The Dark Crystal is one of those films I was never into back in the day, but on viewing just over 35 years later, in this Deluxe Edition, I can see how so much work has gone into it with its intricate design, making me think I would’ve loved to have seen this on the big screen, but then, I wouldn’t have appreciated it when I was 10.
It’s a classic tale of good versus evil, the later being the Skeksis, a race who are dying out, and who try to regenerate themselves through the Dark Crystal. Their emperor is dying, and a new one will take over, but who will it be? Given how their deciding match doesn’t have much more to it than a game of rock/paper/scissors, they’re clearly not the brightest in the bunch.
The good guys are the race of Mystics, miles away from there, but also in a similar state with thinning numbers.
Only Jen, with his pipes of peace, lives from her Gelfling clan, all of whom were killed off by the Skeksis, and he lives with the Mystics. Yes, he. He’s called Jen even though he’s a bloke. Still, no time to worry about that, since With 1000 years having passed, a time of testing is upon him and he must take a perilous journey to prove his worth, which involves finding the Crystal Shard to save the Mystics, and all before the three suns meet, and when that happens, the Mystics will live forever.
Naturally, it’s not going to be easy, as Aughra points out, a woman whose prediction machine could be on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces… well, before the Garthim come and remodel the place(!)
The Dark Crystal is very Hobbit-inspired, and also very funny when every baddy gets annoyed at Lord Chamberlain, the one of the Skeksis who keeps whimpering like Scooby Doo, or Larry Grayson from The Generation Game, after he’s sat on a spike (’80s reference for an ’80s movie). Also, when the evil emperor dies and crumbles to pieces, I do hope someone changed the bedsheets before his replacement took his place…
This film is incredibly inventive, such as with the machine used to extract the essence from a captive. Also, with the scene where he’s sharing memories with Kira, another Gelfling – yes, like Highlander, you think there can be only one, but there’s more. Plus, her furball friend called Fizzgig. Clearly, he’s inspired the ‘nagging doubt’ character from an insurance advert.
The dialogue also made me laugh, such as when Jen pointed out some writing on a wall:
- Kira: “What’s writing?”
Jen: “Words that stay.”
As an aside, how come it’s only when he’s on his quest that Jen says, “This place is weird”. Erm… where’s he been living all this time??!
The Dark Crystal is a really strong tale about good vs evil, and a must for kids and adults alike. Plus, how often are films just a mere 90 minutes or so? So many fantasy movies run for well over two hours – sometimes even often two-and-a-half, and it’s way too long. It also shows that the late Frank Oz is fine directing Muppets, but less so directing human ones… I might be alone in not being able to get into either Dirty Rotten Scoundrels or his version of Little Shop of Horrors, but when 1991’s Housesitter was released, with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn, my advice to everyone at the time was to wait until it comes on TV… and then go out!
Now, if you want more, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is coming soon to Netflix. Sign me up!
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition and for a film that’s over 35 years old and shot on film, a damn good remastering has been given to this at some point as it’s absolutely flawless, bringing the marvellous world of Henson and Oz to life.
The DTS 5.1 HD-MA sound is great with a glorious score and the audio effects making cracking use of the speakers, such as with the Mystics chabtung early on, and the storm that followed, unless that was Storm Emma whipping up again, outside.
The extras are as follows, and this is just a brief run-down of them at the moment, which I’ll update very shortly, along with an unboxing of the full package which has just arrived, so check back soon for more!:
- The Myth, Magic and Henson Legacy (10:27): A brand new ‘behind the scenes’ feature with chat from Lisa Henson – daughter of Jim, and puppeteer Toby Froud, including the adding of English dialogue to the Skeksis, as shown later in the extras, plus some test footage.
- The World of The Dark Crystal (57:26): One of a number of existing documentaries on this disc, and presented in 4:3. It runs for almost an hour, and like all the extras is subtitled, but it’s sadly not chapterd which would’ve been a help given how long it goes on for. There’s behind-the-scenes footage and clips aplenty – also in 4:3. I’m so glad that films are rarely cropped to 4:3 from their original widescreen ratio these days. I’ve been campaigning about that for years!
Also included is the huge amount of puppetry work involved, as well as the set design.
- Reflections of The Dark Crystal (36:41): A two-parter with on-set footage and test footage for the film – Light on the Path of Creation, and Shard of Illusion. There’s chat from fantasy illustrator Brian Froud, screenwriter David Odell and Brian Henson – son of Jim. Interviews are in 16:9 with clips in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio.
- Deleted Scene (3:48): A funeral for the evil Emperor after his exasperating death bed scene, which was hilarious, shouting about how he was still alive and still emperor and then… he died and fell to pieces.
- Original Skeksis Language: Test scenes (22:49): with an intro from screenwriter David Odell, and split into a number of 8 chapters with 7 scenes following his intro. These include the original emperor’s final scene and how the Skeksis initially didn’t have any dialogue in English, making it difficult for anyone to understand exactly what they were saying.
- Storyboards: 10 original storyboards, and all quite small in the middle of the screen for some reason. Couldn’t they zoom them in? I guess you can with your TV in most cases.
- Photo Galleries: Character Illustrations (10 pics), Character Drawings and Profiles: The Ur-ru (16), and Character Drawings and Profiles: The Skeksis (16).
- Teaser Trailer (0:37): In the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio.
- Theatrical Trailer (1:19): Cropped to 16:9.
- Storyboard and concept art track: Watch the film with cards telling a stack of info about the film with, as it says, film storyboards and concept art. It does say all of the original concept art no longer exist, but they have recreated those which don’t. This is an essential extra for big fans of the movie.
- Audio commentary with Brian Froud: Feature-length commentary from the fantasy illustrator.
There’s also a 30-page booklet including rare archival photos and behind-the-scenes stories, but as I show in my above unboxing, it appears this is only in the Blu-ray edition and NOT the 4K UHD Blu-ray version, and it’s the latter for which I made an unboxing video. This is VERY odd, Sony! And very disappointing, as I was really looking forward to checking out the booklet. Why, Sony? Why?! 🙁
When it came to playing the 4K disc, it turns out while my Xbox One S can indeed output 4K, my Samsung monitor can’t do HDR, so the console won’t show 4K discs 🙁
The menu features clips from the film and I love the clanging sound that’s made as you move through it from one option to the next. That’s a really neat touch. There’s also 16 chapters, which is a few more than most studios’ 12, and that’s almost the right amount for my preference of one every five minutes, which would technically be around 18. Subtitles come in 8 languages.
Running time: 93 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
Released: March 5th 2018
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Languages: DTS 5.1 HD-MA: English, Italian; DTS 5.1; German
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Danish, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Turkish
Format: 2.39:1 (Anamorphic Panavision)
Disc Format: BD50
Directors: Jim Henson and Frank Oz
Producers: Jim Henson and Gary Kurtz
Screenplay: David Odell (based on a story by Jim Henson)
Music: Trevor Jones
Jen, a Gelfling (performer) / High Priest, a Ritual Master (performer): Jim Henson
Kira, a Gelfling (performer): Kathryn Mullen
Aughra, a Keeper Of Secrets (performer) / Chamberlain (performer): Frank Oz
Fizzgig, a Friendly Monster (performer) / General, Garthim Master (performer): Dave Goelz
Jen: Stephen Garlick (voice)
Kira: Lisa Maxwell (voice)
Aughra: Billie Whitelaw (voice)
Fizzgig: Percy Edwards (voice)
Chamberlain / Podling: Barry Dennen (voice)
General: Michael Kilgarriff (voice)
High Priest / Dying Emperor: Jerry Nelson (voice)
Gourmand: Thick Wilson (voice)
Historian: John Baddeley (voice)
Slave Master: David Buck (voice)
Treasurer: Charles Collingwood (voice)
Urzah: Sean Barrett (voice)
Narrator / Urskeks: Joseph O’Conor (voice)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.