The Dark Crystal was, and still is, a technical marvel. The first film to be shot using puppets alone, no humans appear throughout. It’s a dark departure from the light of The Muppet Show.
The Henson Company were developing The Dark Crystal for some five years before the movie finally released in 1982. The entire movie was done without green screens, without CGI and without wire removal. I don’t think a movie has, or would be, done in this way again.
The movie itself is about a Gelfling, Jen, Jim Henson himself, who must find a shard from a large crystal in order to restore order to this other world.
It sees him leave the relative safety of his adopted home with the Mystics and embark on a journey across the land, bumping into the wicked Skeksis, another Gelfling, Kira, and old woman Aughra, the Keeper of Secrets, and many more.
It’s a fun, intruiging story that can be looked at in many different ways. Were Henson and co-director Frank Oz, along with writer David Odell, attempting to say something about religion? Harmony? Getting along with each other? Nature and the Earth? Make of it what you will, The Dark Crystal is unique. There’ll never be another film made in this way.
The Dark Crystal has been carefully restored to 4k Ultra HD and is re-issued on Blu-Ray as an anniversary edition which includes a 30-page collectable booklet. The features are extensive for 4k and Blu-ray:
The Myth, Magic and Henson Legacy – a ten-minute look at how the movie came about from Jim Henson’s original idea of having an all puppet movie. It’s a fascinating look at how it all started with movement, then sketches before finally getting into the making of the puppets.
The World of The Dark Crystal – an hour-long documentary filmed whilst the movie was being made. It begins with an interview with Jim Henson (you just can’t help hearing Kermit the Frog occasionally) and how he was influenced by Brian Froud, a Devon-based artist, and the Dartmoor landscape Brian lived near.
You get to see Froud sketching various characters including Skeksis, Mystics and Gelflings. Also interviewed are Frank Oz (Fozzie and Miss Piggy) and various creators and puppeteers. The documentary spends a lot of time on the characters, how they’re put together and the performing of them.
Reflections of the Dark Crystal: Light on the Path of Creation – A just shy of 20-minute documentary made in 2007 about where The Dark Crystal story came from and what people like Brian Henson, screenwriter David Odell, Froud and others think the film is saying.
Reflections of the Dark Crystal: Shard of Illusion – A 16-minute documentary made in 2007 talking about the fact The Dark Crystal was the first film to feature puppets only, contains lots of test footage of the puppets.
Also included are some deleted scenes from the funeral scene and a few features on the original Skeksis language, some test scenes and an introduction by David Odell.
These latter features exist because originally the movie was shot with only the Gelflings speaking English and the other creatures speaking their own languages. However, test screenings showed that audiences didn’t understand what was going on and so Odell and Henson had to go back and create English dialogue for these scenes.
There are some original storyboards from the movie a teaser trailer and the theatrical trailer, commentary with Brian Froud, photo galleries and a Storyboard Track.
DVD viewers only get the deleted scenes, the original Skeksis language features, photo galleries and The World of The Dark Crystal documentary.
The Dark Crystal Anniversary Edition is available on 4k UHD, Blu-Ray and DVD from the 5th March 2018.