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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF Blu-ray Review: Labyrinth

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#1 of 2 Todd Erwin

Todd Erwin


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Posted September 28 2009 - 10:03 AM

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  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

  • Theatrical Release Year: 1986

  • US DVD Release Date: September 29, 2009

  • Rated: PG

  • Running Time: 101 minutes

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic

  • Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English, French, Portuguese), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish)

  • Subtitles: English, English (SDH), French, Spanish, Portuguese

Movie: 3.5 out of 5

In Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, Sarah (Jennifer Connelly, in her film debut) is a teenage girl who escapes into fantasy books, often dressing the part and reciting the book’s text from memory. When her father and step-mother ask her to stay home and watch her baby brother, Toby, on yet another weekend evening, she begins reciting from her favorite book, The Labyrinth, and wishes for Jareth, the Goblin King (David Bowie), to take Toby away forever. When the wish comes true, Sarah finds herself in the story, and is greeted by Jareth, who challenges her to complete the Labyrinth in 13 hours before Toby is transformed into a goblin. Along the way, she befriends many interesting creatures designed by Brian Froud, including Hoggle (Brian Henson), a red-haired giant named Ludo, and a fox-like bridge guard, Sir Didymus.

Over the years, Labyrinth has become something of a cult classic. It’s storyline, basically the sexual awakening of a teenage girl, is not exactly the kind of material for a children’s film, and movie audiences largely ignored the film, grossing less than $13 million in the US. Looking at the film 23 years after its initial theatrical release, some of the visual effects do not hold up, with the Chilly Down musical number looking worse than ever in this new high definition release. The interaction between the Muppets (for lack of a better term) and the actors is first rate, as you would expect from Jim Henson, and he keeps the film moving at a good pace. The screenplay by Monty Python alum Terry Jones has enough of his trademark British humor to keep the story from being too serious and injects an extra bit of fun to the film.

Video: 4 out of 5

Labyrinth has always had a spotty record on home video, never quite looking as good as it should. The good news here is that Sony’s 1080p AVC encoded high definition transfer used for this Blu-ray release, framed in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, improves greatly on the prior DVD releases. Some, though, may not like this transfer, as it retains much of the negative’s original film grain. But that is exactly what Blu-ray is supposed to do, offer a theatrical movie experience in the home. Colors are rich and vibrant, blacks are nice and inky, with fine detail. Another exceptional transfer of a catalogue title from Sony.

Audio: 3.5 out of 5

While the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is also an improvement of the prior DVD releases, it does not hide the fact that there has always been something wrong with the soundtrack. The high frequencies have always sounded like they have been filtered out, something I still remember when first seeing this film theatrically back in the summer of 1986. Although a 5.1 sound mix, the soundtrack provided here sounds more like a matrixed stereo soundtrack, albeit with slightly better fidelity and stereo seperation.

Special Features: 3.5 out of 5

Most of the special features from prior DVD releases have been ported over, along with a Blu-ray exclusive.

The Storytellers Picture-in-Picture: Featuring interviews with Cheryl Henson, puppeteer Kevin Clash, puppet makers Rollin Krewson and Connie Peterson, actor Warwick Davis, and make-up artist Nick Dudman, along with behind-the-scenes footage, the feature plays sporadically in a small window in the lower right corner of the screen. Unlike Universal’s U-Control where it is somewhat navigational, there is no way to access sequences that include this feature. The first segment does not start until 7:30 into the film. While these are interesting, I would have preferred, at the very least, a way to navigate to these sequences without having to scan through the entire movie.

Commentary with Conceptual Designer Brian Froud: Froud discusses the early concepts of the movie, how the movie came to be from a conversation he had with Jim Henson in a limousine, some of the mythological themes explored in the film, and memories of working with the late Jim Henson.

Inside The Labyrinth Making of Documentary: The original making of featurette from 1986, shot in 16mm, and running just under an hour. This is a rather exhaustive documentary on making the film, including interviews with director Jim Henson, David Bowie, Brian Henson, Brian Froud, Terry Jones, and Jennifer Connelly.

Journey through the Labyrinth: Kingdom of Characters: A 28-minute look at designing and performing as the various creatures in the film, featuring interviews with executive producer George Lucas, Brian Henson, David Goelz, Jane Gootnick, Brian Froud, and Karen Prell, originally produced for the 2007 DVD release.

Journey through the Labyrinth: The Quest for Goblin City: Brian Froud, George Lucas, Brian Henson, Mira Velimorivic, choreographer Gates McFadden, Jane Gootnick, and David Goelz discuss making Labyrinth in this 30-minute featurette, originally produced for the 2007 DVD release.

BD-Live: As with most Sony Blu-ray releases, this disc is Blu-ray enabled, providing access to Sony’s BD-Live portal. At press time, only the trailers for Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal were available for download in either standard or high definition.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

Labyrinth has never looked or sounded better, and the inclusion of most, if not all, of the special features from the previous DVD releases make this a worthy upgrade.

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#2 of 2 Leo Kerr

Leo Kerr


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Posted September 28 2009 - 02:23 PM

As for the Chilly Down sequence, well, given how they did it, there's not much hope for it without doing a Blade Runner or Star Wars revision.  And, well, I never particularly liked that bit, but the rest of it is a marvelous little film.  

And David Bowie as a villain?  What's not to like?