Fan spends two years compiling The Dark Crystal director's cut

The earliest versions of Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal were a lot more dark and surreal than the version that made it to audiences. One fan spent two years restoring it to its former glory.

The earliest versions of Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal were a lot more dark and surreal than the version that made it to audiences. One fan spent two years restoring it to its former glory.

(Credit: Universal Pictures)

The Dark Crystal — contemplative, surreal and viscerally terrifying — is a film we suspect would be difficult to get made today, yet it's held a strong place in the heart of everyone who grew up with it. Those kinds of themes are ones that stay with you — a sort of bleakness many children would not have experienced before.

Imagine our surprise upon learning that the original cut of the film was darker still. However, when it was shown to test audiences, so the story goes, they found it a little too dark, a little too surreal. So Jim Henson and Frank Oz redubbed and recut the film into the version that we know and love today.

Much of the footage was considered lost until a Demonoid user by the name of Aikousha, who had been a member of the test audiences as a child, managed to track down a poor-quality black-and-white VHS workprint of the film. It was this that YouTube user Christopher Orgeron, AKA scoodidabop, used to restore the original cut of the film, the way Henson and Oz intended it to be seen.

He spent over two years cleaning up the footage, hunting it down from wherever possible (in a few cases, he had to resort to using the workprint footage, cleaning it up as best he could), including DVD deleted scenes. Then he took the workprint's audio, cleaned that up too, and recut the film so that it's as close as possible to the original version.

The film is still a little rough in places — scoodidabop was doing this in his spare time on home equipment, after all — but it presents a decent viewing experience that shows the film in a new light. "In this version, there's no narrator, Jen's inner monologues are gone and the Skeksis hardly ever say anything in English (Aughra speaks some Skesis too!)," scoodidabop wrote in the YouTube description. "This version is much more modern and a little darker with this original audio and the slightly different score. Some of the scenes are moved around too, which adds to the surreal feel of the original film."

Thanks, Drew!

 

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