The Storyteller Collection (DVD)
Without a doubt, "The Storyteller" DVD represents Jim Henson's finest work. I hadn't seen any episodes of the show since 1989, and I was a mite worried that "Storyteller" would not live up to the fond, misty memories I've carried for 14 years. My fears were unfounded, because "The Storyteller" DVD exceeded my best recollections. The shows were far better than I remembered. They've aged like a fine wine.
The DVD collects all nine episodes of the original "Storyteller" series, which featured John Hurt as the Storyteller and Brian Henson operating Hurt's snarky sidekick dog. The length of the DVD alone makes the purchase worthwhile. Over three hours of episodes are packed onto the DVD!
The overall quality of the first half of the DVD is a bit fuzzy. Lest viewers attribute the graininess to DVD compression issues, I remember that the episodes looked about the same when they aired. It seems as if the shows were shot on video and then later treated to achieve a film-like quality. The episodes dated 1989, which appear on the second half of the DVD, look much sharper than earlier installments.
As with "The Dark Crystal" and "Labyrinth," fantasy artist Brian Froud worked as the conceptual designer for the entire series. Thus, the beasties and critters all feel like grand fantasy illustrations sprung to life. The visual styles of the show are quite remarkable and very innovative. Arty camera work and unusual special effects flow unbounded throughout the series.
The episodes uniformly sport wonderful writing as well. Anthony Minghella, who went on to pen "The English Patient," provided the scripts. The stories are witty, moving, and 'epic' all at the same time.
The printed matter packaged with the DVD includes an eloquent, heartfelt written introduction by Jim Henson, as well as a brief history of the series. There's also a detailed listing of the episodes that inexplicably presents the installments in a wholly different order than they actually appear on the DVD.
The Emmy-winning "Hans My Hedgehog" kicks off the fairytale lovefest. You might recognize a few familiar voices, such as Stephan Garlick, who provided the voice of Jen in "The Dark Crystal." A 'beauty and the beast' story, "Hans My Hedgehog" weaves a tale about an animal-like man who marries a reluctant princess.
The episode "Fearnot" concerns a carefree young man who accomplishes great heroic deeds while in search of something -- ANYTHING -- that will scare him.
"A Story Short" is the only tale that directly relates to John Hurt's narrator character. The Storyteller finds himself unable to think of a story to tell his king, and Hurt faces certain doom unless he can come up with a new yarn. The episode combines about a dozen different folktales into one cohesive plot.
"The Luck Child" tells of a baby destined for greatness. An evil king will stop at nothing to see the baby dead. The centerpiece of the episode is a giant Griffin who looks like a Firey from "Labyrinth" and sounds like Elmo.
My favorite episode on the DVD is "The Soldier & Death." A whistling Russian soldier outwits devils and death through card games ... and with a little help from a seemingly ordinary sack. Jim Henson directed the episode.
"The True Bride" is probably the weakest story in the collection, but it features some of the best special effects. A young girl enslaved by a cruel, ugly troll finds compassion from a magical white lion. Sean Bean, who played Boromir in Peter Jackson's "Fellowship of the Rings," appears as the girl's paramour.
"The Three Ravens" tells of a wicked witch who marries kings to usurp their power. She casts a spell on one of the king's children and turns them into ravens. The only way to break the spell is for the king's daughter to remain silent for three years. Jonathan Pryce of "Brazil" fame stars as the king.
"Sapsorrow" takes Cinderella in a whole new direction. A beautiful princess turns herself into a horrible beast in order to avoid marrying her own father. Years later, she meets a handsome yet shallow prince who's looking for love in all the wrong places.
"The Heartless Giant" rounds out the collection. A young boy is tricked into releasing a murdering giant without a heart. Only the boy can set things right ... provided he can find the giant's lost heart.
Simply put, "The Storyteller" DVD is a must-have for Henson fans. The only disappointment you'll experience will come when the final credits of the final episode roll. Henson's creativity and craftsmanship can be felt in every inch, every moment of the DVD. "The Storyteller" was clearly way ahead of its time. Hopefully its grandeur will be fully appreciated now that the series can be viewed in its entirety. Owning "The Storyteller" is like owning a piece of pure magic.
Although some of the stories may be seen as odd by some, I have not yet met someone who can truly dislike and even walk away from one of these tantalizing tales. Each story has a different way to tell an old tale, a charm that has almost been forgotten. Each story has its own twist, making for an unforgettable experience.
You can tell some stories were recorded several years earlier due to a few “rough” and “blurry” patches which appear. They can easily be ignored, once you have been encased in this magical world. Other than this visual misstep, everything is presented well.
The Storyteller twists his tales and chooses words which will weave into the most unimaginative head and make them believe in magic and the power of love. Not only are these stories pleasing to watch, but they are also a treat to the ear. This selection of tales is certainly some of the Henson Company's best work of all time.
what you may be missing!