Blu-Ray Review – The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal is a film co-directed by Frank Oz and Jim Henson. Oz probably had one of the weirdest film careers ever, from being a puppeteer for the Muppets to becoming a really serious Hollywood filmmaker. It is often believed that the dark side was directed by Oz, and the lighter stuff by Henson. Henson had been working on the idea for The Dark Crystal since the 1970s. The British television and film company that partially paid for the film, ITC Entertainment, decided after seeing the first screening, not put any money towards advertising and planned to just dump it. Henson rescued it by buying back the rights.

It’s a fantasy film about the battle between the Skeksis and the Gelflings. There is a Gelfling called Jen, an elf-like creature who is the last of his kind, who has to find the missing shard of the Dark Crystal to destroy the evil empire of his opponents. The whole plot is a bit hippie-dippy, with a lot of New Age bullshit in it. That part came from Henson’s fascination with the nonsense being spouted by “psychic medium” Jane Roberts at the time.

It was produced by Gary Kurtz, better known as the producer of the two original Star Wars films.

For 1982, the idea of making a film with all puppets was pretty groundbreaking, but the story and look is a lot darker than the Muppets. Some of the cinema-going public was been taken aback by that. It came out at the height of fantasy cinema, right after Time Bandits (the best of the lot), and around the same time as E.T. as with many other films from around that time, its box office success was damaged by the runaway success of Spielberg’s blockbuster. It made its money back but wasn’t a super-successful film until video, where it found a bigger fan base.

The puppet work looks fantastic in the new transfer. I have not seen the film before, and I think there may have been some digital alteration to remove all traces of the strings. The Dark Crystal also has a serious lacking of David Bowie in a ridiculous codpiece something Henson realised and added in his next fantasy film Labyrinth.

All of the old features from previous Blu-Ray releases are here: featurettes,, deleted scenes. Also added is a behind-the-scenes featurette The Myth, the Magic and the Henson Legacy with Lisa Henson and Toby Froud, son of one of the main sculptor/designers.


Ian Schultz

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