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Watch the even weirder version of The Dark Crystal that could’ve been

The Dark Crystal is an outlier in the filmographies of Jim Henson and Frank Oz, its surreal visual palette and ambitious world-building more in line with Henson’s dabblings in experimental filmmaking than anything starring the Muppets. But it could’ve been weirder: Test audiences balked at the fantasy epic’s original cut, an intentionally impressionistic work that did no handholding when it came to introducing the strange world inhabited by Gelflings, Skeksis, and Mystics. (The villainous Skeksis, for example, spoke largely in unintelligible grunts and snarls.) The film was subsequently edited and re-sequenced, its more puzzling elements illuminated through narration and re-recorded dialogue. 

For years, it was assumed that the film as originally envisioned by Henson, Oz, and concept artist Brian Froud was lost to the ages, but a black-and-white VHS dub of a Dark Crystal workprint made its way to the web in the mid-2000s. It’s from that foundation that fan Christopher Orgeron built the recent YouTube upload The Dark Crystal: The Director’s Cut, a reportedly faithful recreation of the film that so alienated its first and only audiences. It’s a decidedly darker affair, and one made all the more fascinating for its refusal to explain… anything about itself. Mental Floss has an interview with Orgeron that digs into the painstaking specifics of the nearly two-year-long restoration process, as well as a link to where Orgeron’s cut can be downloaded when The Jim Henson Company’s lawyers inevitably come knocking, leaving The Dark Crystal shattered once more.

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