Orson Welles And The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner

An impressive and atmospheric animated version of the Coleridge classic from 1977.

In 1977, Larry Jordan – a filmmaker noted for his collage animation style that took still images and brought them to a sort of life – made an ambitious film version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s legendary tale of death and redemption, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Jordan’s film used the illustrations by Gustave Dore that accompanied a late 19th century edition of the book, using his innovative techniques of colour-washing and adding new imagery to the art to make it feel as though you were watching an animated work rather than simply a shifting collection of stills.

For the narrator, Jordan turned to Orson Welles, one of the most distinctive voices of the age and – while sometimes a difficult and bitter man who didn’t exactly suffer fools gladly – would nevertheless bring a certain gravitas and drama to the story. Welles was no stranger to narrating classic literature and he seemed to take this particular project seriously, apparently recording several versions of each line with frequent collaborator and classic adult movie director Gary Graver until he hit the dramatic sweet spot.

Financed with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the 16mm film would have a brief VHS release in the 1980s but otherwise wallowed in relative obscurity until, like everything, it finally made its way online.

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