[Editor's Note: Reviews of the most recent DVD releases of these two films, which include more of a review on the movies themselves, can be found here.]
It was just over two years ago that both The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth – both classic Jim Henson films – came to DVD, the former in a "25th Anniversary Edition" and the latter simply in an "Anniversary" one. One of the big selling points of those versions, for anyone who had the earlier releases, was that the films had both been released with a new high definition film transfer. The films have now come out on Blu-ray, so they can now be watched in high definition as well.
Technically, both films look and sound very good, particularly considering that they are both more than two decades old. There are noticeable amounts of grain, but the level of detail – even when compared to the releases from two years ago – is very impressive. In Labyrinth, the "Shaft of Hands" portion stands out as a particularly fine moment – despite the darkness of the scene, the details in the myriad of hands which grab and taunt Jennifer Connelly's Sarah as she falls are abundant. Both films come with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel track, and while in both cases the track seems to favor the front speakers more than the rear ones, that complaint is a minor one. The dialogue in both is clean and the songs – again, particularly in Labyrinth with David Bowie's songs – are wonderful.
For special features, both films contain all the items that come on the recent DVD release, plus a limited amount of new features. Labyrinth's only new bonus feature is a picture-in-picture track during the main film. It features interviews with various members of the cast and crew as they recall the making of the film. The Dark Crystal contains significantly more material, including a new introduction by David Odell on the original Skeksis language (the scenes of the language were in the last release, but not Odell's introduction), a picture-in-picture storyboard track, a trivia game also plays out during the film, and something called "The Book of Thra – Dark Crystal Collector."
Essentially, this last item provides more insight into the world of the characters. One can "collect" crystals of information when an icon appears on screen during the movie and view that information later at any time from the menu. Pop-up information is relatively common, but the notion of pressing a button to "collect" the information into a database which can be accessed later – and only having collected information available – seems different and it is done in an enjoyable enough way so as to not distract from the feature itself.
The question of whether or not one should take the opportunity and double-dip on a film is always a hard one to answer. Those wishing for the absolute best presentation possible will find that the films do look better on Blu-ray than they did on DVD (not that those presentations were lacking). Labyrinth does not feature anywhere as many new bonus features, as The Dark Crystal, so if one is only upgrading one copy, it would seem that the latter is a better choice than the former. It should also be noted that as of this writing, Amazon is currently charging more for the DVD Anniversary Editions than they are for the new Blu-ray releases. Consequently, were I buying them now, the choice would be clear (though I would always opt to spend a few dollars more for the Blu-ray anyway). However, any but the most ardent fans of the films very well may find themselves hard-pressed to upgrade to the newest release. The new features are nice, but may not be worth the added cost – plus, if the planned Dark Crystal sequel ever really gets going, we're bound to get another Blu-ray release of at least one of these two films, if not both.