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Jim Henson's the Storyteller - The Definitive Collection

4.7 out of 5 stars 250 customer reviews

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(May 23, 2006)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Format: DVD

Running Time: 301 Min.

Rated: NR

One of Jim Henson's finest works is The Storyteller series, originally airing on HBO in 1987. As with his other non-Muppet creations (Labyrinth, and The Dark Crystal), Henson fills the screen with wonderful creatures that have a wisp of a J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy. This definitive collection of 13 stories--9 based on European fables, and 4 slightly grittier takes on Greek myths--deserves to be in TV's pantheon. The series was adapted by Anthony Minghella, who became an Oscar-winning filmmaker a decade later with The English Patient. Minghella weaves the narration of a storyteller with dialogue from the stories to beguiling effect; the storyteller doesn't simply introduce the tales. The storytelling duties are split with an engaging John Hurt, and a study Michael Gambon for the Greek fables. Both are accompanied by a Muppet dog performed by Henson's son and successor, Brian.

The European tales are wonderful especially since the stories are not well known. "The Luck Child" is a brilliant short about a king bent on destroying a commoner boy, known as the luck child ("the seventh son born of a seventh son on a week with two Fridays"), after a wizard declares the boy will grow up to be king. The fate of the king is one of those hooks that should have the kids smiling for days. "Sapsorrow" is a curious variation on the Cinderella legend. Henson himself directs "Death and the Soldier," a vivid example of how these episodes were so wonderfully complex. A penniless solider (Bob Peck) is given a magical sack and he uses it to full effect, capturing gremlins and greater evils on his way to be king. "A Story Short" is the storyteller's own adventure. He makes a deal with a king to tell a story every day of the year. Yet on the last day, the storyteller's mind is a blank and his fate may lead him to a boiling vat of oil.

By nature, the Greek myth episodes are a bit more mature (ages 8 and older) and downbeat, yet give the audience lasting impressions of oft-quoted tales. In "Perseus and the Gorgon," King Argos locks away his wife when it is foretold his future son will kill him. Soon mother and son (Perseus, fathered by none other than Zeus) are washed ashore and another angry king looks to take away Perseus's mother. How can Perseus win the day? By killing the evil Gorgon whose snake-covered head includes eyes that turn humans into statues. Derek Jacobi stars as the deft Greek designer in "Daedalus and Icarus." The father goes through many hardships, including the famous episode of his son flying too close to the sun. John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) directs the tale of "Theseus and the Minotaur." A young man reunites with his father, King Aegeus, but is cursed by his witch of a stepmother (literally). When Theseus tries to stop the regular sacrifice to the half-bull, half-man Minotaur, a new curse awaits the young prince. The magical musician Orpheus (Art Malik) finds his muse in "Orpheus and Eurydice." Unfortunately, she soon dies and goes to Hades where Orpheus follows, attempting to win her soul from the devil himself. Henson's work is true family entertainment and at only 22 minutes per episode, it's the perfect companion for some fine entertainment around the TV. --Doug Thomas

Special Features

  • All 13 episodes remastered in high definition

Product Details

  • Actors: John Hurt, Brian Henson, Frederick Warder, David Greenaway, Robert Tygner
  • Writers: Anthony Minghella, Jim Henson
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 23, 2006
  • Run Time: 301 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (250 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000EU1Q5E
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,729 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Jim Henson's the Storyteller - The Definitive Collection" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
PLEASE NOTE: This review is for the collection that includes both the Storyteller and Greek Myths episodes. It seems Amazon is lumping this review with other editions that do not include both. Please double check what you are getting before buying.

What you're essentially getting here is all nine episodes of The Storyteller series AND all four episodes from The Storyteller: Greek Myths on a two DVD set. Considering they stopped shipping the previous Storyteller and Greek Myths DVD's this will be what you will be seeing in stores. The good news is the MSRP on this collection is actually less than the release price of the original Storyteller collection and about the same price of the release of Greek Myths disk. You'll be getting the best deal ever offered with this collection.

If you don't currently have both collections I recommend getting this. Even if you have one of the two collections the price point makes it worthwhile (sell your old set and save even more). Obviously if you have neither DVD this is the perfect opportunity to pick up some of the best family entertainment out there.
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I'm amazed that this series has gotten so little attention. This is Jim Henson and crew at their best, making fun of the lines between fantasy and reality, costume and puppetry, and new storytelling and old stories.

All of these short pieces were unfamiliar to me, at least in part. 'Sapsorrow' turned out to contain a story I knew, or thought I did. Part of the reason these fairy tales were unfamiliar was their authenticity. These stories were originally meant for adults. They had hard, dark edges, and were not the vapid Disneyfied versions that most people know.
Lots of kids will like these stories as much as adults do, but this may be too much for younger children. This isn't Sesame Street - it's one of the dark alleys off to the side.

The narrator is one of the unexpected treats on this disk. He opens and closes each short story, talking to his dog on a fire-lit night. The narration is a treat, too. It has a wonderful rolling cadence, too musical for regular speech but too prosaic to be a chant. It may give you some idea what the old epic poems must have sounded like in their original settings.

This is for anyone who likes fantasy, who likes a rich visual experience. You just have to see it for yourself - written words can't begin to give the experience you'll find in this collection.

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I had only seen some of these when they first aired as part of "The Jim Henson Hour", but I was totally enchanted by them, and am thrilled to have them now in their entirety, to revel in and share with my own kids.

What I really like about them - besides the stories themselves, the wonderful set, costume, and puppet designs, the acting and so on - is that they resurrect the importance of *telling*. There is a love of language in Minghella's scripts ("a princess of sweetness and cherry pie", "he heard a song that sounded like hello and goodbye"), and in John Hurt's charming performance, that reminds us of the importance of the human voice... even as we are seduced by the stunning visuals.

This is great stuff, some of the best old-school fantasy every produced for TV, and - despite the puppets and magic - in no way geared to kids. It's "general audience" in the original sense: everybody gathered together around the Storyteller's bewitching voice, different ages envisioning different things as the stories play out.

A word on the second batch, the Greek Myths: These are at a much lower wattage than the European stories, and I'm not sure why, as the stories themselves are great. But Michael Gambon's Storyteller lacks the charm of Hurt's, the scripts (not by Minghella) are more perfunctory, and perhaps the stories are too familiar to have much surprise. They are beautifully produced, and have some good performances (Derek Jacobi as Daedalus, Robert Stephens as Hades), but they aren't as essential as the earlier group. (But given the low price for the whole set, they're well worth owning, even if they lack the "repeatability factor" of the earlier batch.)

Yes, the video quality is pretty wobbly, and the extras are non-existant... but The Storyteller triumphs anyway!
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My 9-year-old and I are thoroughly enjoying these half-hour films from the old HBO series (which I had not seen before). Each story is based on some old, mostly European, folk tales - the "real" kind with mayhem, a bit of violence, and some sad endings, not the Disney kind. Thus, you may find them a tad upsetting for younger kids who have been raised to expect happy endings.
For example, in "The Heartless Giant," an imprisoned Giant lies to a young prince to effect his escape, and meets a sad end at the hand of the prince's brothers. In "The Soldier and Death," a generous soldier receives a magic bag and uses it to imprison Death himself (a very scary-looking guy). Despite dominion over Death the soldier is unhappy by the end.
So, these are stories with an almost adult level of sophistication. The production values are wonderful and the performances steller (I especially like John Hurd as the Storyteller character, who appears in all the episodes).
BUT - watch the episodes first to make sure your own young ones won't be overwhelmed. My 9-year-old is just barely old enough. My 5-year-old: not yet.
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