The Dark Crystal Special Edition DVD
Ian Westhoff (11-20-99) - After years of watching "The Dark Crystal" on videotape our prayers have been answered for more on our favorite Gelfling. "The Dark Crystal" has everything a fan could want in a DVD about their favorite movie and is well worth the price.
The "Main Menu" has the cover art on the left half of the screen with the menu options on the right. Each option has a picture of a character next to the title. When you click on a title a sub-menu comes up with the options of the features you chose.
The "Scene Selections" are set up with twenty-eight chapters and have pictures from the film. Four images appear at a time, and as you move throughout the chapter selections a new image will appear.
The first thing one can notice is how much the film and sound prints have been restored. Now you can see the beautiful colors of the setting sun and hear every word that the Mystics speak. Though the sound and picture quality is poor for the "Deleted Scenes" (which is mentioned later on in this review) that is to be expected since the copies used for those scenes are the only ones available and were products of the cutting room floor. Seeing the graininess and sound flaws of the deleted scenes compared to those of the re-mastered disc makes you appreciate all the work that went into the disc.
Another difference on the DVD is that the film is finally presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2:35:1. For a film that was filmed as wide as "The Dark Crystal" was, a standard format (or PAN and SCAN) loses so much of the film, about 45 to 50% worth. With the widescreen copy, you are finally able to see the beautiful layouts of the sets that were built. Here you get a purer feel for this magical land and get a better look at the Skeksis castle as well as the Mystics Valley and the land which Jen travels for his quest.
In the old VHS format two strips of ruins run across the top and bottom of the film for the first three to five minutes of the film. Though the designs were beautiful, they have been removed from the DVD.
Also featured on the DVD are "Deleted Scenes" of the rare Skeksis and Mystics FUNERAL. Here we witness the Skeksis performing their funeral rights for their passing Emperor (to an odd composing of a "Phantom of the Opera" like pipe organ song), while the Mystics perform their funeral rituals with Jen.
Whereas the Skeksis' funeral is harsh and cruel with its dark music and is carried out very somberly with fire, the Mystics seem to celebrate the passing on with beautiful music of harps and Jens' flute. This scene also reveals more about Jens' past and why finding the Dark Crystal is so important. A Mystic tells Jen of a prophecy that may happen if he does not find the Crystal Shard by a certain time.
The footage itself is old and grainy like mentioned earlier, and has several dark lines running across the picture, but that is to be expected for so rare a piece of film. These scenes add a great amount of background information about both characters. They provide much needed story information, and shows us even more magic of the puppeteers.
Another unique feature is the "Original Language Work Print Scenes". These scenes, all seven of them, are grainy much like the deleted scenes, but they offer an interesting look that went into the making of the film.
It is here where you watch Aughra, performed by Frank Oz, talk with a Grover-like voice, before the final voice which we all know was dubbed in. Most of the scenes involving the Skeksis consist of harsh snarls and growls, and when they do talk they speak in an odd language. Their voices are low in these scenes, most likely due to the large set and the fact that the final voices would be added in later, but it is a great feature to watch. A bonus on not understanding the Skeksis in these scenes is watching the performances of the puppeteers and watching them tell the story through their movements. This not only is a great way to tell a story but it also proves the remarkable talent and craft of the puppeteers.
An informative documentary on the making of the film titles "The World of the Dark Crystal" is also on the disc. The disci is told through narratives and interviews with Jim Henson, Frank Oz and Brian Froud about how the film came about, from the very first story ideas up to the final filmed scenes.
The documentary allows you to watch Brian Froud, Conceptual Designer of the film, draw many of the film's characters: Jen, the Mystics, the Skeksis, the Pod People, and the Land Striders. It also reveals how several of the creatures were performed, ranging from the Mystic and Skeksis, to the land Striders and Garthims.
Another treat on the DVD is a feature that allows you to take a closer look at the artwork of Brian Froud. Here you can look at several color pictures of both the Ur-ru Mystics and the Skeksis. Next to the drawings are the charactersí names and positions they have in their clans.
There are five theatrical trailers on the disc. Three of which belong to "The Dark Crystal". (One is the American Trailer, another is the Teaser Trailer, and the third is the European Trailer.) The two other trailers are for other Jim Henson projects, the "Labyrinth" and "The Storyteller".
Also presented is a "Talent File" on Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Brian Froud. Here you can read about each man and his craft, and get an insight into their careers and other films and books they have put out.
The "Audio Setup" contains several choices. One is English, 2 (Dolby sound), a second is English 5.1 (Dolby digital), and the third is the choice of Spanish (mono). You also have the choice of an "Isolated Music Score" which allows you to watch the film with just the soundtrack playing.
The option for "Subtitles" is also available, both in English and Spanish. The subtitles are presented just below the picture on the "black bars" and the words are in yellow, which stands out nicely against the black.
Clearly the amount of thought and work that went into this DVD was well worth it. For all of those who wanted "The Dark Crystal" with more than just a formatted VHS copy (myself included), this disc is the answer to your prayers. With the high prices of DVD'S out on the market today, some of which costing close to thirty dollars and not a single extra feature to be found, it is nice to see a disc available worth its price. If we were using the ratings of four stars, four of course being the highest and one being the lowest, "The Dark Crystal" truly deserves a rating of ***** yes, five stars. It is truly one of the best DVD'S out there today.
The Jim Henson company has done it once again. Long live the Gelfling! You can purchase this great movie on DVD and VHS from our Muppet Central Store.
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