Sony’s “Labyrinth: 35th Anniversary Edition” gets a new 4K makeover
Updated: Jun 24, 2022
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
16-year-old Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly) is on a quest to find her baby brother Toby with Hoggle (voiced by Brian Henson and performed by Shari Weiser), a dwarf gardener to the Labyrinth.
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“LABYRINTH: 35th ANNIVERSARY EDITION”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 1986, PG for some profanity; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “Reordering Time: Looking Back at Labyrinth” featurette
SONY PICTURES’ love affair for Jim Henson’s modern fairy tale “Labyrinth” continues. It’s the first 4K title from Sony to get a second anniversary release.
The 30th Edition was released in September of 2016 during the early days of the new format, and now, since 4K mastering and HDR grading have elevated, the new 35th Anniversary Edition includes Dolby Vision HDR grading, while the video bitrate has been dialed up an average of 10-megabits more per second. There’s a notably better image, with overall sharpness and film grain structure sourced from the 4K master of the original camera negative (2.39:1 aspect ratio).
The earth-toned palette is still lush and rich. Scenes like the masquerade ball, and its tiny, talking worm, have never looked more beautiful. Excellent cinematic depth and contrast are evident throughout, especially from the giant-sized Ludo.
The 4K disc is housed in a stylish 30-page “The Labyrinth” digibook featuring storyboards, script, and production photos from seven key scenes. Karen Falk, archives director for The Jim Henson Company, details the genesis that began during a limousine ride after a special screening of Henson’s first film, “The Dark Crystal.” Henson and conceptual designer Brian Froud started brainstorming ideas, settling on a storyline about the abduction of a baby by goblins. Froud created several concept paintings, while Henson sketched out the coming-of-age tale, and worked with poet Dennis Lee on the script’s first draft. Henson knew he wanted to include a twisted maze and humans within his cast of animatronic characters. He also focused on potential actors, selecting rock star David Bowie to play Jareth, The Goblin King. The British performer would compose and perform five songs: “Underground,” “Magic Dance,” “Chilly Down,” “World Falls Down” and “Within You.”
(1) Sarah is rebuked by her stepmother Irene (Shelley Thompson) for arriving late to babysit her baby brother. (2) Sarah wishes someone would take her away from “this awful place.” (3) The goblins are excited when Sarah also wishes they would take Toby. (4&5) She suddenly encounters Goblin King Jareth, played by British rock star David Bowie.
When the cameras began rolling April 15, 1985, Jennifer Connelly (“A Beautiful Mind”) had just turned 14-years old. She plays teenager Sarah Williams, who’s rebuked by her stepmother Irene (Shelley Thompson) for being late to babysit her baby brother Toby (played by Brian Froud’s son Toby). As her parents leave for a night on the town, frustrated Sarah wishes goblins would take her brother away. It comes as no surprise that, after she turns off the lights, Toby vanishes. A white owl transforms into Goblin King Jareth, who tells her she’s got 13 hours to rescue the baby from his castle. Sarah finds herself in a vast, magical maze filled with uncanny creatures, where she encounters Hoggle (voiced by Brian Henson), a dwarf gardener who becomes her loyal escort, and shaggy dog Ludo, who saves Sarah from a gang of cruel goblins.
In the featurette “Reordering Time” made for the 30th-anniversary edition, Connelly says the movie helped her career. The production was filmed at Elstree Studios outside of London. “It may have been the first time I had been ever been to London … I just loved Jim, and the whole experience was like a wonderland.” She also mentions how patient Henson was with her dancing or lack thereof in the ballroom scene. “Everyone was professional dancers and here I was, this kid who’s never danced before in her life.”
Henson still believed in his young actor. “She did a wonderful reading, and she’s a bright, intelligent actress who takes direction well and everything was just right,” he says during an archival interview. Connelly admits working with puppets had its challenges, “I was flabbergasted at what these people were doing and the choreography that it took, the way they worked together.”
(1) With 13 hours to rescue Toby, Sarah arrives at the Labyrinth. If she doesn’t find him in time, Jareth has promised her baby brother will become “one of us forever.” (2&3) She meets Hoggle, who leads her to the gates and inside the great maze. (4) William the worm, operated by Karen Prell. (5) Dozens of Henson goblins watch over baby Toby as Jareth seats on his throne.
The eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack is carried over from the previous 4K disc, bringing its clear dialogue and outstanding, immersive array of effects – storms, battles, swamp scurrying – balanced with the original score by Trevor Jones and Bowie’s songs.
The 4K disc includes over 25-minutes of deleted scenes with brief commentaries from Brian Henson. The best new bonus feature is the videotaped auditions of seven other teen candidates for the role of Sarah. The most memorable is Molly Ringwald, who had just finished “Sixteen Candles.” Oddly, the commentary track by Brian Froud included on the 2016 4K, was removed this go around. It’s still available on the Blu-ray and digital, which was sourced by the new 4K master.
The Blu-ray and digital includes earlier extras, such as “The Henson Legacy” showcasing Henson’s original ideas and creations, and his ongoing influence in his family’s business. The love Brian, Lisa, and Cheryl feel for their father and their craft is obvious.
(1&2) The Goblin King plays with Toby while singing “Magic Dance.” (3&4) Sarah encounters “The Four Guards.” She must choose the right door, but falls into a vertical tunnel lined with hundreds of hands.
“Remembering the Goblin King” is a tribute to the late David Bowie, who passed away in January 2016. Bowie’s interviews about working on the film and its legacy are upbeat and interesting. “Labyrinth” was an unusual creative experience and he enjoyed it. Here, his co-artists recall what a pleasure it was to work with him.
The “Anniversary Q&A” is packed with info and anecdotes from Muppeteers Brian Henson, Karen Prell, Dave Goelz, and “Labyrinth” actor, Shari Weiser, who played Hoggle. The movie was Weiser’s first big film, and the inspiration for her career in filmmaking. Brian discloses that “Labyrinth” was his first professional working experience with his dad; he had made a name for himself on other films, so he came into “Labyrinth” with bonafide credentials. Prell is a hoot, talking about the intricacies and intimacies of portraying the Worm, the Junk Lady, and one of the Fireys. She met her husband, Mike Quinn, groping around inside a puppet. Now divorced, they continue to work together. Having always dreamed of being a Disney animator, Prell now works for Pixar.
Even though “Labyrinth” received mixed reviews and wasn’t the box-office success everyone hoped in ‘86, it still found an audience through TV and home video. Today, “Labyrinth” continues to surprise young and old, with its treasure of “extraordinary originality and ingenuity,” Falk says.
— Bill Kelley III, High-def Watch producer and Kay Reynolds
(1) Sarah next meets “The Wiseman” operated by Frank Oz and voiced by Michael Hordern. (2) She recuses friendly, shaggy Ludo from torment by mounted guards, cutting the rope that held him upside down. (3) Sarah and Hoggle negotiate a dangerous path through the Labyrinth. (4) Heroic Sir Didymus operated by Dave Goelz and voiced by David Shaughnessy. (5) Ludo and Sarah enter The Bog of Eternal Stench. “Smells bad!”
(1&2) Sarah dances with Jareth at an enchanted ball. (3) After shattering the dream-world, she falls into the Junk Yard ... only to find a chaotic duplicate of her bedroom with all the childhood items she’s hoarded away. (4&5) Once again, Sarah meets up with Ludo, Hoggle, Sir Didymus, and her dog Merlin. (6) Toby is found safe and sleeping, and all ends well.