Frame by Frame: The Dark Crystal (1982)

Year1982
Decade1980s
Cinematographer  Oswald Morris (IMDB link)
DirectorJim Henson, Frank Oz
Aspect Ratio2.40
DistributorUniversal
GenreFantasy
Cameras – Panaflex
Lenses  Anamorphic
Format  35mm
Schedule – Principal photography began on April 15th, 1981 and wrapped on September 11th, 1981. The film was shot at EMI Elstree Studios near London.

The Movie
A pair of elf-like creatures on the planet Thra embark on a quest to repair the titular gem – and thus end the reign of a species of revolting reptile/bird hybrids called the Skeksis. Jim Henson’s all-puppet extravaganza was a modest hit during the Christmas season of 1982, but was overshadowed by the blockbuster success of E.T. earlier that year. However, the film became a home video favorite for a generation of kids – myself included – who were equal parts terrified and enthralled by The Dark Crystal, which was significantly more frightening than unsuspecting parents anticipated from the creator of The Muppets.
The film was the swan song of three-time Oscar nominated cinematographer Oswald Morris, who shot the movie back-to-back with Henson’s The Great Muppet Caper and then hung up his light meter.

Further Reading
Starlog, April 1983 issue (Download)
American Cinematographer, December (1982) (Download)
Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History
The Making of the Dark Crystal

Frame Categories
Clink on any link to see similar frames from other films.

Set Design
Matte Paintings
Cloud Tank
Low Angle
Eye Lights
Creatures
Color
Dusk and Sunset
Cross Dissolves
Storyboards and Concept Art


Single Frames


Groups of Frames

Creatures

Set Design

Matte Paintings

From the December 1982 issue of American Cinematographer:

“We had several matte paintings which were executed by Industrial Light and Magic in San Francisco and for that we provided, in most cases, foreground elements. We were going to shoot some of them in VistaVision but decided that for this purpose, as they were long distance traveling shots and most of the elements would be matte painted in, we could get away with using Panavision foregrounds.” – producer Gary Kurtz

Color

Annotated Images

Click on an image for a story or filmmaker quote from the making of The Dark Crystal. Also check out this collection of more than 30 behind the scenes photos from the film.

In the initial cut of The Dark Crystal, none of the creatures besides the Gelflings spoke English. The Skeksis expressed themselves in growls and hisses that Frank Oz and Jim Henson thought the audience would understand through context. Test audiences disagreed. Check out the video below to see a scene from the pre-dubbed version.

The Shot Behind the Shot

Storyboards and Concept Art

Posters

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