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THE DARK CRYSTAL

I've always considered THE DARK CRYSTAL ($25) to be Jim Henson's masterpiece- a totally unique and truly amazing film. If you are like me, then you probably have probably been through every video incarnation of THE DARK CRYSTAL. First there was the film's original pan and scan videocassette release (from Thorn EMI if memory serves), which was utterly atrocious. Things looked as if they would improve when Image Entertainment announced a Letterboxed collector's edition of THE DARK CRYSTAL for release on Laserdisc. However, Image ended up unintentionally sabotaging their own release by having THE DARK CRYSTAL mastered and replicated at Technidisc. In my humble opinion, the Technidisc pressing of THE DARK CRYSTAL rated as one of the worst looking Laserdiscs I had ever had the displeasure to sitting through. Then, fortune deemed to smile on fans of THE DARK CRYSTAL, when Disney acquired the rights to THE DARK CRYSTAL and they struck a new Letterboxed transfer for Laserdisc release. Finally, fans finally had a good-looking presentation worthy of the film. Unfortunately, the supplements that were part of the Image release were not included on the Disney Laserdisc. Finally, this brings us to the Columbia TriStar DVD edition of THE DARK CRYSTAL ($30), which provides fans with a brand new 16:9 enhanced wide screen presentation, as well as a nice array of supplements, many of which were part of the Image Laserdisc release.

Jim Henson conceived the story of THE DARK CRYSTAL, with the film being co-directed by Henson and long time collaborator Frank Oz. THE DARK CRYSTAL is a visually rich and incredibly interesting film that tells a completely captivating story. There are no human actors in the film. Instead, THE DARK CRYSTAL all of the characters that populate the film's incredible fantasy world are given life by a large number of intricate puppets. On the most basic level, THE DARK CRYSTAL is a tale of good versus evil, which makes it easy for the audience to identify with the unusual creatures that inhabit the film. The story of THE DARK CRYSTAL takes place on a world very different from our own; in which there exists two very powerful races of beings. First there are the benevolent Mystics, who are wizards in tune with nature and the world around them. Then, there are the evil Skeksis, who draw their power from the Dark Crystal. Both the Mystics and the Skeksis first appeared nearly a millenium ago when the powerful Crystal cracked and a single piece was lost. As the film opens, we learn that both races are dying and that there is a prophecy that foretells of a creature known as a Gelfling, who will heal the Dark Crystal and bring about the end of the Skeksis. Of course, to prevent their own demise, the Skeksis try to wipe out all of the Gelflings. However, the Mystics raise a single surviving Gelfling, with the intention of sending him out on a quest to find the missing shard of the Dark Crystal, so that he may fulfill his destiny and save their dying world.

As I stated above, Columbia TriStar Home Video has created a new 16:9 enhanced transfer of THE DARK CRYSTAL, which rates as the best looking video incarnation of the film. The transfer recreates the film's 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio and looks as sharp and detailed as this film will ever look under the NTSC system. While the transfer looks great, the film element does exhibit occasional speckling, as well as other markings. Color reproduction on the disc is virtually flawless. As rendered here, the hues seem to be more vivid than they have appeared in past video releases of THE DARK CRYSTAL. There are no traces of chroma noise or bleeding on this beautifully colored disc. Blacks are faithfully recreated and contrast appears quite smooth. Rock solid DVD authoring hid virtually all traces of digital compression artifacts. 

For this release, THE DARK CRYSTAL features a terrific Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix, in addition to standard Dolby Surround and a monaural Spanish soundtrack. In 5.1, THE DARK CRYSTAL sounds better than it has in the past, especially the forward soundstage, which has an openness that it didn't seem to have previously. Dialogue is especially clean sounding. Since this is an older soundtrack that has been upgraded to 5.1, the surround channels don't offer the level of activity one would find in the sound mix of a new film. Still, the film's marvelous score by Trevor Jones sounds terrific in the upgraded mix. Subtitles are provided on the DVD in English and Spanish.

The interactive menus are fairly basic, but provide the requisite access to the standard scene selection and setup features. One may also access the DVD's supplements through the interactive menu system. Topping off the supplements is the sixty-minute documentary The World Of The Dark Crystal, which is a must see for anyone who wants to understand how this intricate film was realized. Additional, supplements include deleted scenes from a work print, which aren't in the best condition, including the Skeksis funeral sequence. An Isolated musical score, character drawings and profiles, theatrical trailers, production notes and talent files fill out the DVD's extras.

Columbia TriStar Home Video has released an edition of THE DARK CRYSTAL that truly does justice to Jim Henson's finest achievement. Additionally, the DVD provides fans with all the supplements that they could ever hope for in one package. Absolutely recommended.

All reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.
ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS

 


 
THE DARK CRYSTAL 


The Dark Crystal

ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 

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DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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