Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers [2002]

Like the previously released DVD Master of the Rings, Secrets of Middle-Earth: Inside Tolkien's "The Two Towers" delivers all that it promises and more. Perfect for home or classroom viewing, this hour-long, British-made program begins enticingly with archival film of Tolkien describing his serendipitous creation of The Hobbit. What follows is a thorough survey of the second volume of The Lord of the Rings, spanning every aspect of The Two Towers, from geography (via computer-animated maps of Middle-earth), language, dominant themes, cultures and races, character development, and literary influence. Host Grant McTavish may seem a bit too solemn, but the program is so densely informative that any quibbles (such as occasional redundancy) are easily forgiven. Preeminent Tolkien authority Michael Stanton and historian David Doughan provide astute analysis, complemented by the popular artwork (also compiled in a separate gallery) of veteran Tolkien illustrators the brothers Hildebrandt. Other highlights include audio clips of Tolkien reading from The Two Towers (who could do it better?), making this a worthy appreciation of Tolkien's timeless literary legacy. --Jeff Shannon

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