Monday, March 9, 2009

DVD: Labyrinth

Director: Jim Henson
Starring: Jennifer Connelly, David Bowie, Shari Weiser (voice)
Year made: 1986

Maze of misadventure

Whatever the reason, the Eighties has become a cool decade again. However, nothing can make the lunchbox-revealing grey jodpers David Bowie wears in Labyrinth anything other than a little disturbing. If you can ignore this and allow yourself to be lost in Jim Henson’s imagination then you will surely feel the nostalgic memories come flooding back.

Of course you have to wonder how a film where a camped up Bowie kidnaps a baby, then makes strange advances on a 16-year old girl would go down in the present climate. You might also spend time considering how he managed to retain any credibility after such a shoddy performance. But such thoughts are secondary to the enjoyment to be had in Henson’s wonderful characters and landscape.

Jennifer Connelly plays Sarah, who wishes the Goblin King would take her baby brother away. He does, and the only way she can get him back is by solving the riddle-infested Labyrinth, surviving perils like ‘the bog of eternal stench’ and taming David Bowie’s hairdo.

Even 18 years on there isn’t much that can top the style and character that the Henson workshop created in its puppets. The likes of Ludo, an orange Yeti-like creature, and Hoggle, Sarah’s begrudging guide, still look as realistic as they do fantastic.

As per usual, again we have a disc flagged up as a collector’s edition without offering much in the way of extras. Some contemporary retrospective featurettes would have made good additions but all the DVD has to speak of is a making-of documentary filmed at the time. This said the 56 minutes are of a high quality. All the main culprits are on hand to talk, from Henson himself, to Bowie, to Brian Froud to screenwriter Terry Jones.

What is particularly pleasing is the vast quantity of behind-the-scenes footage that will leave you with a qualified appreciation of the work that goes into puppeting each and every Muppet.

Weird and wonderful, everyone should lose themselves in this Labyrinth.

Film 4 stars
Extras 2 stars

Special features
• ‘Making Of The Labyrinth’ documentary (56 mins)
• Photo gallery
• Storyboards
• Filmographies

If you like this why not try...

The Dark Crystal (1992)
Jim Henson’s first foray into the dark side with lashing of mysticism and muppets: magic.

The review first appeared in DVD Review #63