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By Brad Cook | August 31, 2007

After Gary Kurtz parted ways with George Lucas, he produced “The Dark Crystal.” While it may not have been as positive an influence on his bank account as “Return of the Jedi” would have been, I think he probably felt greater satisfaction while working on it. Some may dismiss it as a kids’ film, but “The Dark Crystal” is an ambitious movie that tried to go beyond the formula found in most movies aimed at the younger set. It didn’t always succeed, but you have to give it credit for trying.

Because the number of years since the film’s release is divisible by five, and because it’s become a cult classic, here we are with a 25th anniversary edition. “The Dark Crystal” was previously released on DVD a couple times, complete with a vintage documentary and some deleted scenes (except for the Superbit version, of course), but the print had obviously suffered a bit of wear and tear over the years. This time, we’re treated to a remastered print that looks as nice as one can expect, given the film’s age. There’s a fair amount of grain in the image, but that’s the way it was filmed, and it can’t be “fixed,” nor should it be.

Disc one also includes a commentary track from Brian Froud, who designed the characters and the world they inhabit. It’s a nice discussion that fans of the film should enjoy quite a bit. Froud gets into the nitty-gritty details of his work on the movie, delving into the hows and whys of the work he did. Sometimes he lapses into explaining what we’re seeing on screen, which is a pet peeve of mine when listening to commentaries, but I think it’s to be expected, considering Froud’s inexperience in that area. One interesting note: Froud wasn’t happy with the creatures that the Mystics and Skeksis became when they merged together at the end. They were supposed to be more elaborate and fantastic.

Everything from the previous DVD was ported to this one, except for the theatrical and teaser trailers, for whatever reason. I’ve never understood why DVD producers decide to drop such basic things, especially since they were included in the single-disc edition, along with Froud’s character design sketches, the deleted and work print scenes, and the 57-minute documentary, “The World of The Dark Crystal.”

Those latter items are in the 25th anniversary edition, of course. There’s one deleted scene, of the Skeksis emperor’s funeral, while the work print scenes demonstrate the original intention to have the Skeksis speak their own language, with subtitles at the bottom of the screen. Thankfully, that idea was dropped. Most parents, myself included, don’t want to spend an entire movie reading to their little kids.

The new stuff includes two “Reflections of The Dark Crystal” featurettes, “Light on the Path of Creation” (20 minutes) and “Shard of Illusion (16 minutes). Whereas “The World of The Dark Crystal” was made when the film came out, and thus has a bit of an EPK feel to it (although it’s still very enjoyable), the new materials delve more deeply into the film’s production. Never-before-seen test footage of the puppets was pulled from the Henson archives, and new interviews were conducted with Froud, screenwriter David Odell (he should have been on the commentary too), various performers from the film, and Jim Henson’s son, Brian. Both featurettes provide a nice complement to the commentary and the “World of The Dark Crystal,” giving us a complete look at the making of the movie.

That’s what you expect from a DVD release such as this one, and Sony delivered the goods, at least until they start hawking this film on Blu-ray for the 30th anniversary, or whatever.

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