Arguing whether or not The Dark Crystal is a cult film really tends to devolve into discussion of very subjective semantics. Was the film a financial hit? Well, kinda, yeah. It grossed $40 million worldwide against a budget of $15M, almost doubling the investment. At the time it wasn’t scraping the ceiling of the new definition of a blockbuster set forth by films like Star Wars and Jaws, but I’d still call it a hit. I mean, it’s nowhere near the loss that Henson’s more audience-friendly follow-up, Labyrinth took (grossing only $12M on a $25M budget.) But i the same breath, over the last 38 years there hasn’t been a huge celebration of the film’s initial popularity, in fact for the most part it languished in relative obscurity becoming a footnote of technical excellence in cinema history. If someone was going to buy a pop culture t-shirt, quote a line of dialogue or show their Henson love by popping a CD into their disc-man it was all going to reference Labyrinth for sure.
I’m beating around this question of whether or not the film is cult because when you look backwards through time it seems like there was a hell of a lot more attention paid to this film, specifically when it was first announced and hitting theater screens. In fact, in looking for vintage magazines and articles featuring the film there were a ton. I was expecting to find some pieces in Starlog, maybe an issue of Fantastic films, and it was a safe bet that some kid’s magazines like Dynamite, Supermag, Hotdog, and Muppet would mention it. But I found a literal treasure trove of magazines, much of which was collected by an Archive.org user with the handle Habidabad.
I’m pulling out some of my favorite highlights from this archive, but there will be links to the rest at the bottom of this piece, so if you want to dig into more stuff there is plenty to be found.
First off I’d like to highlight this issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland, number 191 from March of 1983. Click on the cover to read the Dark Crystal Article.
First of all, I love that the film scored the cover of this classic horror and fantasy magazine, and the painting by Bill Selby is gorgeous. The article itself is a little weird in that it has no byline, and the first four of the seven pages is an extremely long blow by blow synopsis of 80% of the film. Still, worth seeking out.
The next magazine I want to highlight is something I don’t get very many opportunities to talk about here at the CFC, MAD. In the July 1983 issue Don Martin takes at stab at parodying/skewering the Dark Crystal…
I’ll be honest, MAD is hit and miss for me, but I’m all about the joke in the last panel. As a weird bit of trivia, the German version of this issue of MAD features at way more accurate title logo that makes we wonder why the US version was so basic…
I also wanted to use this opportunity to share an article from an issue of Dynamite magazine. I coveted this zine as a kid even though I never managed to convince my mother to order any from the Scholastic Book Club flyers we always received each month in school. I’ve since rectified this and have a decent collection. Here’s the November 1982 issue featuring a flick on the cover and a lead-up-to-the-release style article. Again, click on the cover to read or download the article.
The last magazine I want to highlight in the article comes from the April 1983 issue of SF Star, a German science fiction publication. This issue is full of international Dark Crystal artwork from the Bob Peak Japanese poster artwork on the cover to great shots of the B. Napoli artwork adorning a German version of the novelization and a full page ad in the magazine.
The article, though in German (so I can’t read it), does feature a huge spoiler for the film with a giant image of the united UrSkeks!
Finally, there are a ton more magazine issues (with only the Dark Crystal content scanned) at Archive.org here. The archive includes issues of Supermag, Hot Dog, People, Starburst, Starlog, Fantastic Films, Premiere, Heavy Metal, among a ton of others.