||Ralph Bakshi's animated adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's revered Middle-earth saga captures the dark mood of the books extraordinarily well. The film covers the first half of the trilogy--THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING and the earlier part of THE TWO TOWERS--as Frodo (voiced by Christopher Guard), the cousin of Bilbo Baggins from THE HOBBIT, is given the all-powerful ring sought by the evil Sauron of Mordor. So begins his adventure, as he must elude Mordor's black riders in an effort to prevent the ring from returning to its owner and thereby signaling the end of Middle-earth. Even with the mighty wizard Gandalf as his ally and faithful friends Merry, Sam, and Pippin by his side, Frodo is still up to his hobbit neck in peril.^Bakshi took a big risk when deciding to direct the beloved Tolkien tale, but the resulting work effectively brings Middle-earth to the screen. Bakshi combines painted live-action footage with various styles of animation to create a very unusual collage-style texture for this film. Viewers should be warned that the story ends rather abruptly, leaving room for a sequel that was, unfortunately, never filmed. Still, for fans of fantasy, this moody, atmospheric version of the novels captures the shadowy hues of Tolkien's work in a way that is unique and worth discovering.