Mark Twain Conquers The Cockneys
by Paul Waldowski
As everyone in my family knows, I'm a big fan of the Lord of the Rings. In fact, I devour just about anything Tolkien related. Fortunately, it's the only Fantasy series I enjoy -- all others are a pale, generic shadow of the original and best. Oh gee, a dark wizard is threatening the land again. I guess we have to depend on a young person, along with their Dwarven and Elvish allies, to defeat the mean wizard and restore peace to the land. Yeah. Between Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, I think all the bases have been covered.
Anyway, I got the NPR dramatization of the Lord of the Rings for Christmas, and while I'm sure they did their best, it's really lacking, especially in the voice department. I know I'm being unfair towards it, especially in light of the recent movies and the excellent BBC radio drama, but I think they could've done better. It was produced in 1979, but that's no excuse. The Star Wars Radio Drama, perhaps the best ever made, was produced in 1981 and far exceeds the LOTR in every way.
It's the voice acting in this production that really drags it down. Most of the voice actors sound as if they're reading their lines right off the script instead of acting out the words, while others are horribly miscast. I imagined how it must've sounded to someone who knew nothing about LOTR...
In some far away land, a ring has been found by charming Cockneys. Some old guy found this ring a long time ago and now he's having a party. Samuel Clemens appears and tells the guy to give up the ring, because it doesn't belong to him. The ring bears an inscription reading, "One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them. One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them." When you put the ring on, you disappear. It's obviously someone's wedding ring.
The old guy leaves town and Samuel Clemens tells Frodo, who lived with the old man, to take the ring to the Elves. Frodo decides to bring along his mongoloid pal who tends to spray it instead of saying it. After all, someone gotta carry all the crap. The two bump into a lesbian couple, Mary and Pippin. Mary, who sounds like Peppermint Patty after two packs of cigarettes and a bottle of Jagermeister, is obviously the bull in the relationship. Pippin is played by Eliza Doolittle and won't trouble ya for a bit of pipeweed, guv'nuh. The four decide to go on together, though why Peppermint Patty and Eliza come along is a mystery. Since Frodo's retarded friend keeps calling him "Dear" and refers to his "soft arms", maybe they think they've found kindred spirits.
Anyway, they eventually make it to Riverdale, where the Reverend Jim Ignatowski, lately suffering from a stroke, holds court. Everyone from New York to East California is assembled to hear him speak. In an uncomfortable and awkward speech, he finally manages to tell the assembled guests that this guy's wedding ring needs to be destroyed, because the chick this guy was married to was a real bitch and he's better off without her, but the guy can't let go, so he's continually looking for his ring so he can pretend it's like the good old days. Borimir wonders if he can't take the ring and pawn it. After all, one does not simply rock into Mordor. Sam Clemens says no and launches into a humurous tale of Elves and Dwarves roughing it in the Gray Havens. He also declares the Dwarves to be the missing link between man and ape. A racial slur is used to provide local color.
After a pity laugh, the group decides to do the obvious thing and chuck the ring into a volcano. Though there are big friggin' eagles to fly them there, they decide to walk. And so they walk. A lot. They try to climb a mountain, but Samuel Clemens, who made the decision to come this way, suddenly declares that it's up to the Ringbearer to stay or to go back. Only Elven eyes could really see how quickly he passed the buck. Frodo decides to do the obvious thing and go under the mountain.
The group goes under the mountain. The place looks like the aftermath of a Metallica concert. Bones and beer bottles litter the ground, and the distinct stench of urine permeates the air. Borimir feels right at home. Suddenly, the cast from East Enders appears and chases them to a bridge where Sam Clemens fights the ghost of Horatio Alger. Both plummet to their deaths. Everyone's sad for 30 seconds and moves on.
Eventually, the group splits up, with Frodo and his gay retarded manservant going off to find someplace that will recognize their civil union. The two lesbian hobbits are captured by a bunch of East Enders, who debate whether or not to eat them. Goblins like pork above all things. Second only to pork are Hobbits, who taste like Canadian bacon. The Goblins want to eat the Hobbits, but the Uruk-Hai are kosher and disapprove of that sort of thing. A fight breaks out and the two lesbians go hang out with the trees. They eventually hook back up with the rest of the group, but they're fairly boring and so their tale ends here.
Meanwhile the human, the elf and the dwarf are surprised to see Sam Clemens is alive and well, only now he goes by the name of Mark Twain. After relating a humorous story about the giant jumping balrog of Caradhras County, the group decides to save the world. Mark Twain coordinates the fight against the East Enders and eventually defeats them through a deadly combination of homespun wit and incisive social commentary. Meanwhile, Frodo decides he wants to marry his idiot servant, but the ceremony is interrupted by a crack fiend who mugs Frodo and takes the ring. Luckily, they're inside an active volcano and Frodo pushes the crack fiend into the liquid hot magma. The ring is destroyed and everyone's happy, except the guy who owned the ring. He goes all emo and decides to kill himself to Linkin Park. Everyone else is relieved because they never really liked the guy anyway, him being all moody and dark and all. I mean, the only damned thing you'd hear in Mordor all day is the Cure being played over and over again. It was a real depressing scene that not even the wry humor of Mark Twain could penetrate. With Sauron gone, peace returns to the land as the romantic pop rock stylings of Chicago once again echo amongst the hills and dales of this idyllic green country. "Oooh-ooh-oooh girl, baby please don't go..."
That's what listening to the Radio Drama was like. If you're into this sort of thing, do yourself a favor and get the BBC version. The production values are much better, plus it served as a major stylistic influence for the movies. It also helps that everyone in it is actually British, instead of Americans pretending to be Cockneys. Oh, and Gandalf doesn't sound like Mark Twain, either. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Paul isn't really sure what's in that pipe, but he's willing to share.