The Lord of the Rings - Mind's Eye Radio Adaptation (1979)
When discussing the various dramatizations of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, people often think of the BBC Radio adaptation by default. However it should be noted that it was not the first. An earlier version was made and broadcast in 1979 on US National Public Radio broadcast radio. It was produced by "The Mind's Eye", a theatre company who were responsible for numerous adaptations of classic literature for radio at the time. The script written by Bernard Mayes is a somewhat abridged version of the book. The eleven hour running time focuses significantly on the dialogue, with much of the back history, lore and expositionary narration removed.
The production was very low budget, drawing upon local amateur actors and friends of the producer. There was extensive use of library music and homemade sound effects. Due to scheduling issues the cast often recorded their lines separately resulting in some curiously stilted exchanges of dialogue in key scenes. The voice cast also had to provide multiple character voices which at times causes a degree of confusion. It is also clear that none of the production were Tolkien scholars. The pronunciation of many names and places are often incorrect and the clumsy adaptation results in several plot holes and unresolved storylines.
However despite these flaws this production proved popular at the time of its broadcast. Its simplicity is actually quite a benefit, making this adaptation accessible for a younger audience or those with only a passing interest in Tolkien's work. It should also be noted that this production does not omit Tom Bombadil and presents his part of the story in quite an effective fashion. This production has been distributed by several audio book companies over the years and can even be found on "You Tube". Although purists may eschew the Mind’s Eye production for its obvious faults, there is still much to enjoy from this drama, if it is approached in the right fashion.