We’re all stuck in the house, right? There’s never been a better time to dig into those retro movies that you’ve always wanted to watch, but never had the time for. Personally, I’m a bit of a retrophile and tend to watch more older flicks than newer ones. On Fangirlish, you can now look forward to a retro review from me each Wednesday in this column. I’ll be highlighting one throwback movie a week, offering a spoiler-free review of the film, any throwback thoughts from my childhood, and where you can watch the movie yourself. Sit back, relax, and enjoy #WayBackWednesday.
As we leave September and Spooky Month closes in, it felt fitting to watch a unique, slightly spooky, and quirky film like Labyrinth for the final #WayBackWednesday of the month. This is one I missed as a kid, and first experienced in college. When my best friend found out I’d not seen it, she was aghast and promptly sat me down to watch it. Have you missed out on this cult favorite too? Check out the trailer for Labyrinth and we’ll get started.
Labyrinth is a dark children’s fantasy, perfect for the quirky kid (or adult) in your life. Directed by the late, great Jim Henson, Labyrinth tells the story of a teenage girl, Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), who feels put upon by her father and stepmother, forced to babysit her baby brother, Toby (Toby Froud). Sarah, recalling the play she’s reading at the start of the film, wishes her brother would be taken away by The Goblin King. Little does she know that the play isn’t just a story. Jareth, The Goblin King (played by the late, great David Bowie), appears and kidnaps her brother. To get him back, Sarah must make her way through The Goblin King’s labyrinth.
Sound trippy enough for you yet? Labyrinth is such a unique bit of film culture that I can’t imagine it being made at any other time than the 1980s. You have the incredible puppetry of Jim Henson’s creature workshop, mind-blowingly detailed costumes, and creative practical effects. In true #WayBackWednesday fashion, I watched the film on VHS. My copy includes a brief featurette post-credits, showing a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. I was blown away by the sheer amount of handmade props, costumes, and sets that were created to make this film as fantastic and otherworldly as it is. It’s rare to see that kind of craftsmanship put into a film today when so many things can be easily mass-produced or computer-generated. If you’re into practical effects, Labyrinth is the film for you.
What else draws me to Labyrinth aside from quirky puppets and technical craftsmanship?
According to IMDB, while Jim Henson was working on the idea for the film with Dennis Lee, they knew they wanted a pop star for the role of The Goblin King and had a few singers in mind for the job–Michael Jackson, Prince, Mick Jagger, Sting, and David Bowie. I am so glad they picked David Bowie. His theatrics and whimsy are perfect for the role. I get a little sentimental now watching the film since his passing, but I’m grateful that not only do we have his phenomenal performance, we also have his fantastic songs for the soundtrack. Bowie wrote, produced, and performed five songs for the soundtrack. If you’d like to add a bit of whimsy to your Halloween playlist, throw some Goblin King on there. You’ll be glad you did.