short circuits


Uneven animated film takes on Tolkien

Gandalf is there. So are Frodo, Samwise and Gollum. But this isn't Peter Jackson's familiar take on "The Lord of the Rings." Ralph Bakshi's ill-fated 1978 animated stab at J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy classic has finally made it to DVD and Blu-ray (Warner, $20-$30). It's by turns interesting and irritating. It's a fragment, really. The movie covers only the first two books, "The Fellowship of the Ring " and "The Two Towers." A planned sequel to conclude the story was never made after this one tanked. The movie is a blend of traditional cel animation and rotoscoped passages in which human actors were filmed and then used as the models for super-high-contrast animated figures. The results are sometimes beautiful, sometimes off-putting. "Lord" is an interesting failure, but perhaps it will highlight for animation fans Bakshi's essential role in animation history, including lewd and outrageous features such as "Fritz the Cat." This was grown-up animation reflecting the dope-smoking, antiestablishment zeitgeist. The discs are highlighted by a documentary about Bakshi that is essential watching for animation devotees.


Out Tuesday: "Apollo 13" (Blu-ray), "Dallas" (Season 13), "Defendor," "Emergency!" (Season 6), "The Great Mouse Detective," "The Madeline Movie: Lost in Paris," "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (Blu-ray), "Pirate Radio," "The Slammin' Salmon," "Tenderness," "2010 Winter Olympics," "We Believe."