirrim and the Orcs of Isengard, some of the Orcs are very good at standing still. They're not very animated, is what I'm saying, mew. As the battle goes poorly for their captors, Merry and Pippin are left unattended, and they escape into Fangorn Forest where they meet Treebeard.

The Three Hunters have also reached Fangorn. A wizard comes out of the woods and Gimli says
"Your bow, Legolas, it's Aruman! Shoot, before he puts a spell on us, quickly!"

It's really Gandalf, trolling them by being mysterious and pewpewpewing the weapons out of their hands before finally revealing himself. Gandalf tells them of his fight with Balrog, and it is presented to us as a series of still images in a very different style to the rest of the film, an almost abstract depiction of the titanic struggle between the two Maiar.

They ride to Edoras (their acquisition of horseys skipped over) while Gandalf gives the exposition of what is going on in Rohan, and who Théoden, Gríma Wormtongue (whose nickname is presented without introduction as though it were his real name) and Éomer are.

There is a scene where Saruman, with Wormtongue at his side, makes a speech to his Orc army. Either this is a flashback, or else Wormtongue teleports to Edoras in time for the next scene where he says to King Théoden
"Did I not counsel your doorkeeper to forbid his staff?"
although the scene with Háma trying to do this is sadly missed out, which is a shame because it is a classic bit of Gandalf trolling. Alas, it is understandable that it would be cut for time.

Wormtongue gives himself away as a baddy when he tries to stab Gandalf although, if you ask me, his unfortunate surname, shifty appearance and creepy habit of stroking King Théoden's beard should have been enough clues.

Gandalf advises they travel to Helm's Deep and Théoden takes his entire army with him. On the way there, Gandalf suddenly rides off on his own (well, on his own apart from Shadowfax) leaving Strider and Théoden to become friends.

Cut to Frodo, Sam and Gollum. Except that Gollum has gone - snuck away while the Hobbits were having sleeps.

He comes back with a fish, nomnomnom.

As they march on, Frodo is tired, and Gollum says
"The precious is heavy, yes? Very heavy. Smeagol knows. If it's too heavy for nice master, little Smeagol will carry it. Smeagol doesn't mind. Give it to Smeagol."
To which Frodo becomes grumpy and replies
"Do not say that again! Do not think it! Before you touched the precious again, Smeagol, I would put it on and have you leap off a cliff, or into a fire... and you would do it, Smeagol."
So at the same time we see the growing influence of the Ring upon Frodo, and further foreshadowing of the fate of Frodo, Gollum, and the Ring itself.

In the next scene Frodo and Sam are having sleeps again, and Gollum stays awake to debate with himself what he ought to do.
"Smeagol's promised.
Yes, yes, we promised to save our precious, never to let him have it... but it's going to him, my precious, nearer every step.
I can't help it. Smeagol promised to help nice Hobbit. He took cruel rope off our leg. He speaks nicely to me.
He's a Baggins, my precious. A Baggins stole it. We hates Bagginses. Must have the precious. Must have it. We wants it. We wants it.
But there's two of them.
Yes. We needs help, precious. She might help. Yes, She might help us..."
Andy Serkis received a lot of praise for his performance as Gollum, he even won some awards, but even at his best he is nowhere near as good as Peter Woodthorpe is here, and in the next bit when Sam accuses him of "sneaking off and sneaking back" and Gollum goes into a huff over the word "sneak."


The Orc army attacks Helm's Deep while singing a song. There hasn't been enough songs preserved in this version of Lord of the Rings (music, yes, but not songs) so it is nice to see this. There is then quite a long battle scene, although such things are relative and it is nowhere near as lengthy as the one in the 2002 film of The Two Towers, where it seems to take up most of the movie.

Legolas and Gimli's friendly competition here plays out with them trying to prove which animation style is best - Gimli adopting the realistic style along with the Rohirrim extras, while Legolas stays cartoony.

Saruman attacks Helm's Deep with magic spells of pewpewpew to breach the walls.

Our heroes retreat "to the caves" while the Orcs finish their song. They're trapped and things seem bad, but Théoden determines to ride out in the morning, and he asks Strider to come with him. D'awww, they really are best friends now.

Back with Frodo, Sam and Gollum, and Gollum tells them about "Smeagol's secret way - the straight stair and the winding stair." Sam asks
"What comes after that?"
only to get the evasive reply
"We shall see. Oh yes, we shall see..."
Except we won't, because that is the last scene of the film with them in it.

At Helm's Deep, the Orcs are still trying to break into the caves through the front door when they hear many horns sounding, which gives them pause (pause, not paws) and they start running about in some confusion. Our heroes ride out, led by Strider and Théoden. This has unexpectedly turned into a mighty bromance between the two.

Despite the initial advantage from their surprise attack, there are too many Orcs for them to beat. The Orcs surround them and begin to close in, when Gandalf arrives with reinforcements in the nick of time! I would have said Gandalf arrives with the cavalry, but King Théoden's army is also cavalry so that doesn't quite work.

The theme music begins playing in triumph as Gandalf rides around, gorily killing Orcs in slow motion. Then Gandalf throws his sword up in the air to signify their victory as the narrator says
"The forces of darkness were driven forever from the face of Middle-earth by the valiant friends of Frodo. As their gallant battle ended, so too ends the first great tale of The Lord of the Rings."

Strider, Théoden, Gandalf, Legolas and Gimli all ride off towards the camera, which was presumably between them and the sunset.

They obviously wanted and intended to make a second part. There are a few too many moments that are rendered entirely inconsequential if not there to be followed up in the sequel, such as introducing Éowyn only for her to do absolutely nothing, or Gollum's hinting at the presence of Shelob.

It's a genuine shame, as by far the biggest fault of the film, and the reason it is not better remembered, is that it leaves the tale unfinished. Which is ironic, when you consider how many of his stories Tolkien didn't complete - they even named a book after it!

So despite all the various omissions, changes and mistaiks in pronunciations, I still consider this to be a better adaptation than the 2001-2003 film trilogy. Why? Well, here's a list of all the things this film, struggling with its run-time as it was, didn't take the time to gratuitously add:

  • Théoden being possessed by Saruman and exorcised by Gandalf
  • Elves (other than Legolas) joining in at Helm's Deep
  • Gimli's running gag about being tossed (naughty Gimli!)
  • A whole extra subplot where Strider falls off a cliff and the others think he's been killed
  • Faramir taking the Hobbits to Osgiliath
  • Denethor running a mile while on fire
  • Saruman dying by falling on some spikes, instead of being murdered by Wormtongue after the Scouring of the Shire - which they definitely could have found the time for if they had put Shelob in the right bloody film in the first place!
  • And, most damning of all, Frodo sending Sam away, like the most clichéd of all Hollywood plot contrivances

But really, in the grand scheme of things, these are all just minor quibbles. My actual reason that this is the superior version is simply and entirely because Peter Woodthorpe plays Gollum.

The forces of Hoover were driven forever from the face of the living room by the valiant friends of Big Gay Longcat. As their gallant battle ended, so too ends the third great review of The Lord of the Rings.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Big Gay Longcat reviews The Lord of the Rings (part two)

Frodo wakes up and sees Gandalf. He has been healed by Elrond (Frodo, that is, not Gandalf). Gandalf explains to Frodo how he was trapped by Saruman (the film still doing itself no favours by using Saruman and Aruman interchangeably), with us even getting a little recap montage of those scenes from earlier in case we had forgotten or been having a sleep during them. He then goes on to explain how he was rescued by Gwaihir "the great eagle."

Frodo meets up with Bilbo. Bilbo asks to see the Ring again, and when he does he makes a face.

"Don't adventures ever have an end?"
John Le Mesurier and Ian Holm both play better versions of Bilbo Baggins, but for this one scene, and for the emotion put into that one line of dialogue in particular, the animated film does it best.

To get around the lengthy dialogues and massive exposition dump of the Council of Elrond, the narrator intervenes and provides us with a summary. We are then introduced to "Boromir of Gondor" (voiced by Michael Graham Cox, the other actor to later return for the radio series) who is distinguished by his horned helmet, giving Boromir the appearance of a stereotypical viking.

Boromir's eventual fall is foreshadowed early here, as he unconsciously reaches out for the Ring as soon as Frodo shows it at the Council.

André "Quatermass" Morell voices Elrond, although he is miscast - not so much Elrond the Half-Elven as Elrond the Middle-Manager. Still, he's not as miscast as Hugo Weaving was in the part.

Bilbo gives Frodo his mithril shirt and sword "Sting" and then the Fellowship of the Ring sets out. By this point, of the nine walkers, only Gimli remains unintroduced to us viewers. The scene then moves on immediately to the Fellowship caught in the snow while trying to pass over the Misty Mountains, and the decision whether or not to attempt the passage of Moria. Gimli steps up to support Gandalf when the rest of the company are against it, giving him his first moment of characterisation.

The scene then moves swiftly on again, and we find them at the doors of Moria, the site of one of Tolkien's rare continuity errors - the writing on the doors reads
Ennyn Durin Aran Moria: pedo mellon a minno. Im Narvi hain echant: Celebrimboro o Eregion teithant i thiw hin.
which Gandalf translates as
"The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Speak, friend, and enter. And underneath small and feint is written: I, Narvi, made them. Celebrimbor of Hollin drew these signs."
But of course Moria wouldn't have been called Moria when the doors were made, it would have been called Hadhodrond by the Elves of Hollin.

As Gandalf fruitlessly tries to open the doors, we see that Bill the pony is still with them, the unsung tenth member of the Fellowship of the Ring, and we get a little touch of character development between Legolas and Gimli:
"What a people you Dwarves are for hiding things. On the gates of your most wondrous, ancient kingdom you write 'Speak, friend, and enter,' and no spell in any language can open the door."

And then, when Gandalf succeeds:
"So, all you had to do was say 'friend,' and enter."
"Those were happier times."

Now for Cthulhu's favourite bit of Lord of the Rings, as the tentacle monster attacks Frodo. Boromir and Strider rush to help, looking a bit like He-Man characters in the way they run directly at and over the camera.

Sam says "Poor old Bill" as they have to leave him behind when the tentacle monster closes the doors on them. Spoilers: Bill survives, and I bet he gained a few levels after that encounter too!

The scenes set in Moria are among the most atmospheric of the whole film. The incidental music is subtle, or even absent entirely, which builds up the tension, although the slipping between animation styles - realistic in long-shot, cartoony when close up - can be quite distracting.

Pippin drops his stone down the well, leading to Gandalf's great line
"Fool of a Took!"

They find the record book of Balin (here pronounced as Bay-lin) and Gandalf reads out enough passages to heighten the tension still further, ending upon
"Drums. Drums in the deep."

 Orcs attack them, and there is a big fight. An Orc throws a spear at Frodo in slow motion and is then killed by Strider who has, once again, given himself an advantage by staying at normal speed. Gandalf says
"Run for it!"
and they are chased by lots more Orcs, and then...

Gandalf says the word as if it is the Balrog's name rather than the type of monster it is. He tells Balrog "you can not pass" rather than the far more famous and memetastic "you shall not pass!" of Serena McKellen.

Balrog designs tends to vary quite a lot between different adaptations. I like this Balrog a lot - he has a head like a lion's so it is tough for us cats not to be on his side. The worst version is probably the one from Street Fighter 2, he's certainly the least faithful to the book.

Gandalf and Balrog fight, and both end up falling into the chasm. Gandalf's last words are "fly, you fools!" which is ironic because Balrog is the only one there who has wings.

The rest of the Fellowship run out of Moria and straight into a scene change to Lothlorien, where they meet Galadriel and Celeborn (incorrectly pronounced as Seleborn). Galadriel is voiced by Annette Crosbie and Celeborn by Richard Wilson. Now I know what you're thinking - I don't believe it either!

Galadriel says "the forests have told us of your loss" which saves the party having to recap the story so far. There is then a montage of them resting and recovering in Lorien and feeling sad for Gandalf.

Galadriel brings Sam and Frodo to look into the Mirror of Galadriel. We don't see what the Mirror shows, only the faces of Sam and Frodo reacting to it. Galadriel reveals that she possesses Nenya, one of the Three Rings, and Frodo offers Galadriel the One Ring. She laughs and says
"And I came to test your heart. You will give me the great Ring freely, and in place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be evil, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!
I pass the test. I will diminish and go into the West, and remain Galadriel."
This is an abbreviated version of one of the best speeches in Lord of the Rings - the full version is even more powerful. It is therefore a shame the animation of this bit is so underwhelming, with the whole speech delivered by Galadriel in longshot, apart from one cutaway of Frodo looking mildly concerned.

They depart Lorien in boats and Strider spells out the choice they will soon have to make:
"Shall we turn west with Boromir and go to the wars of Gondor, or turn east to Mordor and its Dark Lord? Or shall we break our Fellowship?"
The others leave Frodo alone to choose his path, until Boromir comes back. He advises Frodo to go with him to Minas Tirith (pronounced Mine-ass Tirith, lol). Boromir's speech where he basically talks himself into trying to take the Ring from Frodo by force is a good one, and I presume was essentially Michael Graham Cox's audition piece for the radio Boromir.

"It is only yours by chance. It might have been mine. It should be mine. Give it to me!"

Frodo uses the Ring to escape and Boromir's madness passes. He instantly regrets what he did, and when he tells the rest of the party the Hobbits run off to look for Frodo and the Fellowship is scattered.

Sam has often been the comic relief character up until now, but here he proves his Vila-like cleverness when he reasons that Frodo would head for the boats to cross the river.

The forces of Hoover were driven forever from the face of the living room by the valiant friends of Big Gay Longcat. As their gallant battle ended, so too ends the second great review of The Lord of the Rings.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Big Gay Longcat reviews The Lord of the Rings (1978)

There have been many attempts to adapt The Lord of the Rings book over the years. The best of these by far is the BBC's radio version from 1981, which is the best thing that has evar been made evar (except for cats). But just as The Hobbit book preceded Lord of the Rings, so too was there a film version that preceded the radio series, one that remains to this day the best and most faithful attempt at adapting the book to a visual medium. 

To see why I consider it to be much, much better than the 2001-2003 trilogy, let's look at the 1978 film of

Let's start with the theme music, which is just as brilliant in its own way as the theme from the radio series, although the two feel different because they are trying for different moods - this is upbeat and fun while still hinting at the epic scale of the story, while the radio theme emphasises the epic by making it clear that this is serious business.
I do like the 2001 film music as well - its ponderous grandeur is well-suited to the extreme length of those movies - but it is a distant third place.

The opening narration is very close to the radio's - so much so that I do not think it can be a coincidence:
"Long ago, in the early years of the Second Age, the great Elven smiths forged Rings of Power."

We are given an impression of the events described by the narrator, as indistinct figures act them out in front of a red background. This takes us from the forging of the Rings, through the Last Alliance, to the One Ring being found by Deagol. It is at this point that we first encounter Smeagol/Gollum, voiced by Peter Woodthorpe, the single most perfectly cast role of all time.

No exceptions.

No, not even Paul Darrow as Avon. I really mean this.

Bilbo finds the Ring and is chased off (without riddles) when he hears
"Thief! Baggins! Thief! It stole our precious, our precious, our birthday present... Thief! Baggins! We hates it forever!"
Only then does the narrator introduce Bilbo and the Shire, as the animation style changes from silhouette to the more cartoony cartoon in time for Bilbo's party.


Bilbo does his disappearing act and leaves the Ring to Frodo in an envelope after Gandalf threatens him. The dialogue is very condensed but still does a lot to establish both Bilbo and Gandalf's characters, and of course the influence of the Ring when Bilbo calls it his "precious," an echo of Gollum's earlier words.

Bilbo departs and there is a montage of the seasons changing to show the passing of the 17 years.

Frodo is having sleeps when Gandalf arrives and wakes him up (17 years is a long sleep even for a cat). Gandalf throws the Ring into the fire and then has to restrain Frodo from burning himself trying to retrieve it. He says the Ring is "altogether evil" even before he confirms it is the One Ring by seeing the letters, and then begins to tell Frodo about the history of the Ring. For some reason Sauron is incorrectly pronounced as Saw-ron in this film instead of Sour-on.

Gandalf speaks the rhyme
"One Ring to rule them all
One Ring to find them
One Ring to bring them all
And in the darkness bind them"
in an incredibly hammy way, then the scene cuts to the two of them walking outside where Gandalf tells Frodo more of the story, about Gollum being captured by Sawron so that Sawron knows the Ring has been found. Frodo offers to give the ring to Gandalf because he is "wise and powerful." Gandalf says no very emphatically, perhaps forgetting that Frodo gave him the ring mere moments earlier so that he could throw it into the fire.

Sam is hiding in some nearby bushes (for no readily discernible reason) and overhears them talking. Gandalf finds him and pulls him out. Sam looks and sounds very, very derpy in this film, an unflattering country-bumpkin-turned-up-to-eleven portrayal.

Sam says he heard them talk "about an enemy, and rings, and about Elves, sir," even though Elves were not mentioned once, a flaw in the way the dialogue of this scene has been edited down. Gandalf instructs Frodo and Sam to go to Rivendell while he goes "to consult with the wizard Aruman, the head of my order."

This is the first instance of Saruman being called Aruman within the film, possibly the single most baffling decision on the part of the filmmakers - vying only with the fact that sometimes they do call him Saruman! I have heard a theory that they thought the names Sauron/Sawron and Saruman were too similar, something that was joked about in the old webcomic DM of the Rings, and so tried changing Saruman to Aruman to make them a bit more different (although, if you're doing that, why would you not at least be consistent about it?) but if this is true then how stupid are these mannys if they get confused just because the names both start with S and end in N and both have As, Us and Rs in them? Did they also wonder why our heroes are fighting against Superman?

When Gandalf meets with Saruman at Orthanc (where he calls him Saruman not Aruman - the film has taken less than a minute to confuse itself), Saruman the White is dressed in red and purple robes. He reveals he is now "Saruman of Many Colours," the most fabulous of all wizards, and he attacks Gandalf with a special effect and traps him. Gandalf then calls him "Aruman" as he departs, the film contradicting itself within the space of a single scene.

Gandalf is suddenly not in the room anymore, the camera pulls out to reveal he is trapped on a high place - this scene is weirdly trippy but effective, especially aided by the dramatic music.

When we rejoin them, Frodo and Sam have already acquired Merry and Pippin, and they montage their way out of the Shire until the first encounter with the Black Rider. The four of them and their pony hide just out of camera shot as the Rider comes in.

The Black Riders are very scary in this film, shadowy and sinister with glowing red eyes, and aided by the incidental music that plays whenever they are present. The music is really pulling its weight in building up the atmosphere in this film.

Where has the pony got to? Is it like Optimus Prime's trailer and can just vanish when not needed?

After this encounter the scene skips on to the town of Bree, thus establishing the age-old tradition of completely excising Tom Bombadil from all adaptations of Lord of the Rings.

At the Prancing Pony inn there is an uncomfortable mixing of two animation styles, as the local extras do not match up with any of the named characters. Frodo sings his song and falls off the table to put his finger in it, and when confronted by a grumpy Barliman Butterbur they run off to their room to find Strider already there waiting for them.

Strider is voiced by John Hurt, who adds some much-needed class to the part to help distract from the fact that they have animated Strider without any trousers. However he's no Robert Stephens (the radio Strider), and here you are left with the constant nagging worry that Strider is always on the verge of warning the Hobbits not to die of ignorance.

Strider's first scene is a crucial one as he introduces himself and wins the Hobbits (and us) over to trusting him, overcoming the suspicions of Sam and Butterbur. The dialogue here feels authentic to the original book, although some omissions and rearrangements have been done to speed it up.

The Black Riders enter Bree on their horseys, and then they teleport to the room in the inn - do the nine rings also function like teleport bracelets?
I suspect this was just easier for them to animate, similar to the reason teleporters were first introduced into Star Trek.

They make the background go all red as they attack the beds, which only serves to make this scene even scarier, but of course Strider has outwitted them and they are very grumpy once they discover the deception. Though they sure showed those bedsheets a thing or two.

The film cuts to the party making their way through the Midgewater Marshes. Here we learn their pony is called Bill, although the reason for this is left out and, if we didn't know better, Bill would appear to be the same pony they have had with them all along.

There is a short montage of them travelling to Weathertop. For all the condensation of this film, there is still time for some world-building if it helps develop the characters, so as they camp we hear Strider tell a few lines of the tale of Beren and Luthien, with all its parallels with the present situation of Aragorn and Arwen... which is odd, considering Arwen has been cut from this film completely and there is no other reference to Strider's subplot.
"And Beren was a mortal man, but Luthien Tinuviel was the daughter of a king of Elves, and she was the fairest maiden that has been among all the children of this world. Yet she chose to be mortal, for him. And when he died, she followed him. And so he was her doom...
...But he was her love as well."
As Strider says that last line, Frodo and Sam look into each other's eyes in such a way as to launch a thousand ships.

The Black Riders manifest out of the night and attack Weathertop. Frodo is compelled to put the Ring on. Strider tries to stop him with a "No!" that wouldn't pass for a Big No among self-respecting action heroes in our postmodern world.

Frodo disappears into the trippy shadow world of the Black Riders where he can see them but they can see him. They have a slow-motion fight until Strider, still in the real world so still at full speed, chases them off with fire. But he is too late to stop Frodo from being stabbed by the Morgul-knife.

The next day they meet Legolas.

Now I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that they don't meet Legolas at this point in the book. They meet Goldilocks Glorfindel instead. The BBC radio adaptation preserved this, while the 2001 film The Fellowship of the Ring chose to replace him with Arwen. I would suggest that all of these approaches have their advantages and disadvantages.

Using Glorfindel is, of course, the truest to the original author's vision. It also adds an extra character who is both interesting (not to mention pretty cool) in his own right as well as drawing out character traits of our heroes by his interactions with them, plus he serves as a further bridge from the smaller-scale Book 1 stuff to the larger, more epic scale of the later Books.
On the other paw, for adaptations with restricted run-time, adding an extra character is not necessarily a good thing, so swapping in a preexisting character means one less that you have to introduce and spend time on (and one less actor you have to cast and pay).

Replacing Glorfindel's role with Arwen is a fine example of this. Arwen is a notoriously underdeveloped character, so swapping her for Glorfindel at least gives her something active to do in the story, and the fact that she shares all of these scenes with her love interest Strider is a bonus. Glorfindel is also a very minor character, so can be changed or removed without making a massive change to the overall plot - much less than if, say, Arwen had replaced one of the Fellowship of the Ring.
(As I have mentioned before, I think it would actually have been better if they had done it the other way around and replaced Arwen with Glorfindel throughout the remainder of the story.)

Given that the 1978 film appears to have cut Arwen as well, replacing Glorfindel with Legolas seems a sensible alternative. It helps introduce Legolas to us now, thus spreading out our meeting the rest of the Fellowship from what would otherwise be a single scene at Rivendell.

The Black Riders catch up with them just as they get to "the ford of Rivendell." They send Frodo ahead on the one horsey they have (I have to assume this is still Asfaloth and they haven't substituted Shadowfax in to keep the number of horsey characters down) but the Riders attack him with distorted landscapes and scary music to hold him back - actually representing how the influence of the shadow world is growing upon Frodo even without him having the Ring on.

...And if you weren't scared before now, you will be when they speak:
"Come back, to Mordor we will take you."
I'm going to need Scary Cat to help me with this bit for sure.

Black Riders on the storm.

The landscape goes even madder, replaced with a stormy sky. Frodo hears Gandalf's voice say
"Run, you fool, run!"
Is that maybe a bit Ben-Kenobi-telling-Luke-to-run-on-the-Death-Star? It's certainly not from the book, and this film could - just - have been influenced by Star Wars given its 1978 release date.

Frodo is pursued in and out of the real world until all nine Riders are behind him. He crosses the ford and still bravely defies them, so they begin to cross after him. Even their horseys have scary red eyes, the Black Riders are pretty impressive as baddys go. Although you could argue that perhaps it shouldn't take all nine of them to go after one Hobbit, that's less impressive. However it is necessary for the plot as that way they are all of them caught by the river rising against them, a pretty impressive sequence visually and a solid conclusion to Book 1.

The forces of Hoover were driven forever from the face of the living room by the valiant friends of Big Gay Longcat. As their gallant battle ended, so too ends the first great review of The Lord of the Rings.

Monday, 3 June 2019

You were magnificent!

Rest in peace Paul Darrow. Forever Avon.

Let's hope the rumours of death have been slightly greatly exaggerated.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Eurovision 2019

Yesterday saw the most fabulous Caturday night of the year as mannys once again held their Eurovision Singing Competition. We were all very excited cats here, but then the actual competition turned out to be well below the usual standard. Not universally though - the two campest and most colourful entries were saved until last, these being from Australia and Notorious Eurovision Cheats Spain.

Plus the Iceland entry was... certainly something.

On top of that, there were a couple of songs I liked, including the one from Switzerland.

But my favourite was Norway's entry, perhaps helped by their costumes reminding me of Blakes 7 - look at the mannys to the left and right and it's easy to imagine Avon dressed like that.

The biggest disappointment for us cats was not in the songs (we loved all of them really!) but in the voting. They changed the system a few years ago after a competition where the winner got such an early lead that it was clear they had won well before all the votes had been cast.

The way it works these days is that we spend ages watching all the countries of Eurovision taking turns to give their votes (and there are 41 of them so this is often a three sleeps event for cats), but then they render it a big waste of time by the second stage of voting, where great big blocks of seemingly arbitrary votes that have been cast by mannys using their 'phones are given out.

I don't doubt that these votes are being assigned fairly, but the process is completely opaque to viewers so they may as well be entirely random, and the only advantage (if you can call it that, mew) to using this system is that it manufactures tension when the final set of votes are read out, which the presenters try to milk like Greg Wallace announcing who has won a Masterchef programme... only the live broadcast nature of Eurovision makes it look like the presenters don't know what they're doing.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

The Goodies in Seth Efrica

South Africa was the episode I was most looking forward to now that The Goodies has been released on DVD. I had previously seen several of their most famous episodes that had been put onto certain streaming websites (You know the ones I mean), but had missed this one.

Perhaps the mannys that did the uploading were shy about this one due to its controversial subject matter and, these days, its even more controversial way of tackling it. South Africa is a vicious, scathing satirical assault on the racist apartheid policies of South Africa at the time this was made, exemplified in the form of guest-star Philip "Solon" Madoc (Brain of Morbius was made less than a year after this), who is so racist that he paints Graeme's tie white and has to replace his own set of dark glasses with white ones.

It isn't remotely subtle (although it is very, very funny) but, like Star Trek's Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, it isn't trying to be - and would most certainly have been less powerful if it had tried to be.

Supposedly the BBC didn't want to broadcast this episode at all. But then, the BBC has a long history* of objecting to entertainment TV programmes getting involved with political issues - especially when they take sides against the conservative status quo.

I for one am glad it did go out, and is available to be seen today, as it will remain relevant so long as manny countries institute racist policies that resemble apartheid. It is only a shame that now, due to the different attitudes of the 1970s (when it was made) from today, some of its message is likely to be missed due to the presence in the episode of racist language, Black-and-White-Minstrel makeup, and the fact that all the main cast are white mannys.

Nevertheless, it is tough to imagine a modern-day mainstream entertainment TV programme that could produce an up-to-date equivalent that would both be as powerful and have the same audience reach. The unique "anything, anytime" format of The Goodies allowed them to tackle this subject matter for a single episode before moving on to something completely different the following week.

* Footnote for the benefit of posterity: This refers to an event topical to the week this article was written, whereby the BBC cancelled an episode of Have I Got News For You because - and this is their given reason - it was due to feature the leader of the Change UK Party when an election was only two weeks away. This was in the very same week as it prominently featured Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party, on an edition of Question Time.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

The Young Aragorn Son of Arathorn Chronicles

So are they still making this Lord of the Rings TV series that is supposed to be about the adventures of young Aragorn? If they are, I hope it is actually a detective series set in Middle-earth, where Aragorn uses his ranger skillz of tracking and herblore to solve crimes, a bit like Catfael used to.

Maybe they could pair him up with a several-thousand-years old elf in a classic chalk-and-cheese, rookie-and-veteran double act?
"I'm getting too old for this shit," says Glorfindel. And of course Elrond is their chief, which also works because of the awkward budding romance between rookie Aragorn and the chief's daughter Arwen.

Actually, what I really hope is that they are secretly making a series of Quenta Silmarillion, which could be truly great and genuinely epic if done well. I mean, who doesn't want to see Fëanor fighting a squad of balrogs, or Fingolfin's single combat with Morgoth, or the fall of Nargothrond and Gondolin, or Sauron getting beaten up by a doggy?