‘It’s only forever, not long at all…’
…And thus began the film that would make David Bowie a cultural icon in the eyes of children all over the world. Labyrinth, Directed by the late Jim Henson, was a film that every child of the 80’s saw at least once and could easily sing every song by heart. So I am proud to present to you, Labyrinth (1986).
Todays Key Movie:
Starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly, Labyrinth is about a young woman named Sarah (Connelly) who feels put upon by her step-mother and deeply jealous of her step brother Toby. Having to babysit one night, she mistakenly calls upon the Goblin King Jareth (Bowie) to take her step brother away. Instantly regretting it, she makes a deal with the Goblin King to get her little brother back. She soon finds herself navigating an impossible Labyrinth, meeting strange companions and journeying across dangerous landscapes, all the while trying to beat the clock before Toby is turned into a Goblin himself.
Why this movie?
This is one of the most iconic films of my youth. I remember watching this many times as a kid and even more times as an adult. Bowie himself was in his prime in the 80’s and although immensely popular in music, had done little in the movie side of the industry. So, when approached by Jim Henson for the role, he graciously accepted and help create one of the most memorable of Henson’s non-muppet films.
The soundtrack itself is filled mostly with music written for specifically for the film by David Bowie. These songs would soon become standards on my playlists from that point on. To this day, I find one or more finding their way into my head, even if I hadn’t recently rewatched the film. My favorite Track would have to be Underground which is featured both in the start and ending of the film. Here, check it out:
Bowie himself as the Goblin King, Jareth (bulge and all), evokes a sort of hypnotic charisma that makes you truly want to like him although he is indeed the villain of the film. He is not a nice man, but his songs and style tend to sway you to follow along and see just what he is up to. You see, although Sarah realizes her mistake immediately when she asks Jareth to take her little brother away, he refuses to give in unless she completes what he considers to be an impossible task which inevitably takes Sarah directly to him. Which is not a very kind of nice thing to do but I guess Sarah did make a deal…
While not much is revealed about the Goblin King himself, you also get the distinct sense that Toby was to be more than just another potential Goblin for Jareth. In fact, the story heavily implies that Jareth may have actually been trying to entice Sarah to run away with him the whole time. Kinda creepy when you think about it, Sarah being a teenager and all… just sayin.
As for the story, simply magical. Along Sarah’s journey she realizes that she must depend on others and stop being selfish in order to find her way. It is, at its core, a coming of age story set in a fantastic universe where nothing is as it seems. Throughout the film events that look impossible are in fact the easiest and places that look peaceful and enticing are in fact the most dangerous. Sarah must look into herself to find out what she really wants and who she really is so that she can traverse this clever maze. Once she has made this journey of self discovery, only then can she face Jareth and recover what it is that she lost.
All in all it is an incredible film where nothing is as it seems, and if you dig deep enough, you really question if the events actually happened to Sarah or were all just a dream. You see, at the beginning of the film, the keen eyed viewer will find elements of the Labyrinth itself throughout Sarah’s room. Everything from a statue of Hoggle to images of Bowie himself with Sarah’s moviestar mother can be seen implying that this Labyrinth could be a construct of her own mind. Now whether that be imaginary or Magical is really up to the viewer and this fan wants it to have been real.
How did this translate to real life?
I remember wishing for Hoggle and the rest of Sarah’s companions to come spend time with me as a kid. At the end of the film, Sarah’s friends tell her that they can be there ‘should she need [them]’. I would have killed to have these imaginary characters as friend and, although they never materialized, in a way, they have been with me ever since.
The film itself, while magical and amazing, had one scene that, to this day, still unnerves me a bit. That is the Chilly Down scene. In this moment, Sarah encounters some Fiery’s (bird like creatures) who can remove their body parts. They soon attack Sarah in an attempt to remove her head as part of a morbid game. The first time I saw this scene, it truly frightened me and has ever sense gotten under my skin so to speak. So you can see what I mean, here is a clip:
One fun note, Although uncredited, Gates McFadden who played Doctor Crusher on Star Trek the Next Generation did most of the dance choreography for this film. She would also do some of the choreography for episodes of STNG as well.
Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?
This is, by far one of the most magical and memorable films of my youth. To this very day, whenever I hear the opening notes of Trevor Jones’ score combined with David Bowie’s soundtrack, I am instantly swept away to the magical Labyrinth where Rocks are friends and Nothing is as it seems.
All of the actors are spot on and the special effects by the magicians from Jim Henson Company still hold up to this day. It is truly one of those films that can be considered timeless. From it’s mild lessons in humility and friendship to the amazing music, this is one that every child should experience at least once in their life. I honestly can not give it any higher recommendation.
The sets for the final confrontation are truly astonishing as they use inspiration from MC Escher in a fully realized three dimensional world. I can’t describe the awesomeness so let’s just show you. Plus it has a terrific song from Bowie…because of course it does.
It’s Legacy continues to resonate now even over 30 years later, this film still inspires amazing products and continued stories. From incredible Board Games to cool action figures and even comic books, this movie is sure to live on for many more years to come.
OK, where do I get this movie?
There is a fantastic 30th anniversary BluRay edition here you can get for around $10. Totally worth it!
You can also get it digitally from VUDU here for about the same amount.
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
For more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here. and, If you dig Music, I have a semi regular series called Stand Out Albums that covers some of my favorite records I have come across in life.
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Late To The Game 12/8/2018
Sadly we lost David Bowietwo years ago but, no matter what, his own legacy will live on with his films and music. This one is dedicated to the great man himself.