Labyrinth Blu-ray Review
'Labyrinth' comes to Blu-ray with a region free 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed at 2.35:1.
It would be nice to be able to report that it's a good transfer but there are so many others out there that look significantly better. While it's not actually a terrible transfer, with High Def, we're looking for something that's a noticeable improvement over the DVD release. So what do we get? Well, we have grain to contend with throughout the movie that not only reminds us that it was shot on film (which we knew already) but it lends a slightly veiled, misty image which combined with some soft focus shots can be offensive to the eye. It's also rather dull and murky with a certain amount of redness to Jennifer Connelly's pretty face in some shots that makes you feel you could be watching it on VHS. Surely we ought to be making the most of what the High Def format has to offer. I'm all for transfers that remain true to the original look of the film, but I don't recall it ever looking like this in the cinema.
If a studio fixes the grain for Blu-ray release, they're lambasted with chants of 'DNR'd to death', so I guess they're never going to make everyone happy. I found contrast to be somewhat subdued overall, but in areas such as the interior night shots in Sarah's parent's house the blacks were actually black although there was a lack of shadow detail which resulted in mud. This may have been down to the sensitivity of the film stock used in 1986 rather than the transfer, as if there's nothing there it just won't show up - no matter what you do. It grieves me to have to say that this is not the best transfer I've seen to date.
The audio on 'Labyrinth' comes in a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mix that provides us with good clear dialogue from the centre speaker, while the main stereo pair come alive with Mr Bowie's musical numbers. In general, the mix is front weighted with no involving use of the surrounds and the only LFE I noticed was during the songs, but nothing really heavy. There's nothing actually wrong with the sound, it's just not spectacular or as good as we've come to expect from recent releases - or indeed from remixes of that period.
It does justice to Bowie's songs, but over and above that it's competent without being showy.
- Audio Commentary
Conceptual Designer, Brian Froud who was responsible for the overall look of the film provides the audio commentary for 'Labyrinth' and he supplies some good behind the scenes anecdotes like the fact that his baby boy Toby played the kid in the movie and the fact that the computer animated owl in the title sequence was the first ever to be included in a film.
His knowledge is extensive but he falls foul of the old trait of describing what we're watching on screen and he does so in a fairly soporific manner. All the same, there are some gems to be mined here if you can only stay awake long enough.
- The Storytellers - Picture in Picture
This picture in picture track has various inserts that appear during the run time of the movie from the likes of Make-up man, Nick Dudman and Creatureshop artist, Cheryl Henson.
I'd love to say more about this feature, but I couldn't hear what they said despite trying every audio track on the disc. I just could not get it to work. The disc submitted for review was a pre-production sample (a Testmold), so presumably this niggle will be fixed in the final release disc.
- Inside the Labyrinth (SD, 56 mins)
This is a chunky 16mm documentary from the time of the film's original release that shows the 'on set' footage of the production at Elstree Studios and includes interviews with David Bowie, puppet co-ordinator Brian Henson, Jim Henson and George Lucas. It's interesting and entertaining in a retro way.
- Kingdom of Characters (SD, 28 mins)
In this recent 'Look back' type featurette, we see the work done on producing the large creatures such as Ludo with some fascinating test footage in colour and B/W shot at the time. We hear from Puppeteer/performer David Goelz as well as Executive Producer George Lucas on the trials they faced.
- The Quest for Goblin City (SD, 30 mins)
In another retrospective doco, we hear from Brian Froud about his creation of the Labyrinth from a painting. George Lucas tells us about Terry Jones' script and we get to see Jennifer Connolly's audition.
'Labyrinth' arrives on Blu-ray with a reasonable 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed at 2.35:1. The Jim Henson production stars, apart from a crew of animatronic creatures, David Bowie as the Goblin King and Jennifer Connelly as a stroppy teenager who wishes away her baby brother. Despite having generally good colour, the transfer suffers from consistent grain throughout which seems to impinge on the overall sharpness.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track brings out the best in the Bowie musical numbers and ensures crisp dialogue without being totally enveloping.
A trio of fine featurettes and an audio commentary from the film's conceptual designer round off the package for fans of fantasy movies.
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- Audio Commentary