From Publishers Weekly
Originally broadcast in 1981 on BBC Radio, this full-cast adaptation of Tolkien's epic trilogy is justifiably regarded as a classic; unfortunately, in 2008, it faces inevitable comparison with Peter Jackson's films. While Jackson had stunning visuals, purists may find this simpler adaptation more to their taste. The radio version remains, in some ways, more faithful to the original trilogy. The extensive cuts to the narrative mean that much of Tolkien's poetic description and a degree of emotional resonance are lost, but narrator Gerard Murphy gives what remains the appropriate gravity. Most of the dialogue is pure Tolkien, and the fine cast does it justice. Ian Holm (who appeared as Bilbo in the films) offers a mature, nuanced portrayal of Frodo that is far truer to the text than Elijah Wood's wide-eyed innocent approach. (On the other hand, Sean Astin's accent and inflections as Sam are so similar to the audiobook's Bill Nighy's, one might suspect that Astin studied this recording before filming.) The 12th CD is devoted to a selection of songs from the books, set to original music. (Sept.)
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With masterful talent, energy, and clarity, this 1981 BBC full-cast dramatization faithfully follows Tolkien's influential and timeless saga of hobbits, elves, orcs, and wizards. The original musical score, sound effects, and acting are stellar throughout, but special mention has to be made of the humorous and compelling scenes between Frodo (Ian Holm), Sam (William Nighly), and Gullum (Peter Woodthorpe) as they battle the Dark Lord, and themselves, in the quest to cast the "precious" Ring into the Cracks of Doom. The production, which includes all three books that make up the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, predates the Academy Award-winning films by 20 years, and remains a high watermark for both fantasy literature and audio production. Not to be missed. B.P. © AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine