The Dark Crystal (partially found high quality version of workprint/director's cut of puppet fantasy film; early 1980s)

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DarkCrystalPoster.jpg

The film's poster

Status: Partially Found

The Dark Crystal is a puppet fantasy film directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. The film centers around Jen, a young male "gelfling" who must go a journey to reunite the crystal shard to the Crystal Of Truth. Which had become cracked and corrupted due to the actions of the villainous, self-proclaimed lords known as the skeksis. Along the way, Jen meets a female gelfling named Kira and her dog-like companion Fizzgig. Together, they journey to the Castle Of The Crystal in order to save both the crystal, and the planet of Thra from destruction.

Though the film initially received mixed reviews upon its release, the film has since become a major cult-classic. Becoming somewhat of a small franchise in the process. Which includes various prequel comics, two sequel comics (the first one being based off its cancelled film sequel, Power Of The Dark Crystal), a video game, a non-canon prequel manga, an official novelization written by A.C.H. Smith, four prequel novels written by J.M Lee, and most notably, a Netflix prequel series, The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance (which was based on the J.M Lee novels). Which received critical acclaim upon release.

Despite the film's following, many fans still don't know that the film's current form is actually a significantly cut down version from the one Jim Henson originally made.

Background

The film was originally meant to be much more surreal and darker than it ended up being. As well as being slightly longer with a few scenes either being in a different order or some that were eventually cut out entirely. With the original running time being around 100 minutes[1] and the finished cut only being 93 minutes.

The film being cut down was the result of poor reactions from test audiences. Who thought the film was too "dark" and had trouble understanding the story.[2] One of the most well known issues test audiences had with the film is the language used for the skeksis.

The skeksis were originally meant to have their own separate language, which was inspired by ancient Egyptian and Indo-European languages. This was changed, however, when test audiences thought it was too confusing and didn't know what the skeksis were saying.[3]

"The audience thought that they were missing something. Actually, they didn't need to understand the Skeksis' dialogue at those points. The translation of what was being said is really quite banal. The strength of those scenes was instinctively knowing what's going on...But the Skeksis scenes were quite long. You had to concentrate. The audience wasn't prepared to do that."

- Gary Kurtz, co-producer of The Dark Crystal.[4]

There were also rumors of the skeksis scenes having English subtitles, but there is little evidence to support this.

Availability

There are three different versions of the director's cut available online.

The first being the film's official work-print, recovered by Demonoid user Aikousha. Who had actually seen the original version during test screenings.[5] However, the work-print is incredibly low quality. Being in black and white with visible deterioration, and having warped audio.

The second version is a slightly higher quality reconstruction made by Christopher Orgeron. Which uses both scenes from the final film and various deleted scenes (though not all scenes present in the work-print are in the reconstruction). Along with using some of the original audio. It was originally posted onto Christopher's YouTube channel, "scoodidabop", but was later taken down due to copyright strikes.[6] It has since been re-uploaded onto Archive.org by user parrisj.[7]

The third reconstruction (the creator of which is unknown) originated from Veoh.com. This reconstruction uses clips from the finished film, the work-print, and the Orgeron cut. With a combination of the finished audio and the work-print audio, as well as being in the original scene order.[8]

Despite efforts from fans, an official high quality version of the director's cut has yet to be released. It is currently unknown whether or not The Jim Henson Company even possess a higher quality copy of the director's cut.

Differences from the finished version

There are several key differences between the director's cut and the version that was eventually released to the public.

  • There is no narrator in the original version. This was added due to the negative test reactions.
  • Jen and Kira have far less dialogue. Jen doesn't have any inner-monologues and the dreamfasting scene has no dialogue at all.
  • Mother Aughra has an entirely different voice than she does in the final film. As she was originally voiced by Frank Oz, but was switched out for Billie Whitelaw because Jim Henson wanted her to have more of a feminine sounding voice.[9]
  • Oddly enough, Aughra seemed to go through two different voice actors before Billie Whitelaw. As in both the work-print and the Orgeron cut, Aughra is played by an unknown male voice actor. Yet in some available versions of the deleted scenes, Aughra is clearly voiced by Frank Oz.
  • There are two different funeral scenes that were cut out of the released version. The first being a skeksis funeral scene, and the second being a mystic/urru funeral scene.
  • The skeksis speak in their previously mentioned language. The rumored "subtitles" are not present in either version.
  • Some of the skeksis' voices are different. For example, skekEkt's voice is slightly lower and less shrill, and skekAyuk has more of a stereotypical "oaf" sounding voice.
  • Some scenes are in a different order than how they appear in the final cut.
  • Some of the musical arrangements/cues are different.
  • There is a brief interaction between Jen and the mystic, urZah.
  • Some of Kira's line deliveries are different.
  • The scene where Jen is seen bathing is extended.
  • Instead of being summoned by all the mystics, Jen is approached by single mystic telling him to see the Master.

Videos

A video comparison between the two versions.
The original language for the skeksis.
A comparison between the original Trial By Stone scene and the final version.
The skeksis and mystic funeral scenes
The scene with Aughra and the skeksis using their original voices/language.
A fan-edit of the original Master death scene.


References

  1. https://archive.org/details/TDCBGMTestWorkprint/ The early workprint, notice the longer running time.
  2. https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/54077/watch-restored-original-cut-dark-crystal/ The test reactions.
  3. https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/dark-crystal-skeksis-language/ An article that talks about the original skeksis language
  4. http://nerdipop.co.za/jim-henson-labyrinth-dark-crystal/ Gary Kurtz quote.
  5. https://archive.org/details/TDCBGMTestWorkprint
  6. https://www.cnet.com/news/fan-spends-two-years-compiling-the-dark-crystal-directors-cut/ An article talking about the work-print/reconstruction.
  7. https://archive.org/details/TheDarkerCrystal/ The Orgeron reconstruction.
  8. https://www.veoh.com/watch/v70593620BqtdwgNG/ The Veoh reconstrution
  9. David Odell (2012), "Reflections on Making The Dark Crystal and Working with Jim Henson". In: Froud, B., Dysart, J., Sheikman, A. & John, L. The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths, Vol. II. Archaia. ISBN 978-1-936393-80-0