The Dark Crystal (partially found high-quality version of workprint/director's cut of puppet fantasy film; early 1980s)
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 on 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 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 to save both the crystal and the planet of Thra from destruction.
Though the film initially received mixed reviews upon its release, it has since become a major cult classic. It has spawned various prequel comics, two sequel comics (the first one being based on its cancelled film sequel, The Power of The Dark Crystal), a video game, a non-canonical prequel manga, an official novelization written by A.C.H. Smith, four prequel novels written by J.M. Lee, and most notably, a 2019 Netflix prequel series, The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance (based on the J.M. Lee novels), which received critical acclaim from both fans and critics upon release.
Despite the film's following, many fans don't know that the film's current form is a significantly cut-down version of the one Jim Henson originally made.
The film was originally meant to be much darker and more surreal and slightly longer, with a few scenes either in a different order or some cut out entirely. The original cut was around 100 minutes and the finished cut is only 93 minutes.
The film was cut down as a result of poor reactions from test audiences, who thought the film was too dark and had trouble understanding the story. 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. However, this was changed when test audiences thought it was too confusing and didn't know what the Skeksis were saying.
"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.
There were also rumors of the Skeksis scenes having English subtitles, but there is little evidence to support this.
There are three different versions of the director's cut available online:
The first is the film's official workprint, recovered by Demonoid user Aikousha, who had seen the original version during test screenings. However, the workprint is incredibly low quality, being in black and white with visible deterioration and warped audio.
The second version is a slightly higher-quality reconstruction made by Christopher Orgeron, which uses both various deleted scenes and scenes from the final film (though not all scenes present in the workprint are in the reconstruction). It also uses some of the original audio. It was originally posted on Christopher's YouTube channel, scoodidabop, but was later taken down due to copyright strikes. It has since been re-uploaded onto Archive.org by user parrisj.
The third reconstruction (the creator of which is unknown) originated from Veoh.com. This reconstruction uses clips from the finished film, the workprint, and the Orgeron cut. It utilizes a combination of the finished audio and the workprint audio and is in the original scene order.
Despite fan efforts, 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 possesses 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 later 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. She was originally voiced by Frank Oz, who was later switched out for Billie Whitelaw because Jim Henson wanted her to have a more feminine voice.
- Oddly enough, Aughra seemed to go through two different voice actors before Billie Whitelaw; In both the workprint and the Orgeron cut, Aughra is played by an unknown male voice actor, but in some available versions of the deleted scenes, Aughra is voiced by Frank Oz.
- Two different funeral scenes 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 a single Mystic telling him to see the Master.
- The ending is also different. As in the director's cut, the film ends on a close-up shot of the crystal with an image of the now pearly-white Castle appearing in it. But in the final cut, the film ends with a wide shot of the Castle Of The Crystal and the land being restored to its natural beauty.
- Sam and Friends (partially found early Jim Henson puppet TV series; 1955-1961)
- Wilkins and Wontkins (partially lost series of Jim Henson commercials; 1957-1969)
- The Muppets' early ads (partially lost series of commercials; 1962-1969)
- Sesame Street (partially lost children's educational TV series; 1969-present)
- The Power of The Dark Crystal (lost production materials from canceled sequel to "The Dark Crystal" fantasy film; 1982-2014)
- Fraggle Rock (partially found British co-production of puppet children's television series; 1984-1990)
- Muppets In Space (lost early drafts of "Muppets From Space" sci-fi family film; 1999)
- https://archive.org/details/TDCBGMTestWorkprint/ The early workprint, notice the longer running time.
- https://mentalfloss.com/article/54077/watch-restored-original-cut-dark-crystal/ The test reactions.
- https://dailydot.com/parsec/dark-crystal-skeksis-language/ An article that talks about the original Skeksis language
- http://nerdipop.co.za/jim-henson-labyrinth-dark-crystal/ Gary Kurtz quote.
- https://cnet.com/news/fan-spends-two-years-compiling-the-dark-crystal-directors-cut/ An article talking about the workprint/reconstruction.
- https://archive.org/details/TheDarkerCrystal/ The Orgeron reconstruction.
- https://veoh.com/watch/v70593620BqtdwgNG/ The Veoh reconstrution
- 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