BOOK REVIEW: LABYRINTH – The Ultimate Visual History by Paula M Block & Terry J Erdmann
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Jim Henson, hot from The Muppets, Fraggle Rock and the movie Dark Crystal, embarked upon the long journey to making Labyrinth in the back seat of a limousine in December 1982 in San Francisco. During that car ride – taken with illustrator Brian Froud and his puppet-maker/sculptor wife Wendy, both veterans of the exclusively puppet-populated Dark Crystal – the groundwork was laid for a movie that would continue with a similar fantasy theme, but blend the puppets-and-human actors flavour of The Muppets.
It would be three and a half years until Labyrinth opened in cinemas – and even then it wasn’t a huge success, especially not in America.
What it was, though, was a triumph in organic film-making the likes of which are rarely seen nowadays, when most producers and directors take the lazy option of using green screens and CGI for most of their special effects.
This lovingly compiled book tracks the gestation of the movie from its first conception, through various script drafts by Canadian poet Dennis Lee, British Monty Python star Terry Jones and Fraggle Rock writer Laura Phillips.
The reader is privileged enough to see the inner workings of the entire process – from each individual character (from Jennifer Connelly’s Sarah to grumpy Hoggle and the Fireys, the enormous Ludo, the shaft of hands and David Bowie’s star turn as Goblin King Jareth) through to the puppet-making itself, and the evolution of the script.
Incredibly, this hard cover coffee table book features a wealth of the Frouds’ private preliminary sketches and photos, lovingly displayed both on the page and as lovingly rendered inserts, and an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes photographs as well.
As if that wasn’t enough, the text is fascinating, describing the movie-making process in fine detail without ever losing the reader’s interest, including quotes from the main players’ past interviews, as well as fresh interviews with actors, puppeteers and even Executive Producer George Lucas himself.
You want more? Puppeteer Brian Henson – son of the late Jim – provides a touching and insightful Introduction, and Toby Froud – yes, the son of the aforementioned collaborators to Henson, and the baby in stripey pyjamas from movie himself – contributes a lovely foreword.
Labyrinth may have performed moderately at the U.S. box office upon release, but it has more than made up for it with VHS, DVD, merchandise and its current well-deserved cult favourite status. For the millions who adore the film, this is a must-have accompaniment. Personally, I can’t wait to watch it again (for the hundredth time) knowing what I now know!
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