Tonight’s video is from TED-Ed, with a lesson on the chemistry of cookies! Yum. Think about this as you bake for the holidays.
I’m fascinated by the way modern Internet media allows fans to display their fannish dedication in more dedicated ways than ever, like creating incomplete or alternate versions of movies. I covered this once before with the recreation of The Thief and the Cobbler but another fan recently compiled the original vision for Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal. This all puppet movie envisions a weird fantasy land, but in its first cut the film had less narration and alien speech from the horrid, vulture-like Skeksis. Test audiences hated it, so the movie was recut with more hand-holding voice overs and the Skeksis learned English.
From Mental Floss interviewed Dark Crystal superfan Christopher Orgeron and links to the complete recut fan version of the film:
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.
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Image by Blake Patterson released under a Creative Commons license.