Labyrinth: 35th Anniversary Edition

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Sony Pictures;
Fantasy;
$40.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, Toby Froud, Brian Henson, Ron Mueck.

Master puppeteer Jim Henson’s 1986 fantasy Labyrinth is a bit of an odd duck — a bizarre adventure with a chilly reception upon its release that has since become a cult classic. Labyrinth sits alongside similar films such as 1984’s The NeverEnding Story and 1985’s Return to Oz in providing fantastical escapism with slightly darker overtones for a kids movie.

The reason the film’s reputation has grown such as it has is undoubtedly due to David Bowie in the key role of Jareth the goblin king, whose look has become iconic. Casting Bowie afforded Henson the luxury of injecting more songs into the narrative, giving it the feeling of a musical that doesn’t always mesh with the darker elements of the story.

The film was also one of the first roles for Jennifer Connelly, who stars as Sarah, the teenage girl who, annoyed with the constant crying of her baby brother, wishes Jareth would take him away to the land of the goblins — an action she immediately regrets when he indeed shows up to do so. He gives her 13 hours to traverse the maze surrounding his castle and defeat his minions so that she may rescue the baby.

Much of the publicity promoting nostalgia for the film over the years has been to prominently feature Connelly in an elaborate ball gown, playing up the otherworldly high fantasy elements of the story. In fact, this comprises just one short sequence in the film, with Connelly, who was 14 during filming, spending most of the movie in blue jeans like a typical ’80s kid.

The film’s contemporary setting — Sarah is rehearsing for a play based on the goblin lore, hence her familiarity with it — on its own begs the question of how much of Sarah’s adventures are just a dream, though the movie doesn’t offer many clues to suggest it’s anything other than really happening to her. However, like The Wizard of Oz, Sarah’s “real world” offers a number of clues that would seem to influence the goblin world, and it’s fun on subsequent viewings to spot these details in her bedroom.

One of them pointed out by Henson’s son Brian on the new 4K disc is that Sarah has a newspaper clipping of a photo of her mother with Bowie (a photo of Connelly’s actual mother with Bowie) — the implication being that her mother left the family and ran off with Bowie, causing Sarah to subconsciously cast him as the villain in her adventure.

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The story bears more than a passing resemblance to Maurice Sendak’s Outside Over There, which led to some legal controversy before an acknowledgement to Sendak’s work was added to the credits. (Outside Over There, along with The Wizard of Oz and other similar works, are among the books in Sarah’s room).

In addition to Henson and his usual team, Labyrinth also boasts some impressive filmmaking pedigree, with “Monty Python” star Terry Jones getting screenplay credit, and George Lucas assisting with both the script and the editing.

Labyrinth ended up being the final film directed by Henson, who was dismayed by its negative reception. After returning to his forte of children’s television, Henson died in 1990, four years after Labyrinth’s release.

The new 35th anniversary 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray edition comes in a digibook designed to resemble Sarah’s “Labyrinth” book in the movie. The two-disc set includes the movie on both a 4K disc and a standard Blu-ray Disc.

The regular Blu-ray is the same disc that was released as the 30th anniversary edition in 2016, and includes a commentary track, a picture-in-picture mode and several retrospective featurettes.

The 4K disc includes the film with Dolby Vision, and it looks great despite some dodgy composite shots. The puppetry is expectedly top notch, the key contributor to the film’s sense of fun.

The previously unreleased extras on this set both come on the 4K disc, and include 25 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, plus 55 minutes of footage from the original auditions for the role of Sarah.

The deleted scenes are presented in rough video form, and mostly expand on ideas already in the movie. The scenes are offered with optional commentary by Brian Henson (one of which being a longer scene focused more on the previously mentioned picture of Sarah’s mother).

The audition tapes include actresses such as Molly Ringwald, Tracey Gold of “Growing Pains,” and Back to the Future’s Claudia Wells, among others.

Both the deleted scenes and auditions have an oversight common to such extras on many discs, in that they have a “play all” option but no title cards for each segment, so the only way to identify the segment is to go back to the original menu.

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