Re:tro Re:view – The Labyrinth 30th Anniversary!

Jondee here in the Underground,


Sunday was the screening of the 30th anniversary of The Labyrinth the film directed by Jim Henson. Another showing is on September 14th. It stars Jennifer Connelly as the teenaged girl Sarah and David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King. The beginning of the screening was some segments that were special, but most likely added to the Blu-Ray 30th Anniversary Edition out on September 20th. These include an introduction by Brian Henson, current chairman of the Jim Henson Company, and plays many roles in the film among them is the voice of Hoggle. There is also Jennifer Connelly and Lisa Henson, chairman of the Jim Henson Company. Connelly speaks about taking the role, working with Bowie which is a part of a segment on the Goblin King, and there is also a peek into the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, Georgia which has an extensive exhibit on the Jim Henson films including Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.  Now, it’s time to enter the Labyrinth. First, after years of seeing it on DVD, the movie screen is where it belongs. Second, I’ve gone deep with this film, past the Alice in Wonderland wandering in an absurd world, I see it as the struggle of a teenage girl entering an adult world, confusing, compelling in the figure of David Bowie’s Jareth. She has to learn to grow up on her own, not rush into the adult world, and how to listen to her own voice. Bowie’s “Underground” plays as the film opens to a CGI barn owl flying through the black reflected in the darkness. It flies to resolve to a real barn owl landing and considering Sarah walking up in a park next to a lake. We later see that the owl is one of the shapeshifting forms that Jareth takes as a trickster figure.


She is practicing her lines from her red fairy tale book, The Labyrinth, to free the Stolen Child from the Goblin King. This touches on the poem by William Butler Yeats and “Erlkonig” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe set to music by Franz Schubert. It starts to rain and Sarah runs back with her sheep dog, Merlin, to home. We later get another sheep dog as the mount to Sir Didymus, Ambrosius, said to be one of the names for Merlin. There she sees her stepmother (Shelley Thompson) who wants to go on a dinner date with Sarah’s father (Christopher Malcolm). It is seen in a newspaper in Sarah’s room that her mother died in car accident. Her stepmother wants her to watch over Toby (played by Toby Froud, now a young man). The glimpse in her room has Where the Wild Things Are, a doll in a white dress (which prefigures herself in the ballroom scene), and an Escher painting. Sarah panics when her Lancelot bear is missing and she finds it on the floor of Toby’s crib. Angrily, she wishes for the Goblin King to take him, this to the mirror, very Lewis Carroll, and the goblins wait for Sarah to say the correct words. She does so and the power goes out, goblins scamper around the room, and finally the owl bursts through the door and Jareth appears! He shows her the Labyrinth and gives her 13 hours to solve it or Toby will become a goblin. Sarah heads off to the Labyrinth and immediately finds the Dwarf Hoggle (played by Shari Weiser) peeing into a pool. The running joke is pronouncing his name which Sarah at first calls him “Hogwart.” He is busy spraying fairies, this shocks Sarah who picks one up, and she is bitten. Hoggle says of course they are Biting Fairies. This gives the idea that the Labyrinth brings up expectations and twists them. Hoggle opens the Labyrinth for Sarah and leaves her.


Sarah is lost trying to run down an endless passage and frustrated, rests against a wall. There hears the Worm (voiced by Timothy Bateson) who tells her to walk straight toward the other wall which she finds is an optical illusion. Then, he tells her not to walk the left passage, she turns the other way, since the left passage would lead directly to the castle. This is what Sarah learns is not only ask questions, but to ask the right ones and navigate a bureaucratic world. She is trapped in a dark room, the Oubliette, and Jareth worries that Sarah has gotten far in his Labyrinth. The interaction of Bowie and the Goblins is brilliant. Hoggle frees Sarah after getting a plastic bracelet from her. They go up a stair, Hoggle calls himself a “coward”, emerging from a vase in the Labyrinth. Hoggle goes off on his own when they hear a roar, Sarah conquers her fear to check on the beast held captive by goblins torturing it with Nipper Sticks, strange fanged creatures on a stick. Sarah finds rocks summoned by the beast’s call to throw at the goblin helmets. They get confused using the sticks to bite each other’s behinds and call a retreat. Sarah frees the captured creature, he is a massive, hairy Beast, almost orangutan with horns and a tail. He calls himself Ludo (performed by Ron Mueck and Rob Mills) and is Sarah’s loyal friend. This helping cycle is like the Cowardly Lion. Sarah and her companions have to negotiate the two bodied Knockers (like a playing card), the Fireys (horrible Fraggle Rock creatures that can detach their body parts), and end up in the Bog of Eternal Stench. They encounter Sir Didymus (performed by Dave Goelz and David Barclay), a Fox Terrier knight who is relentless guarding the bridge, and apparently can’t smell the bog. Sarah has to work out that his vow and simply asks his permission to cross. Sir Didymus joins the quest. Sarah is betrayed by Hoggle’s peach given by Jareth and ends up in a masquerade of adults. She escapes to land in a junkyard of forgotten things. The Junk Lady tries to tempt her with missing toys, but her companions break through the wall of her room. Sarah and her friends enter the Goblin City and get into a madcap battle ended by Ludo’s calling of the rocks. Sarah confronts Jareth who reveals to her the Escher steps of his castle where Toby crawls in every direction. Jareth tries to tempt her saying that he will do everything for her, she only has to be his slave. Sarah finally remembers the last line she keeps forgetting that the Goblin King has no power over her, this is dynamic of males only having power if it is given to them. Sarah has free Toby, returns back to her house sending off Jareth as an owl, and finds her friends in a mirror there when she needs them. Five peaches out of Five!

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