Imagine if there’d been a Beatles film in which a mystical evil cult chased the Fab Four through a variety of exotic landscapes to steal a ring with magical powers which has inadvertently fallen into their hands. Well guess what, there was one – it was called Help!, and it was hardly Citizen Kane. So why on earth, when United Artists acquired the film rights for JRR Tolkein’s magnum opus for $250,000 in 1969, would The Beatles want to star in it, as Louis Theroux reminded Twitter today? As Tolkein himself anticipated, in deciding not to grant the Fabs permission to film his story, it would’ve been a disaster, and here’s why.
Stanley Kubrick was hardly known for his action films
The Beatles’ choice for director was Kubrick, not a director famed for his hi-octane fantasy action epics and then busy filming the moon landings (shhh) between 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange. So it probably would’ve been full of slow, lingering and perfectly framed parades of orcs, visceral ultraviolence against blameless elves and ten-minute psychedelic trips inside the mind of Sauron every time someone slipped the One Ring on. Although the weird YouTube bot who made the film below begs to differ.
It might have ended up as an animated opera
According to Heinz Edelmann, the designer and art director of Yellow Submarine, he floated the idea of an animated adaptation imaged as “a kind of opera” in the style of Disney’s Fantasia. Which raises the spectre of hordes of blue meanies marching out of Mordor led by a clown-faced Saruman. And if you’re a dedicated LOTR lore-head fuming over the plot inaccuracies in that last sentence, this would’ve been a movie most definitely not for you.
It would’ve destroyed ‘Abbey Road’
Since filming would have started soon after the completion of ‘Abbey Road’, chances are the band would’ve held back some of that album’s songs for the LotR project. So we’d have had battle scenes playing out to the tune of “bang bang, Gimli’s silver axe-head”, and Gandalf The White’s entering to a sassy blues strut and John growling “here come old Gandalf, he got Balrog gumboots…”
George’s Gandalf would never have fought the Balrog
Picture the scene – George as Gandalf facing off against a furious Balrog on a sliver of a bridge across a bottomless cavern, determined to protect the fleeing Fellowship. He raises his sitar, gives the Balrog a polite nod and steps aside muttering “all things must pass”. Entire film ruined.
Ringo and Paul would’ve made Frodo and Sam far too cheery
The whole film would’ve consisted of Ringo and Paul, as intrepid brothers-in-arms Frodo and Samwise, defusing all of the drama with an endless stream of cheeky wisecracks. “I went out with a Legolas once.” “What happened?” “She went to pieces.” “Boromir!” “But what will you hear with?” And so on.
Everyone was on far too many drugs
There was no way we’d have avoided several lengthy, acid-addled nightmare fantasy sequences involving John’s Gollum hissing “my precious!” over and over again in the middle of a surrealist collage of ballet dancing ring-wraiths and Mount Doom growing teeth. Or a Middle Earth-wide cabaret dance routine at the end. Have you seen The Magical Mystery Tour? Basically that in jerkins.