The Dark Crystal Director’s Cut

For those of you that have watched Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal, consider this premise:  Think about a world with three suns, strange hybrid creatures, the last of the mouse-eared diminutive Gelfling, the gentle urRu (or the Mystics) and the cruel and twisted Skeksis actually being two parts of the same race, and the heart of that whole world being a crystal with a chip that has turned it dark. Now picture this entire story being told with very little explanation and, in one species’ case, very little speech in the way that approximates English.

This is what “The Dark Crystal Director’s Cut” is supposed to be.  Apparently Christopher Orgeron, a long-time Jim Henson enthusiast, experimental film-lover, and a fan of the film, tracked down a copy of the workprint (the rough version of a motion picture created during the process of editing) on a torrent and proceeded to edit, splice together, and painstakingly restore scenes from the workprint and The Dark Crystal into an approximation of the original director’s cut that was rejected by its test audiences so many years ago.  Think about it, the result of those rejections and subsequent editing to clarify the film’s story line made all the difference between The Dark Crystal being an obscure experimental film, and becoming a cult-classic for a broader theatre going audience.  It is a fine line indeed.

It is almost as much of a fine line to state that Orgeron’s work is actually The Dark Crystal Director’s Cut. He apparently based it off of the workprint as much as possible, but even he seems to admit that there are places that he needs to smooth over and things were lost in the translation, as it were, from the rough black and white production quality film of the workprint itself. I’ve watched the film that was released on DVD and this cut and there are very few differences between them, but the ones that exist are very clear. Aside from the fact that there is more footage of certain events, there is a lot less silliness as well.  The narration of the released film version at the beginning doesn’t exist and the Skeksis are not speaking English but, rather, their own language of Skexish. The fact that the Skeksis are only speaking their language makes them a lot creepier, though their general mannerisms show through all too well.

The black and white workprint scenes inserted into the cut are a little confusing in and of themselves and sometimes the sound quality wavers. Still, as Orgeron states in his interview with Mental Floss, this version or interpretation of the film throws you right into the “extraterrestrial” quality of Thra and the story and there is something very elemental about finding yourself as an audience and with little warning being in a whole other world.

It is uncertain how long “The Dark Crystal Director’s Cut” will be available on YouTube or anywhere else for that matter before the Henson Company weighs in on its existence, but it is intriguing to look at and it definitely gives you a look into the processes that shaped this film. It’s ironic. The original cut was said to have been rejected because of its lack of appeal to a broader audience and yet the cut that did make it, the film many of us all know and love, has become obscure on its own way over time compared to the rest of Henson’s Muppets work and even Labyrinth.  Yet it is an interesting time. The Dark Crystal Author Quest is quickly drawing to a close, still looking for a new writer to add more to Thra’s universe, and then this fan’s work comes up to give us even more insight: especially when you consider that there seems to have been more footage and fewer transitions in the dreamfasting sequence between Jen and Kira … letting you see a lot more about their lives before what will become their quest.

It would seem that the film’s adage still holds true when you come to it. Everything is connected.

Dark Crystal

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