Labyrinth appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The picture consistently looked excellent.
Sharpness appeared terrific. Virtually the entire movie came across as nicely distinct and accurate. I noticed no issues related to softness or fuzziness during this tight, well-defined presentation. Jagged edges and moiré effects also created no concerns, and I detected no signs of edge enhancement either. As for print flaws, some light grain cropped up at times, but otherwise this was a clean flick.
The settings in Labyrinth tended to use fairly flat and plain hues – earth tones abounded - so the film didn’t exhibit an abundance of vivid colors. When those did appear, they most came via costumes donned by the various characters. The garb worn by participants such as Sir Didymus and the Worm showed tremendously bold and bright colors. This strong reproduction continued into more subdued hues such as the tinted armor of the Goblin warriors toward the end of the film and the leathery clothes of Hoggle; these colors looked absolutely brilliant. Black levels seemed nicely deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but didn’t appear overly dense. Ultimately, Labyrinth exhibited a very strong visual presentation.
Labyrinth included a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The soundfield presented a fairly active affair. The forward spectrum dominated the mix and offered a good sense of presence. Music showed nice stereo imaging, while effects meshed together well and made the environment come to life pretty solidly. Elements meshed together well, though they seemed a little speaker-specific at times.
The 5.1 Labyrinth outdid the original 2.0 track in the activity of the soundfield, especially in regard to the surround channels. These seemed noticeably more involving and distinct. They always came across as somewhat weak and indistinct during the old 2.0 track, but here they became more equal partners. These added to the experience and created a nice feeling of ambience.
Audio quality was somewhat erratic but usually remained solid. Speech mostly came across as reasonably natural and distinct, but some poor dubbing caused a few distractions. That seemed particularly noticeable early in the film, as the shots between Sarah and her family were looped in an awkward manner. A little edginess crept into some of the lines as well, particularly those spoken by Hoggle.
Effects showed a little distortion on a few occasions, but usually those elements came across as nicely detailed and accurate. The effects boasted fairly good clarity as well as decent depth; Ludo’s voice and other loud pieces demonstrated nice bass response. Music varied a bit, and some of the Bowie songs were a little dense. However, they usually sounded pretty good, and the score appeared fairly rich and vibrant. Overall, the audio of Labyrinth didn’t dazzle me but it seemed good for a film from 1986.
How did the picture and audio of this “Anniversary Edition” compare with its predecessors? The audio remained consistent with the prior 5.1 versions, but the picture was a little stronger. Though I always thought Labyrinth looked excellent on DVD, this one was slightly superior, mostly because it came across as cleaner. While the old discs lacked many defects, this one came with virtually none. It provided a really terrific transfer.
This “Anniversary Edition” of Labyrinth mixes old and new supplements. I’ll note components unique to this set with an asterisk. If you don’t see a star, than the element appeared on a prior release.
On DVD One, we find an *audio commentary from conceptual designer Brian Froud. He provides a running, screen-specific chat. Froud discusses the project’s origins and development, his character and visual design work, puppet-related issues, working with Jim Henson and David Bowie, costumes, influences and inspirations, his son Toby’s work as Sarah’s brother, sets and locations, and a few other film elements.
Froud offers a very engaging look at the film. He covers all the different technical topics in a warm, inviting manner. He gives us detail but never becomes pedantic or boring. The commentary examines the flick in a satisfying manner and remains a pleasure to hear.
Over on DVD Two, we begin with a 56-minute and 24-second documentary called Inside the Labyrinth. Created at the time of the film’s theatrical release, this show features movie clips and interviews with all the main participants. We hear from Froud, director Jim Henson, actors David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, and Shari Weiser, puppeteer coordinator Brian Henson, production designer Elliot Scott, special effects supervisor George Gibbs, writer Terry Jones, goblin armor designer Mike McCormick, puppeteer Ross Hill, and director of choreography and puppet movement Cheryl Gates McFadden. It also shows lots of great "behind the scenes" footage. Many documentaries show this kind of material, but not to the extent we see here; most of the running time is devoted to these kinds of candid shots.
Considering the technical nature of the movie - most of the characters are puppets, after all - the program easily could have become dry and lifeless, but it doesn’t. It goes through a great mix of subjects, from various design issues to casting to the script to executing all the technical bits. Each topic is covered thoroughly enough to satisfy but not to the level where it loses interest. One fun section shows how they achieved the effect where Bowie twirls a glass ball on his hand; I loved this, because I'd always been very curious how it was done. “Inside the Labyrinth” provides a terrific documentary.
Two featurettes appear under the banner of *Journey Through the Labyrinth. We find “Kingdom of Characters” (27:57) and “The Quest for Goblin City” (30:02). These present notes from Froud, Brian Henson, McFadden, executive producer George Lucas, puppeteers/performers Karen Prell and David Goelz, puppet designer/builder Jane Gootnick, Jim Henson’s assistant Mira Velimorivic, and actor Toby Froud. The show looks at character design and puppet creation, performing the puppets, some thematic and character issues, sets and visual concerns, working with Jim Henson, Terry Jones’ screenwriting and some character/story topics, the integration of songs into the film and Bowie’s involvement, cast and performances, costumes, influences, and other general thoughts.
Though it repeats some information from the commentary and vintage documentary, “Journey” offers plenty of fresh information as well. I like the insights about puppet performance, and a lot of behind the scenes footage spells out the challenges well. We find more movie clips than I’d like, but I think we discover more than enough useful facts to make this a good pair of featurettes.
Within Galleries, we find six subdomains. We get “Behind the Scenes” (30 shots), “Cast” (40), “Characters” (30), “Concept Art” (10), “Vintage Posters” (2) and “Storyboards” (13). These offer some nice looks at the elements. I particularly like the pictures in “Behind the Scenes” that show close-ups of the pieces from Sarah’s bedroom that featured in the movie. “Storyboards” seems like an odd presentation. They don’t much resemble traditional storyboards. Usually those look like comic book shot compositions, but these come across more like production art, as the majority show sketches of sets and locations. Some traditional storyboards appear, but they’re displayed at such a small scale that it’s very tough to make out what they depict.
In the Previews domain, we get ads for The Dark Crystal, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, MirrorMask and “Ray Harryhausen In Color”.
Does this set lose anything disc-based from its predecessors? Yes, but not much. It drops some filmographies as well as the trailer for Labyrinth itself. That clip does appear on the Dark Crystal DVD, though.
Labyrinth will never be one of my favorite films, and if it didn’t star my all-time favorite performer, I’d probably never have bothered with it. Still, it has enough going for it that kids should enjoy it. The DVD presents excellent picture along with fairly good audio and a strong set of supplements.
As with any movie that’s gone through multiple DVD re-releases, the question becomes which one is the best. I think that this “Anniversary Edition” stands as the most appealing of the four, but don’t expect it to blow away the old versions. This set provides slightly superior picture quality as well as the best roster of extras. Those offer the biggest reason to “upgrade” if you already have one of the old discs, as the new commentary and featurettes are worthwhile. I don’t think the picture improvements merit a re-purchase; this one looks better than its predecessors but it doesn’t outdo them in a significant manner. In any case, this “Anniversary Edition” definitely represents the best Labyrinth DVD to date.
To rate this film, visit the original review of LABYRINTH