Them Nasty Hobbitses

I was online today, looking at some Lord of the Rings boxed sets (DVDs) to see if they had subtitles for the hard of hearing, and drew a blank. Not because the site said they weren’t subtitled, but because nothing was said about it at all – so you don’t really know if they have no subtitles or if the information was somehow omitted that they do. Or perhaps, because they’re boxed sets, some of the DVDs are subtitled, and some aren’t. I don’t know.

In particular, I was looking at the extended DVDs, and strongly suspect that if there’s any subtitling, only half the DVDs are subtitled – the ‘film’ half. That means half my money would be wasted.

Until I find out for sure (and perhaps other sites on the internet have the relevant information) I will not be buying.

The Lord of the Rings videos weren’t subtitled! I clearly remember the day I found out. I was having a bad day already, but was looking forward to seeing the film when it came out on video. I was standing in a Tesco queue with Mum. Mum spotted the video on a rack, looked at it, put it back, turned to me and said: “it’s not subtitled.”

I was stunned – this is the Lord of the Rings they’re talking about! The all-time fantasy classic! We’ve all been waiting for a film like this for years! How can it not be subtitled???

I pulled other New Line Cinema videos from the racks to see if they had subtitles – at that time, none of the ones I checked did. I don’t know what their reasons were; maybe they had a very good reason – that’s just how it was. It still didn’t seem right – not for something this big.

I think (but am not sure) that the extended versions had subtitles, but I couldn’t afford the shop price – I hoped they might turn up in the second-hand CD store or a charity shop, but so far all I’ve seen are the unsubtitled versions. Those were the regular ones that most people bought. I confess to a few moments of annoyance when thinking about this – “everyone should boycott the unsubtitled videos!” but I can’t expect that. A bit dog-in-the-mangerish. Everybody-focus-on-MY-problemsish. Ridiculous. “But they should still have been subtitled…” says a voice in my head, disbelieving. “Them nasty hobbitses forgot the captionses.”

Gollum, gollum.

So it was another while yet before I got to see the Lord of the Rings on TV. Other people were talking about it, raving about how marvellous it was, and how they had seen it three times already… and I hadn’t even seen it once. I fervently hoped I didn’t accidentally die before I ever got to see it. Wouldn’t that be annoying?

I remember I was storing up videos to watch and we were going on holiday, and I got to thinking “what if we all die in a motorway pile-up and I never ever see any of these videos because I was ‘saving’ them?” So I sat down before the holiday to watch some, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Since then I’ve snagged plenty more videos, so there’s always something new. I’m a firm believer in having something to look forward to, no matter how small.

Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this entry when it was hosted on Blogigo:

1. Pacian wrote at Nov 23, 2006 at 23:33:
I worry about this too. Subtitles can even be poorly done on films that aren’t in English, which is the main reason I try to always find out beforehand.

Quick googling turns up: http://dvd-subtitles.com/
Is this the one?

For non-English films, DVD Times usually mentions if the subtitles are incomplete or correspond to a dub rather than the original language track.

2. Diddums wrote at Nov 24, 2006 at 00:29:
Thanks for the URLs! The boxed set you mention is partly subtitled, according to that site. Some of the ‘extras’ are not subtitled, but the films are. And what they have are ‘English subtitles, but not for the hard of hearing’ – presumably that means it doesn’t say “bell dongs” or “Balrog roars incomprehensibly” and things like that… doesn’t bother me all that much, though sometimes it’s important to know.

3. KatieK wrote at Nov 24, 2006 at 05:57:
Nasty Hobitses indeed! This is…incomprehensible. Spend 400 billion whatsits on film production and then leave out the subtitles. I am very disappointed in them and now I will think about this every time I watch my DVD version of the films. Bad Corporation, bad corporation!

4. Bunnyman wrote at Nov 24, 2006 at 19:36:
Hello Diddums. I’m a bit of a slow reader, but that’s me caught up now. You know, you really do have a lovely blog and it’s a real treat to read.

I’m very chuffed that I got a mention on one of your posts and even a place on your links list. An honour indeed, thank you!

On the subject of subtitles, I have the first two films as separate extended DVD editions for the UK (think that’s region 2 but I can’t remember), although they must both be over a year old. Both have subtitles for the film part. Not yet sure about the extras because I can’t get my DVD player to work properly right now – dratted thing’s being very badly behaved. If I do get it working, I’ll let you know 🙂

5. Bunnyman wrote at Nov 24, 2006 at 20:19:
Got it to work now on an old Windows laptop. Unfortunately, there is no setup menu on my Extras CD so it does indeed look like subtitling for the film part only. Seems to be just the voice bits too, no other sounds or hints. During that section where Saruman snitches to Sauron via the Palantir, it’s not that clear who’s saying what.

Don’t know whether any of this has improved in recent versions.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is brilliant – all that running across roofs and up walls. I tried it once but scraped my fingers then fell on my bum – quite painful it was too. Might need to take some lessons.

6. Diddums wrote at Nov 25, 2006 at 13:59:

Hi Bunnyman, thanks very much for the information on the DVD – that does sound right; sometimes I get confused about who said what. Then they suddenly start placing the text right over the characters’ faces, as though they think it will help. Then stop and go back to normal again – no idea what that’s all about. It’s as though different people are working on it, with different ideas of ideal text placement.

Does it say anywhere on Croughing Tiger, Hidden Dragon ‘don’t try this at home?’ Heh.

7. Bunnyman wrote at Nov 25, 2006 at 14:24:
Well at least on my copies, the titles aren’t over the faces. Mind you, they would be if anyone had to bend to tie their shoelace; they do seem to be quite large, in the lower part of the screen. Perhaps they’ll obscure some critical piece of hitherto unnoticed plot such as Boromir passing Frodo a secret note saying “I love you really, it’s the script, it made me do it!”

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