L is for Labyrinth

Labyrinth. 1986, 7.4 stars. Jim Henson’s final feature film as director, and produced by good old George Lucas himself.

I’d seen and loved The Dark Crystal in 1982, so was excited to see this new movie coming out in the cinema. Somehow (and time does dim the memory somewhat) the 15 year-old me had managed to get hold of a bunch of free tickets to a Saturday morning showing – I’d handed them out to various of my friends, but seem to recall that very few of them actually showed up.

On then, to Labryinth.

Jareth: You remind me of the babe.
Goblin: What babe?
Jareth: The babe with the power.
Goblin: What power?
Jareth: The power of voodoo.
Goblin: Who do?
Jareth: You do.
Goblin: Do what?
Jareth: Remind me of the babe.

The story is fairly simple. Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is at home babysitting her baby brother Toby. He cries and cries and Sarah, while telling him a story to make him sleep, inadvertently summons the Goblin King (David Bowie in full-on scene-stealing trousers) who steals the baby (as well as every scene he’s in) and brings him to his castle, which sits in the middle of a labyrinth. Sarah has to rescue him before midnight, or the baby will became a goblin…

Along the way she meets all manner of wonderful creatures such as Hoggle the dwarf (though people usually forget his name, leading to Higgle, Hogwart, Hedgewart, and Hogbrain!), Ludo the gentle rock-summoning giant and Sir Didymus the fox terrier who thinks he’s a knight. Not forgetting his trusty steed, Ambrosius.

I loved this film from the start and have done ever since. The crystal ball juggling done by Bowie’s Goblin King was awe inspiring, and it wasn’t until years later that I discovered it was actually done by a chap called Michael Moschen, who performed the routines crouched out of shot without being able to see what he was doing. They’re still mesmerising to this day. If you get a chance, check out his work. Thank me later. (I’ve talked about Michale and a Japanese crystal ball perfomer called Otokampe in another post).

Henson’s puppets are masterful, as always. Sarah’s companion Ludo reminds me a lot of Sulley from Monsters, Inc. And this was Kevin Clash’s (the puppeteer behind Sesame Street favourite Elmo) first major role with the Jim Henson Company. I highly recommend checking out the documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, which is also wonderful.

I’ve spent years as a juggler, but dabble occasionally with the contact juggling which Moschen made famous in this film. I’ve even got my own crystal ball…


previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club
C is for Catching Fire
D is for Die Hard
E is for The Empire Strikes Bank
F is for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
G is for Goldfinger (and GoldenEye)
H is for Howl’s Moving Castle
I is for Inception
J is for Jurassic Park
K is for Kung Fu Panda

Author: dave

Book reviewer, occasional writer, photographer, coffee-lover, cyclist, spoon carver and stationery geek.

21 thoughts on “L is for Labyrinth”

  1. This movie gave me the total creeps when I was younger. I love David Bowie NOW, but when I was 8 his character kind of scared the pants off of me. I remember having nightmares for days on end after I saw this for the first time. The Dark Crystal didn’t fare much better. 😉 Elle @ Erratic Project Junkie

    1. I was a bit older than you when I saw it, so it didn’t have the same scary effect. It’s pretty dark in places though, but Dark Crystal was (for me) a lot scarier!

  2. One of the pleasures of being a parent is being able to whip out a movie you *know* will capture your kids’ imaginations because that’s what it did to you all those years ago. Where many of my childhood movies have suffered somewhat in the F/X department (Hawk the Slayer, I’m looking at you and cringing here), Labyrinth hasn’t dated at all. I love this film, always have, and we’re on our 2nd DVD copy. The only movie in recent years to come anywhere close has been Stardust.

    1. oooh, I *love* Stardust. It’s on a shortlist for my ‘S’ movie (along with about five others). I showed the kids The Princess Bride recently and got the exact same reaction from my son as Fred Savage’s at the start of the movie. By the end we were all ‘hello! My name is Inigo Montoya…’ 🙂

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