After breakfast one day Bilbo Baggins (Mikhail Danilov) is sitting outside his hobbit hole smoking a pipe when he gets a visitor. Volshebnik (Wizard) Gandalf (Ivan Krasko) tells Bilbo that he is looking for someone to share in an adventure. Gandalf wants Bilbo to be that person. Bilbo tells Gandalf that he is a hobbit and hobbits have no love for adventure. The next day Bilbo is visited by a knot of dwarves. There is Dwalin, Balin, Kili, Fili, Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur and Thorin. The wizard Gandalf is also there. They all gather around Bilbo’s table and proceed to eat all Bilbo’s food. Eventually Gandalf gets down to business and explains the dangerous journey they are to take. Bilbo is still not willing to go on an adventure until someone tells him he looks more like a grocer than a burglar. Outraged at being called a grocer Bilbo joins the venture.

Thorin’s grandfather Thror used to be the king of the dwarves. He ruled under the Misty Mountain and the dwarves owned all its treasures. Back then the dwarves lived in peace with the people of Lake Town until the dragon Smaug burned everything and took over the mountain and its treasure. The dwarves want their treasure back, especially the Arkenstone diamond, the heart of the mountain. They also want to retaliate against Smaug.

Off they go on their journey. When a terrible storm began to rage the party needed to find shelter. In a cave they ran into some goblins. While escaping from the goblins Bilbo is knocked unconscious. When he comes to he is alone in the dark. While feeling around he finds a ring and puts it in his pocket. He then runs into a strange creature called Gollum (Igor Dmitriev). Trying to keep from being eaten Bilbo and Gollum get into a Riddle guessing match. After many riddles Bilbo asks “What do I have in my pocket”. Gollum says this question is unfair. Gollum decides to put on his special ring that makes him invisible and eat the hobbit. Realizing he has lost his magic ring he is furious. Bilbo takes the ring out of his pocket and puts it on his finger. Bilbo realizes that with the ring on his finger he is invisible. It is something that will come in very handy when he comes face to face with Smaug.

“The Fabulous Journey of Mr. Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit, Across the Wild Land, Through the Dark Forest, Beyond the Misty Mountains, There and Back Again” AKA “The Fairytale Journey of Mr. Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit” AKA “The Russian Hobbit” was released in 1985 and was directed by Vladimir Latyshev. It is a Soviet television play loosely adapted from the 1937 J.R.R. Tolkien book “The Hobbit”. It is a children’s fantasy and a musical. The play was filmed in 1984. The film was part of the Russian children’s television series “Tale After Tale” that aired at the Leningrad TV Channel.

The film is narrated by “The Professor” (Zinovy Gerdt). The special effects include forced perspective, back screening, puppets and glitter. Lots of glitter. The goblins and the residents of Lake Town were professional dancers from the Leningrad State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre. Anatoly Ravikovich plays the new dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield. Smaug and the Mirkwood spiders were portrayed by puppets.

The official title is longer than the movie. Since the film is only a little over an hour long a lot of Tolkien’s book has been cut out. There are no Orcs, Elrond, Beorn, Wood Elves, Wolves, Eagles or any of Tolkien’s other creations, although some of these creatures are hinted at. As far as puppet Russian dragons go Smaug is not too bad. The spiders on the other hand are far from sinister. They don’t even look the same. One looks more like a beetle than a spider. Still they shimmy up and down nicely on their puppet sticks. Gollum is a guy in green face paint, a green bathing cap and leotards with, what looks like, silly string draped across him. Oh, and fangs. The sets and costumes are primitive. Whether that was due to the low budget or because it’s a children’s movie is up for debate. Probably a little of both. Is it any good? If you’re six and you speak Russian, yeah. Adults enjoy making fun of it more than as a cinematic wonder. There are versions out there where some rather innovative dubbing was done. You can find them on youtube.