«Russia’s cult video pirate rescripts Lord of the Rings as gangster film

Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow
Sunday June 22, 2003
The Observer

They call him the Goblin. He is the new toast of Russia’s massive pirate video industry, his films sought all over Moscow. The trick of his silver screen success is that the Goblin redubs Hollywood movies, using his own ‘better’ Russian alternative to the script.
A former senior police investigator from St Petersburg, Dmitri Puchkov began by making fresh translations to replace the appalling subtitles on pirated films. But now his cult following has found pan-Russian appeal, with a ground-breaking rewrite of the first two parts of The Lord of the Rings.

In a move that has taken the Russian pirate disk world by storm and infuriated traditionalists and copyright lawyers, Puchkov has completely changed the script, turning the ‘good’ characters, like Frodo, into bumbling Russian cops, and the ‘bad’ Orcs into Russian gangsters.

The new, irreverent version of The Lord of the Rings is set in Russia. Frodo Baggins is renamed Frodo Sumkin (a derivative from the Russian word sumka, or bag). The Ranger, Aragorn, is called Agronom (Russian for farm worker). Legolas is renamed Logovaz, after a Russian car company famed for its Ladas. Boromir becomes Baralgin, after a Russian type of paracetemol.

Gandalf spends much of the film trying to impress others with his in-depth knowledge of Karl Marx, and Frodo is cursed with the filthy tongue of a Russian criminal.

The films — which Puchkov says were originally made for his close friends but have now gone out on the internet — have found cult appeal in Russia’s crowded pirate market, where a pirated, high-quality DVD in both Russian and English costs £5. That is all ordinary Russians, who earn only $300 a month in Moscow, can afford. The Russian pirate industry is worth $311 million, and has grown by 25 per cent since last year, pirates making more than 40 million disks a year.

For his next blockbuster, Puchkov, who learnt English at a police society, is said to be planning a comic Russian version of Star Wars.

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