Watch the long-lost campy Soviet version of The Lord of the Rings

The fantasy film aired on Soviet TV 30 years ago, then disappeared, which might be for the best.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
CNET freelancer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
YouTube screenshot by Gael Fashingbauer Cooper/CNET

While fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings saga wait for the mega-bucks Amazon series, they can indulge in a campier version of the famed fantasy tale. If you love the kind of cheesy films mocked by Mystery Science Theater 3000 and RiffTrax, you'll likely appreciate the shlocky goodness of a 1991 Soviet television version of the LOTR trilogy. 

From the school-play-style costumes to the home computer-like special effects, this is a quirky bit of nostalgia that's about as far removed from director Peter Jackson's Hollywood trilogy as Moscow is from Middle-earth. 

The TV movie aired on Soviet TV in 1991, then disappeared, not to be seen again until now, the Guardian newspaper reports. It aired on Leningrad Television, and was posted to YouTube by Leningrad Television's successor, 5TV, the newspaper reports.

Tolkien fans who don't understand Russian can still kind of figure out who's who and what's what. Some of the hobbits kind of look like werewolves, Gandalf could use a bang trim, and the less that can be said about Frodo's furry-yet-hooflike feet (scroll to 2:09 in the first video) the better. Sitting through the whole thing seems like a punishment worthy of Gollum. But if you're a LOTR completist, or just a fan of campy cinema, it's a must-skim.

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