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Long before the movies came out, I was a regular listener to the two high-quality radio productions of LOTR, both done in the 1979-1982 period, one by America's PBS (The Mind's Eye production company), the other by Britain's BBC. (I've listened to each of them 3 or 4 times.)

Both of them were produced in half-hour installments, PBS's in 24, BBC's in 26. (12 tapes and 13 tapes -- don't know how many CDs, I got mine before CD's were popular.)

If you were to read the reader reviews of both, you'd think that the BBC's came direct from heaven, and the PBS's from the abyss -- quality and production-wise. I disagree! ALthough I do like the BBC version a little better, it is like a 60-40 comparison, not a 90-10. The PBS-Mind's eye version actually does some things better.

I consider the movies about 70-75% faithful to the books. But both sets of tapes/CDs are 98% faithful, and are abridged -- retaining about 30% of the books, but ALL the important and favorite parts.

For Tolkien purists, the tapes are much better than the movies. The various speaking parts are done by different people, and many of the characterizations sound VERY MUCH like the movie characters. (But of course, it would be the other way around timewise -- BBC's Farimir and Sam in particular are eerily similar -- and PBS's Pippin)

Note: If you ever started listening to the unabridged LOTR audiotapes by (I think) Ron Inglis, and fell asleep about half-way through Bilbo's long-expected party, THESE tapes are NOTHING like that. The productions have music, sound-effects, etc. It is easy to believe that you are hearing a movie -- only without the video. And the non-reading movie-watchers can get the exact essence and dialogue of the books by listening to these while you drive.

That's what I do. Lord of the Rings as you drive!

Here's the link to the BBC version on
Make sure you read Martin McNelis' review, which "34 of 34 people" found helpful, and a few other reviews follow.

My link is to the cassette version, but link to Audio CD is there too.

I agree with one of the reviewers that BBC's Peter Woodthorpe is even a better Gollum than Andy Serkis, less like Donald Duck, and equally troubled and troubling!

Finally, since the radio shows and movies differ by 20 years, no radio person plays the corresponding movie person -- even though sometimes you may think they do! But one person, the movie's Bilbo, Ian Holm, is on the BBC radio version as (ta, ta) FRODO Baggins.

Post a reply if you get the CDs/tapes and enjoy them. (Any affirmatives out there?)


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