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Labyrinth – 35th Anniversary Edition (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

When stone cold home video classics hit milestones, you damn well know they are going to be taken advantage of with a brand new release. Thus, the second release of Labyrinth on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray for its 35th anniversary. However, this isn’t just the same discs in fancy new clothes. They’ve also gone back and tweaked the transfer, added the stereo track in lossless form and supplied new bonus material in the form of deleted scenes and never before seen audition tapes. I have to say, they’ve put quite the marvelous package together which includes nifty packaging and a booklet. You can order the new edition from the paid Amazon Associates link below as it arrived back on August 17th.

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Film

A selfish 16-year old girl is given 13 hours to solve a labyrinth and rescue her baby brother when her wish for him to be taken away is granted by the Goblin King.

Labyrinth has become a well-celebrated cult classic following the result of being a box office bomb in 1986.  The highly imaginative film wound up becoming a hit through home video, cable viewings and the far too soon death of Jim Henson, leaving as one of his few non-Muppet films in his directorial canon.  Its deserving of the following, as we are looking at a big 30th anniversary celebration with screenings and this Blu-ray.  We surely don’t get the chances to get anything like Labyrinth anymore.  Its a filmmaking chance at conjuring up a brand new fairytale, with inspirations from others, but largely original.  Back in 1986, we get Labyrinths hit or miss, today we get the remakes of Labyrinths to mixed results with rarely anything new to be seen.

Jim Henson was the head of the project, but it was also billed as a big collaboration with George Lucas who produced the film.  That’s a big merge right there.  In the 1980s, George Lucas was still a name synonymous with MUST SEE, great visual storytelling and quality.  Henson was largely successful withe the Muppets and the creature work his studio would see on other films.  Another strong voice that was touted as much, was Monty Python member Terry Jones who helped to pen the film.  Once you know that fact, it begins to stick out largely on subsequent viewings.  Many of the dialogue exchanges, cadences and execution with a lot of the puppets and rock creatures feels right out of a Python sketch.  Its not blatant or overbearing, but you can quickly take from it, what feels so very familiar.

One of the film’s greatest strengths and why we so largely remember it aside from the creature work, is David Bowie.  He’s probably why this one gets the hub bub while the fondness for The Dark Crystal isn’t as strong.  Bowie looks like your trashy, single aunt in her mid 40s that tans too much, hanging around the pool a lot, smoking a carton of Camels a day and hits on all your high school friends.  However, he’s devious, evil…but you still kinda wanna hang and be friend with the guy.  Bowie also wrote and performed all the songs in the film.  And they really give the film a sort of attitude of its own that allows it to be free of becoming dated over time.  If anything the score reminds of the sort of prog rock horror anthems that people like Goblin and Fabio Frizzi used to do for the Italians in the early 80s.  While friendly, Bowie does know how to turn on the creep and evil in the finale as well as some other moments. Labyrinth truly lives and dies by his hand and the film is at its strongest every time he even peeks in for a frame.

Speaking of peeking in, I can’t go without dedicating some of this review to the bulge in David Bowie’s pants once he swaps over to the gray tights.  I mean, c’mon, that thing is massive!  There is debate over whether its real or not, but I think I’m gonna come down on the side of it being fabricated.  Its too cup-like and consistent from shot to shot and scene to scene to just be the real thing.  Its a bit of an odd choice as this is a kids movie and the size and protrusion of the thing is just absolutely ridiculous.  Head cheese of Why So Blu, Brian, had never seen Labyrinth before and I told him to look for it, and he said once he saw what he saw, he just was not able to unsee the damn thing.

Aside from Bowie, we really only have one other human in the film and its a young Jennifer Connelly.  This was her follow up to working with Dario Argento on Phenomena.  Connelly definitely isn’t the refined and outstanding actress we’ve come to know her as.  One that boasts an Academy Award.  Its rough for her, and she’s not perfect, but I find her to be acceptable.  There are rough spots, but the challenge for a kid actor to be taking on this role interacting with puppets and guys in costumes for the majority of the film can’t be an ideal situation.  It also seems like some of her performance may get lost in translation due to some ADR moments.  If you’re a person that thinks she’s bad her, I can’t disagree with some of that, but as someone who has an expectation for a child actor, I tolerate more of it and give her credit in the spots where its due.

Most of all when it comes to Labyrinth, its Jim Henson’s “magic” and craft that bring us back and have us finding a deeper appreciation in the digital era.  Of course, this is a film that was ushering it in, featuring the first rendered creature on the screen with the owl during the opening credits.  But, the meat of this film is all the individual and unique creature work on the film.  And the puppeteering isn’t just limited to the walking talking ones, there are walls, rocks and environments that are full formed with great characteristics and personalities as well.  The look of the Labyrinth also impresses and feels very elseworld/another dimension-like with its landscape, geography and overall look.  One thing I always geek out for are some good matte paintings, and Labyrinth brings itself a few to the table.  The overarching look of the place is just a lovely painting and evokes thoughts, ideas and memories of great fantasy storybooks and pictures of my own nostalgia from the 70s and 80s.  Overall, Labyrinth may have Bowie as its secret weapon, but in order for that to work, this world has to rock and I would say it more than does so.  Why else are we still here after 30 years?

Three decades, still talking, enjoying and celebrating Labyrinth.  One cool aspect of the film is that I think this one has been more of a fantasy, coming of age type fairy tale and geek film for girls moreso than boys.  And I get that, as there are a lot allusions to growing up, coming into womanhood, mothering and some other feminine tid bits that the boys may recognize but not connect with on a deeper or more personal level to have that fond sense of nostalgia. Its a fun film, one that might have some pacing issues in the final third, but overall works.  The creature work on the film is reason enough to give it a chance, but also the magnificence of David Bowie (and his bulge) give it more to take it past just that one hump.  If anything, you’re going to be humming, singing or moving to Dance, Baby Dance long after you’ve seen the film has ended (35 years even).

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC/H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-66

Below is my original review. The upgrade has been a marginal one for me, thought it is a noted improvement. But many of my original comments stand. For this release it has remastered with Dolby Vision. They really have made a nice hop in the black levels in terms of their shades, tints and presence in the image as well as some contrast to add to the wonderful HDR effect in many places. 

Clarity/Detail:  Since I’m not first to the party, I’ve seen that there are varied opinions on how this new 4K restoration of Labyrinth looks.  Brian and I have had many texts back and forth going over this (Its been kind of fun, actually).  I’m a fan of film grain, and since its part of the image/negative, I feel it should stay and not be tampered with.  With 4K on catalog titles shot on film, its going to make its presence a little more felt.  However, in keeping it, like Labyrinth does, you get a much more true image with tremendous amounts of more detail than has ever come through.  The Blu-ray for the film looks absolutely perfect, and this is a nice step up from that.  Its not a massive leap, but it is noticeably better.  Labyrinth has always been a bit soft in appearance due to the lighting of the film, but here is as crisp as its ever looked.  Muppet detail shows through like never before, with much more texture details than before.  One difference from the Blu-ray I noticed was a sort of gloss and finish on the skin textures that became apparent.  Also during some of the dancing sequences, wires that were never visible before can now be seen.  And in an odd thing I’m going to point out that blew my mind the most was the Tri-Star logo.  Something I’ve seen for over 30 years now, revealed something that’s always been there and never visible. After the Pegasus comes in to then transform into the actual logo, I noticed that there is a cloud behind the logo.  Popping in the Blu-ray to compare, the cloud is FAINTLY there, but I wouldn’t have seen it had I not seen this 4K UHD copy first.  Overall, Labyrinth looks fantastic and the best it ever has.  I’m a proponent for this over the Blu-ray counterpart.  I’ll go over in the noise/artifacts section about the topic up for debate.

Depth:  Labyrinth brings a much more multidimensional look to it than it ever has before.  While its not necessarily clear on the surface because of the level of grain intact, beyond it, it still shows some range.  Movements are smoother than ever and characters/objects absolutely feel very loose and in their own space not tied to any flat surface.  Background images find themselves unveiling more detail with a bit more crisp clarity than when compared to the Blu-ray.  The Where The Wild Things book on Sarah’s desk looks so fresh, clean and detailed than it was before.  In the end, during the upside down stairwell maze, some of the shots and camera swoops make for a really 3 dimensional look that impresses.

Black Levels:  Blacks are now more refined and saturated than they ever have been.  Having more tints and shades allow more details able to come through.  Scenes in the darkness hide much less, revealing more.  Details hold strong on dark hair follicles, eyebrows, fabrics and surfaces.  Of course there is no crushing present.  Brian Mentioned that the tunnel scene with the black levels and HDR was awesome, and I have to agree.

Color Reproduction:  The HDR brings a good portion of the difference making between this and the Blu-ray release.  It allows a more impressive picture.  And Labyrinth isn’t even a film with big bold and fruitful colors.  What it manages to do with a lot of the dingier, sandier and murkier colors is where the film has improved and given a more appealing look.  I mentioned earlier the hand in the pit from earlier and that’s a real big difference.  You’ll also notice it on the hair and skin of the puppets.  The scene with the knockers also is a simple one with much more difference.  What looks just looks like black or shadows on the Blu-ray is actually shown to have some green and algae-like buildup on them.  There is a moment where characters with red and green helmets allow the HDR to burst with some colors as they come across as strong but not super vibrant and actually fit the aesthetic of the film, like the maze of lovely green bushes that frequent the image.  But what makes this a winner in the color department is the wide palette on display and ability to keep everything looking used and natural.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones have a natural look to them with maybe a bit of a red or orange filter to them in some areas throughout the film.  Facial features come through at any distance.  You can see the strokes, colors and skin under the make-up on David Bowie’s face along with some wrinkling around the eyes and his grin.  Connelly’s face manages to glisten and show raindrops, make-up, dimples, freckles and her mole.  We don’t have many humans, so those two are the only point of comparison, but both’s skin texture and little details protrude through like this for the feature.

Noise/Artifacts: As has been hinted and discussed with this release is the (correct) choice to leave the grain intact.  Even a detractor is going to tell you its the right move.  There’s a worry that it could be mistaken for noise due to some flickering or constant appearance.  However, I didn’t really find it distracting at all and kind of enjoyed the look to it.  The only area where it may have been somewhat bothersome is on the blue skies.  But the points of reference for that is during scenes where its only somewhat it a corner or on the very top during a medium or close up shot of a character or characters, and your focus point and attention isn’t going to be driven to there anyway.  I’d much rather prefer the amount of new detail, natural look and film-like appearance to the possible disaster that could come with DNR and more post production tampering.  

Audio

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA, Czech 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, German 5.1 Dolby Digital, Hungarian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Italian 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Korean 5.1 Dolby Digital, Polish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Russian 5.1 Dolby Digital Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin American) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Turkish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Arabic, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), Swedish, Thai, Turkish

Dynamics: This time around, I’m reviewing the new stereo track added. If you want my take on the Atmos, then click HERE. I was taken by surprise by how well done this stereo mix is. Its alive, free and really commands, having powerful low end tones and giving the film a rich view. Sure, its not all around the room, but this original track really does it in and has no reproductions or manipulations. I was so impressed with it, I might use it as my go-to from here on.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. Really good transitions from spoken dialogue to song. Always plenty audible are the actors no matter how intense the situation calls for.

Extras

Labyrinth – 35th Anniversary Edition comes with a standard Blu-ray disc and a redeemable digital code. 2 new features are on the 4K disc with the remaining on the standard Blu-ray.

The Limited Edition collectible set is presented as a 28-page Digibook—featuring rare artwork, photography and early script pages, all from deep within the Henson Archives—styled to resemble Sarah’s book of The Labyrinth from the film.

4K UHD

Deleted & Alternate Scenes with optional commentary by Brian Henson (HD, 26:04) – Sourced from a VHS tape.

Lost Auditions (HD, 55:09) – Features Trini Alvarado, Maddie Corman, Tracey Gold, Molly Ringwald, Jill Schoelen, Danielle von Zerneck and Claudia Wells.

Blu-ray

Audio Commentary

  • With Conceptual Designer Brian Froud

Reordering Time: Looking Back At Labyrinth (HD, 9:31) 

The Henson Legacy (HD, 10:36) 

Remembering The Goblin King (HD, 4:48) 

Anniversary Q&A (HD, 41:24) 

“Inside The Labyrinth” Making of Documentary (SD, 56:28).

Journey Through The Labyrinth: “Kingdom Of Characters” (SD, 27:57) 

Journey Through The Labyrinth: “The Quest For The Goblin City” (SD, 30:03) 

The Storytellers: Picture In Picture 

Theatrical Trailers (HD, 4:08) 

Summary

Normally when 5 years passes, they’ll just stick a disc in new package and call it the “X Anniversary Edition”. Not the case with Labyrinth as it turns 35. They’ve improved the image quality (albeit marginally), enhanced the audio options and added almost an hour and a half of bonus material. I loved watching the audition footage. It was a fascinating look into the process as well as what could have been. Easily toss your old Labyrinth 4K and upgrade or if you haven’t yet, get moving on this edition!

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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