I'm not blind drunk, I'm just blind.
As I said I wasn't made aware of the BBC's dramatization of Lord of the Rings until 2001, twenty years after its initial release. And even then I wasn't aware of the anniversary edition which added the opening and closing narrations by Frodo. But as I said it was a much better version than the NPR Playhouse version. Granted I do still somewhat enjoy that one, but after hearing this one I must conclude that it' is far superior. And of course it's far better than the films, as good as those admittedly were.
One thing I like about this version is that it stays more or less true to the characters as described in the book, which the films didn't always do.. A notable example is Treebeard. In the NPR playhouse version he was voiced by Tom Luce with a rather annoying echo effect added. Needless to say it made hm sound rather campy. In the films he was hostile towards the Hobbits at first and made them aware of Gandalf's survival long before they learned of it in the book. Here, actor Steven Thorn gives him a commanding yet somewat mischievous quality that I always did perceive in the character. And the Ents have a cool marching song which I'm sure was in the novel but here is excellently presented.
In short I don't think I stopped listening to this any longer than was absolutely necessary, such as for meal and bathroom breaks. But then back to it I went. And now that Audible has them I can carry them with me on my IPod anytime, which should come in useful particularly for long trips in the car. And tense or scary parts of the story really come off as tense or scary here, which is definitely a good thing! Excellent music and SFX combined with an excellent cast bring this tale fabulously to life. It's definitely worth the credits or the money.
Return of the King picks up right where Two Towers left off. After accidentally revealing himself to Sauron via the Palantir of Orthanc, Pippin is taken to the city of Minas Tirith by Gandalf, who suspects that Sauron's next move may be to target that city. Meri is put in the care of King Theoden of Rohan. Aragorn, Gimley and Legolas go in search of the mysterious Paths of the Dead, a haunted road which provides the only chance Aragorn has of reaching Minas Tirith before the city is lost. And Sam Gamgee embarks on a desperate mission to rescue Frodo who, left comatose by Shelob's venomous sting, was subsequently discovered by a band of Orc soldiers, though fortunately not before Sam, mistaking Frodo for dead and resolving to see the quest through to its end on his own if possible, took the Ring from his friend. But even if he succeeds, only time will tell whether they'll have the strength to see the quest through to its ultimate end, much less whether that end will come on Mount Doom with the destruction of the Ring.
As with the first two installments, the BBC did an excellent job on this one. Ian Holm does an excellent job of conveying the terrible changes the ordeal has wrought in Frodo, and definitely leagues better than Elijah Wood's rather wussy performance in the films. Peter Woodthorpe is the perfect combination of scary and pathetic in his portrayal of Gollum. So all in all this is an excellent production surpassed only by the Rob Inglis narrated unabridged productions, which Audible has finally made available. So if you haven't given this production a listen you might just be in for a good time.
I've been a fan of the Lord of the Rings for about twenty years now, ever since the age of eleven. It wasn't until I was 21, however, that I learned of this particular production. This production, quite frankly, beats the crap out of the 1979 NPR Playhouse version. The music in this production is absolutely excellent and the cast is amazing. Michael Hordern plays the sort of Gandalf I would feel comfortable trusting my life to. Robert Stevens' no-nonsense portrayal of Aragorn is also what I would have expected. It's much better than Viggo Mortensen's Hollywood influenced portrayal. Don't mistake me. I was very impressed with the movies over all and in fact I own them. But I didn't like how Peter Jackson changed certain things and explicitly went against Tolkien's writings in so doing. This radiodrama is extremely faithful to the novels, lacking only the Tom Bombadil section. It also expands on the events that led to Sauron's discovering the truth of the Ring's continued existence, even showing a bit of Gollum's torture at the hands of the Mouth of Sauron.
All in all I really enjoyed this production, particularly the newer version which includes extra material at the beginning and end of each novel. And rather than detracting from the story this new material (consisting of opening and closing narration by Ian Holm as Frodo), sets the stage for the next presentation and then refreshes the listener's memory about how the prior one ended. Combine excellent acting with generally high quality sound effects with excellently-composed music and you have a program well worth your time. The only odd effect I can find is that the horses of the Nine sound more like tapdancers' shoes. The cast, however, was excellently chosen. And I really liked how Ian Holm, who plays Frodo here, later went on to star as the aging Bilbo in the film trilogy. So if you haven't already you should give this one a go. You might just be in for a good tim