Special Edition (1982)
On another world, a once-in-a-millennium conjunction of three suns is approaching. The evil, bird-like Skeksis gather around their Dark Crystal, secure in the knowledge that they have foiled the Great Prophecy: knowing that a Gelfling warrior was predicted to destroy them all, the Skeksis slaughtered the entire race. Or so they thought. Jen, the last of the Gelflings, has been raised by the peaceful Ur-ru Mystics. But Jen's mentor, the oldest and wisest of the Mystics, tells the Gelfling of his true destiny: to find the Crystal Shard, the missing piece of the Dark Crystal, and journey with it to the very center of evil, the Castle of the Skeksis... and there to heal the Dark Crystal itself, or the Skeksis will rule forever
When it was first released, I was not terribly impressed by The Dark Crystal. The story is too second-generation Tolkein, and I found it entirely too hard to forget that I was watching puppets. Time has mellowed me toward it, however, and I can now appreciate the movie for what it is: a triumph of design and fabrication. Yes, they are puppets, and they are Muppety just a little too often (the potato-like Podlings being the worst example), but the simple truth is this movie should not have worked as well as it does - thousands of things could have gone wrong, but luck and hard work combine to make this new world actually live and breathe - literally in some cases - and it becomes more beguiling with each successive visit.
There is some wear evident at the very beginning of the print, with speckling especially evident during the initial white-type-on-black credits, but these soon settle down to an otherwise stunning transfer. Pan and scan does a terrible disservice to this movie, with its many imaginative landscapes, so this widescreen version is especially welcome. The 5.1 remix, while nice, doesn't seem to add that much more to the experience. Oddly, the English subtitles are "on" by default.
This Special Edition lives up to its name. "The World of the Dark Crystal" is a marvelous hour-long "making of" featurette which covers all aspects of the design and fabrication of the movie and its characters. There are character drawings by Brian Froud of each of the major Skeksi and Ur-ru characters, proving them truly individuals. "Talent Files" are brief bios/filmographies for the late Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Brian Froud, and there are three trailers, American and European, as well as trailers for "The Storyteller" and Labyrinth, and a music-only alternate soundtrack.
Also included are a deleted funeral scene and several "original language" scenes. These are taken from a video workprint, so the color is washed out and the overall quality rather dodgy, but these scenes impart some interesting info: apparently, the Skeksi were originally intended to speak only in their own bestial tongue, with subtitles; and Frank Oz is the puppeteer manipulating Aughra, the Keeper of Secrets. He's saying his own lines here (later dubbed by Billie Whitelaw), and the voice he is using is unmistakably that which we would later come to know as Yoda's.
Dr. Freex, 4/15/00