The Dark Crystal
directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz
(Jim Henson Productions, 1982)

In another world and time, in an age of wonder, lived a Gelfing....

Jen is an orphan, the last of a race exterminated by the evil Skekses, lizard-like creatures living in the Castle of the Dark Crystal. Raised by the Mystics in their peaceful valley, Jen's life is shattered when his Master, the wisest of the Mystics, dies. Before his death, he charges Jen with a quest -- find the shard that was split from the Dark Crystal nearly a thousand years ago.

Jen's quest takes him to the mountain home of Aughra, a witch who studies the heavens. From her he learns of the coming Great Conjunction when the three suns will shine in the sky as one. Aughra is the keeper of the shard that Jen needs, though for what, he still does not know.

But now the Skekses have become aware of Jen's existence, and before Aughra can tell him what he must do with the shard, the Skekses' Garthim soldiers attack and Aughra's home is destroyed. Jen flees, believing Aughra to be dead.

Wandering in the wilderness, he comes upon a female Gelfling called Kira. She, too, had believed herself to be the last of the Gelflings. Also an orphan, she lives with the small and kindly Podlings. She invites Jen to her home, where he is welcomed with a feast. But his enjoyment of the party is cut short when once more the Garthim attack. Strangely, just as Jen is about to be struck by a Garthim, a Skeksis saves him. He and Kira flee into the night.

The following morning, Jen and Kira find themselves in the ruins of a Gelfling building. Here, they find the words of a prophecy: "When single shines the triple sun, what was sundered and undone shall be whole, the two made one, by Gelfling hand or else by none." Now Jen knows what it is he must do and he and Kira set out for the Castle of the Dark Crystal so that Jen can heal the Crystal before the Great Conjunction.

The Dark Crystal is an extraordinary movie. Peopled entirely by Muppets of various sizes and shapes, it is traditional fantasy at its best. Although aimed at children, adults will find this movie just as funny, exciting and moving as kids would. (And how often in a children's movie -- or any movie, for that matter -- do you hear the word "harridan"?)

The conceptual design of the movie was by Brian Froud and his touch is evident here even more than in Labyrinth which he also designed. From the swirls on the faces of the Mystics to the artwork in the Gelfling ruins, Froud's work shines out.

The score by Trevor Jones emphasizes the epic nature of Jen's quest. The music moves in great, sweeping swirls or is delicately understated, as required by the onscreen action.

Released in 1982 and recently re-released on video, The Dark Crystal is definitely worth owning on tape. I actually wore out my first copy and am now on my second, my only complaint being that the artwork on the new release is, while more colorful, definitely inferior to the poster art appearing on the cover of the original release.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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