Monday, March 9, 2009

DVD: The Dark Crystal

Directors: Jim Henson, Frank Oz
Voice of: Stephen Garlick, Lisa Maxwell, Billie Whitelaw
Year made: 1982

A step into the dark

Do not underestimate the power of the dark side. In a foray away from all things bright and cheerful Jim Henson dipped his toes into some unfamiliar murky waters with this fantastical story of Gelflings, Skeksis and Mystics. It was 1982 and the film that spurned many a childhood memory was The Dark Crystal.

As the tagline truthfully declares this is ‘another world, another time… in the age of wonder.’ It is not so much the complexity of the tale that the master storyteller is telling, but the way in which he tells it; through another wonderful fantasy world transported from his imagination to celluloid.

A thousand years ago this world was split when the dark crystal was broken and a shard lost. Since then the evil Skeksis (think vultures) have ruled the land while their counterparts, the peaceful Mystics (sort of large Muppet gypsies) have just hung out waiting in their commune for a prophecy to be fulfilled: at the time of the great conjunction of the three suns a Gelfling (Jen) will make the crystal whole again and end the Skeksis’ reign.

The nostalgic value of The Dark Crystal is high but beware of your expectations: time and technology have not been kind to what was groundbreaking work at the time. It still looks great though, if you can get thoughts of Spider-Man flying through New York out of your head. This is not helped by the lack of effort that has gone into remastering the picture to a treatment one might rightly expect of a collector’s edition disc. There is another disappointment and that is the dropping of the DTS soundtrack that was provided on the Superbit version.

Appeasing some of your expectations is an excellent 60-minute featurette, ‘The World Of The Dark Crystal’, produced in 1982. It is a great document charting the evolution of Henson’s creation with contributions from the man himself offering numerous observations over the nature of his work on the project. The disc is rounded off with some stocking filler deleted scenes and a collection of image and text-based extras. A collector’s edition they do not make, but a valuable edition to your collection nonetheless.

A great film on a disappointing DVD.

Film 3 stars
Extras 3 stars

Special Features
• ‘The World Of The Dark Crystal’ documentary
(60 mins)
• Deleted scenes
• Original language work print scenes
• Character profiles
• Character illustrations
• ‘The Mithra Treatment’: Jim Henson’s original
treatment of the film
• Storyboards
• Filmographies
• Theatrical trailer

If you like this why not try…
Labyrinth (1986)
David Bowie sings, Jennifer Connelly gets lost and the Muppets… well, they act like Muppets.

The review first appeared in DVD Review #63