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Watch the Restored Original Cut of The Dark Crystal

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YouTube / scoodidabop

The version of The Dark Crystal that was released in 1982 was dark and weird, especially for a kids' movie. But there was an earlier version—darker, weirder, and trippier—that didn't make it to theaters. The earlier cut didn't test well with audiences, so the film was substantially changed to appeal to a broad audience. Voiceover was added, and English dialogue was added to many scenes where the action was previously supposed to be understood through puppets' pantomime.

For the past two years an enterprising fan, 31-year-old Christopher Orgeron, has labored to reassemble that original cut of the movie. He had limited materials to work with, so there are rough edges in many places (most notably the black-and-white scenes from a VHS dub of the original cut). But looking at this version of The Dark Crystal gives us a dose of the Henson weirdness that we see in many of his early films. Whether this is better or worse than the theatrical version is debatable—but at the very least, it's a fascinating glimpse into what might have been. Here it is, and below, my interview with Orgeron.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: On Monday, January 27, 2014 the videos were removed from YouTube and the Internet Archive, at the request of the Jim Henson Company.

Q&A With Christopher Orgeron

Higgins: When you look at this cut of the movie, do you feel that this is closer to what Henson and his collaborators intended than what was released theatrically?

Orgeron: Not necessarily. That's where there's a little contention over the use of the "Director's Cut" title on my video. This edit is indeed an exact replica of an early version of the film that Henson and company showed to a test audience. In that sense alone it's a "director's cut," but I think sadly that's where the distinction ends.

There were obvious hurdles for Henson when it came time to convince the studio execs of the viability of such an ambitious film. So the changes that were made to the dialogue had to be done to help the film appeal to a wider, theater-going audience. I think it should also be noted that the performances given by the puppeteers on set were based on the lines heard in the workprint [the early cut] so in that way, this cut matches the acting better.

Higgins: How would you characterize the differences between this version and the theatrical version? Certainly it is darker, weirder, more surreal. There seems to be a parallel to me with Blade Runner (another 1982 film...) and its many cuts—it had narration and other de-complicating factors added after test screenings, but the original version has more depth. Do you agree with the Blade Runner parallel?

Orgeron: Absolutely. It was clearly a time of film-making experimentation. Late 70s and early 80s sci-fi movies are arguably some of the best that have ever been made. It's like 90s Nickelodeon. Less restriction in unexplored mediums led to some really great creativity. This version of The Dark Crystal plays out more like a sci-fi film set on a different planet than a kids' fantasy movie. The Skeksis and Gelflings seem more like extraterrestrials in a way.

The Blade Runner comparison is a fantastic analogy with similar circumstances. Another one I just discovered recently was in, oddly enough, a Frank Oz film called Little Shop of Horrors. Totally different ending where (spoiler alert!) the plant multiplies and goes on a killing rampage, destroying the entire city! These days I think the formulas for movie-making and audience reception are a little more clear and changes made after test screenings are a little less dramatic.

Higgins: What's your personal relationship with the theatrical version of The Dark Crystal? Do you remember seeing it as a kid? Did you like it?

Orgeron: This tidbit is a little shameful. I was born the same year the film was released and was a huge Henson fan as a kid but didn't really hear about The Dark Crystal until I was about 17. Roughly a year after that, I decided to buy the DVD and give it a go. My perspective while watching it was a little unusual since the film was undeniably "Henson" but my matured brain got to see a vivid and ambitious world that had somehow eluded me as a child. I loved it to death. It appealed to my childhood and early adulthood while still being brand new. I watched the DVD many times and all the deleted scenes, which made me want to find out more about this early version that was subsequently lost.

Higgins: When did you find out about the workprint? Do you know "Aikousha" [the pseudonymous person who posted a low-quality, black-and-white version of the workprint] personally?

After reading the liner notes on the DVD I was disappointed to find that this strange "early" version of the film was mostly destroyed. It seemed that the original idea Henson and Oz had was really different compared to the wide release of the film and I had a looming curiosity to see it. Around that same time I was really getting to more artistic films and began wondering if there was some surviving copy out there in the wild of this darker take on The Dark Crystal. I'd Google it every now and then but never really came up with anything, until 6 or 7 years ago (ish) when I found out about the workprint in a forum somewhere.

I found the thread well after Aikousha had posted his insights into the workprint and how he obtained it, but the site that was hosting the upload was gone and no one seemed to have a copy. I made many attempts at buying a VHS copy from a few guys to no avail, but finding out that there was indeed a living copy of this version refueled my desire to see it. I wish I could contact Aikousha to thank him for finding it in the first place but he's not easy to track down. A few years ago some torrents started popping up for it, which is where I eventually got a copy.

Higgins: Can you tell me a little about the technical process here? It looks to me like you've gotten the majority (or all) of the soundtrack from the workprint, then matched available video to that. Is that correct?

Orgeron: So if anyone is morbidly curious, I recommend finding a workprint copy and checking it out. It's a test of patience to watch. While I did very little to the black & white video clips you see in my cut, the audio was nearly unlistenable on the workprint. Most of the reason I made my edit was to show to some of my friends that really wanted to see the workprint but couldn't stand to sit through the awful quality.

The idea was to use the entire original workprint audio and then match the clean video to it, which is how it mostly went down. The audio had loads of tape hiss and noise that I pulled out and equalized. It's still very compressed, but I was happy to discover the dialogue was still intelligible after processing. I did pepper in some of the final high quality Trevor Jones score during transitional scenes for dynamic range and perspective but some of the score by Vangelis is of course different on the workprint, which I left in. [Ed. note: Vangelis was initially considered to score the film, but Jones got the job instead. Some Vangelis music is included in the workprint.]

Higgins: Do you intend to continue working on this? For instance, if someone actually had better footage to insert at various points, are you prepared to include that?

Orgeron: There are some rough little bits in the edit I intend to smooth out and I would absolutely devote the time to insert better footage. If anyone can improve the black & white footage or clean up the deleted scenes then we can get a few steps closer to restoring this piece of film history.

Where to Learn More

You can read more from Orgeron about his process on The Internet Archive or in the film's YouTube description. If you've got a hankering to watch the theatrical cut, I suggest the Blu-ray release.

Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures
10 Monster Facts About Pacific Rim
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures

Legendary Pictures took a gamble on Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 monster/robot slugfest. Since it wasn’t based on a preexisting franchise, it lacked a built-in fanbase. That can be a serious drawback in our current age of blockbuster remakes and reboots. The movie underperformed domestically; in America, it grossed just over $100 million against its $180 million budget. Yet Pacific Rim was a huge hit overseas and acquired enough fans to earn itself a sequel, Pacific Rim Uprising, which arrives in theaters this week. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the movie that started it all.


Idris Elba in 'Pacific Rim' (2013)
Warner Bros.

One foggy day in 2007, Beacham—who’d recently moved to California—was walking along Santa Monica Beach. As he looked out at the Ferris wheel on the city’s eponymous pier, he pictured a looming sea monster. Then he imagined an equally large robot gearing up to fight the beast. “They just sort of materialized out of the fog, these vast godlike things,” Beacham said. He decided to pursue the concept further after coming up with the idea of human co-pilots who’d need to operate their robot as a team, which added a new thematic dimension.

“I didn’t know I had something I wanted to write until I realized these robots are driven by two pilots, and what happens when one of those people dies? What happens to the leftovers? Then it became a story about loss, moving on after loss, and dealing with survivor’s guilt," Beacham said. "That made the monsters scarier because now you care about the people who are in these robots.”


Pacific Rim was picked up by Legendary Pictures and handed over to director Guillermo del Toro. A huge fan of monster cinema, del Toro enthusiastically co-wrote the final screenplay with Beacham. Sixteen concept artists were hired to sketch original robot and creature designs for the film. “We would get together every day like kids and draw all day,” del Toro told the New York Daily News. “We designed about a hundred Kaijus and about a hundred Jaegers and every week we would do an American Idol and we would vote [some of] them out.”


In “Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats,” the tenth episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's sixth season, Charlie Day’s character gives us a darkly comedic monologue about rodent extermination. Little did the actor know that the performance would open a big opportunity for him. Impressed by the rat speech, del Toro offered Day the part of Dr. Newton Geizler, Pacific Rim’s socially-inept kaiju expert. “He said to himself, ‘That’s my guy. That guy should be in my next movie because if he killed rats, he can kill the monster,’” Day recalled during an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. On the movie set, del Toro often joked about how much he enjoys It’s Always Sunny. As a way of repaying his director, Day helped get del Toro a minor role in the series.


Most of the film’s special effects were computer-generated, but not everything was digital. For the robot cockpit scenes, del Toro had his team build the interior of a full-scale Jaeger head. The finished product stood four stories tall and weighed 20 tons. And like a Tilt-A-Whirl from hell, it was designed to rock around violently on its platform via a network of hydraulics. Once inside, the actors were forced to don 40-pound suits of armor. Then the crew strapped their feet into an apparatus that Charlie Hunnam has compared to a high-resistance elliptical machine.

Certain shots also required del Toro to dump gallons of water all over his exhausted, physically-strained stars. So yeah, the experience wasn’t much fun. “We saw every one of the actors break down on that set except for the female lead actress Rinko Kikuchi," del Toro said. "She’s the only actor that didn’t snap."


Del Toro wanted Gipsy Danger, his ‘bot, to have the self-confident air of a wild west gunslinger. To that end, he and concept artist Oscar Chichoni developed a swaggering gait that was based on John Wayne’s signature hip movements. The Jaeger’s Art Deco-like design was influenced by the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings.


Hailed as the “fortieth greatest guitarist of all time” by Rolling Stone, Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello rocked the MTV generation with hits like “Bulls on Parade” and “Killing in the Name.” Pacific Rim bears his mark as well. The film’s lead composer was Ramin Djawadi, whose other works include the Game of Thrones theme. Wanting to add a “rock element” to the Pacific Rim soundtrack, he and del Toro reached out to Morello. The guitarist didn’t need much persuading.

“When they asked me to put some giant robot riffs and screaming underwater monster licks on the film score, I was all in,” Morello said. Djwadi was pleased with the rocker's contributions to the project. As he told the press: “Tom’s unique style and sounds really defined our robots.”


A definite highlight of this movie is Gipsy Danger’s duel with the winged kaiju Otachi in downtown Hong Kong. Both characters were computer-generated, as were the majority of the streets, cars, and towers in this epic sequence. However, there is one moment which was at least partly realized with practical effects. Gipsy punches through the wall of an office building early in the fight. We see her fist rip through a series of cubicles and gradually decelerate until it lightly taps a chair with just enough force to set off a Newton’s Cradle desktop toy. For that shot, effects artists at 32Ten Studios constructed a miniature office building interior featuring 1/4-scale desks, cubicles, and padded chairs. The level of detail here was amazing: 32Ten’s staff adorned each individual workspace with lamps, computers, wastebaskets, and teeny, tiny Post-it notes.


Rinko Kikuchi in 'Pacific Rim' (2013)
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures

Audiences reacted strongly to Kikuchi’s character Mako Mori, who inspired an alternative to the famous Bechdel test. Some critics praised the culmination of her relationship with Raleigh Beckett (Hunnam). Although it’s common practice for the male and female leads in an action flick to end their movie with a smooch, Mori and Beckett share a platonic hug as Pacific Rim draws to a close. Del Toro revealed that he shot three different versions of that final scene. “We did one version where they kiss and it almost felt weird. They’re good friends, they’re pals, good colleagues,” del Toro said.


At the end of the credits, there’s a tribute that reads: “This film is dedicated to the memories of monster masters Ray Harryhausen and Ishiro Honda.” Harryhausen passed away on May 7, 2013—two months before Pacific Rim’s release. A great stop-motion animator, he breathed life into such creatures as the towering Rhedosaurus in 1953’s The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

Ishiro Honda was another giant of the kaiju genre, having directed Rodan, War of the Gargantuas, and numerous Godzilla films. Del Toro has great respect for both men. When Harryhausen died, the director said, “I lost a member of my family today, a man who was as present in my childhood as any of my relatives.” He also adores the Japanese monster classics and says he’d love to see a Pacific Rim-Godzilla crossover someday. Maybe it’ll happen.


If you’re not familiar with the practice of “Sweding,” let us fill you in: The 2008 comedy Be Kind, Rewind is about two co-workers at a VHS rental store who accidentally erase every tape in stock. Hoping to save their skins, they create ultra low-budget remakes of all the films they’ve destroyed using cardboard sets and cheap costumes. It’s a process these guys call “Sweding” as a ploy to convince everyone that their (unintentionally hilarious) knockoffs were produced in Sweden. Since Be Kind, Rewind was released, Sweding has become a legitimate art form.

When Pacific Rim’s first trailer debuted in 2013, YouTubers Brian Harley and Brodie Mash created a shot-for-shot, Sweded duplicate of the preview. Instead of state-of-the-art CG effects, their version used toy helicopters, duct-tape monster masks, and an ocean of packing peanuts—and del Toro loved it. At WonderCon 2013, he praised the video, saying that it inspired the editing used in Pacific Rim’s third trailer. Harley and Mash happened to be at the same gathering. When del Toro met the comedic duo, he exclaimed “I loved it! My daughters loved it, we watched it a bunch of times!” Then he invited the Sweding duo to attend Pacific Rim’s premiere in Hollywood.

Evening Standard/Getty Images
Pop Culture
Stanley Kubrick Photography Exhibition Opening at the Museum of the City of New York
Evening Standard/Getty Images
Evening Standard/Getty Images

Stanley Kubrick will forever be known as one of the most important film directors of the 20th century, but he started his career in the 1940s as a photojournalist for Look magazine. Now, the Museum of the City of New York will host a photographic exhibition of Kubrick’s early work, featuring 120 pictures from his time as a staff photographer at Look from 1945 to 1950.

Much of Kubrick’s work at the time revolved around daily life in New York City—the clubs, the commutes, and the sports. Some of his most notable pieces while at Look were his photo features on boxers Rocky Graziano and Walter Cartier, the latter of which became the subject of Kubrick’s first film, a 1951 documentary called Day of the Fight.

“Turning his camera on his native city, Kubrick found inspiration in New York's characters and settings, sometimes glamorous, sometimes gritty,” the museum wrote in a press release. “He produced work that was far ahead of his time and focused on themes that would inspire him through his creative life. Most importantly, his photography laid the technical and aesthetic foundations for his cinematography: he learned through the camera's lens to be an acute observer of human interactions and to tell stories through images in dynamic narrative sequences.”

Titled "Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs," the exhibition will detail the different themes that inspired Kubrick’s work, as well as guide patrons through his Look tenure, including both published and unpublished work. One of the exhibit’s goals is to provide an “examination of the direct connection between Kubrick the photographer and Kubrick the director.”

"Through a Different Lens" runs from Thursday, May 3 through October 28, 2018 at the Museum of the City of New York.


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