Midnight Movie: "Labyrinth" (UK/USA, 1986)

Midnight Movie: "Labyrinth" (UK/USA, 1986)

Hello, Balkers! Do you have the power of the babe? I hope you do, because tonight's Midnight Movie is Labyrinth! (DANCE MAGIC, DANCE!!) Goblins! Weird, creepy headless bird things! David Bowie and his crotch! For the unlikely few who haven't seen this cult classic, the story wends its way quickly from an ordinary family home to the depths of a peculiar labyrinthine kingdom ruled by Jareth, the Goblin King (David Bowie), who has absconded with the wee baby brother of resentful older sister Sarah (Jennifer Connelly). 15-year-old Sarah must outwit the labyrinth and contend with the seductive Goblin King, and herself, before 13 hours have passed and her sibling is lost to to this world forever. This wonderful "1986 British-American musical fantasy adventure film [was] directed by Jim Henson, executive produced by George Lucas, and [was] based upon conceptual designs by Brian Froud," who also designed Henson's previous film The Dark Crystal. Famous Monty Python alum, screenwriter, author, and TV host* Terry Jones wrote the screen play. (Watch Jones' funny and excellent documentary series Medieval Lives on YouTube.)

Amazing, this mega-classic, beloved by so many today, bombed at the box-office and received mediocre to terrible reviews. (Roger Ebert, for example, disliked it and gave the film two out of four stars, while his partner Gene Siskel just plain eviscerated it.) Wikipedia writes:

The New York Times reported that Labyrinth had a budget of $25 million. Labyrinth was a box office disappointment and only grossed $12,729,917 during its U.S theatrical run. The commercial failure of the film demoralized Henson to the extent that his son Brian Henson remembered the time of the film's release as one of the most difficult periods of his father's career. It would be the last feature film directed by Henson before his death in 1990.

But that:

Despite its poor performance at the American box office, Labyrinth was a success on home video and later on DVD. David Bowie told an interviewer in 1992 that "every Christmas a new flock of children comes up to me and says, 'Oh! you're the one who's in Labyrinth!'" In 1997, Jennifer Connelly said "I still get recognized for Labyrinth by little girls in the weirdest places. I can't believe they still recognize me from that movie. It's on TV all the time and I guess I pretty much look the same."

Labyrinth has become a cult film. Brian Henson remembered his father Jim Henson as being aware that Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal both had cult followings by the time of his death in 1990, saying that "he was able to see all that and know that it was appreciated." Academic Andrea Wright wrote that Labyrinth has managed to maintain audience popularity long after its initial release to a greater extent than The Dark Crystal. Since 1997, an annual two-day masquerade ball called the "The Labyrinth of Jareth" where revelers come dressed in costumes inspired by the film has been held in Hollywood, CA. Labyrinth has a significant Internet fandom, and as of July 28, 2014, Fanfiction.Net hosts over 8600 stories in its Labyrinth section.

It's certainly a testament to the truth that popularity does not necessarily equal worth.

Midnight Movie: "Labyrinth" (UK/USA, 1986)

Share your thoughts, memories, and favorite Labyrinth quotes, pics, memes, and GIFs in the comments!

Have a gorgeous evening and enjoy the show!

More from Wikipedia:


Labyrinth features allusions to a range of literary and filmic sources, many of which were recognized by contemporary reviewers. Richard Corliss noted that the film appeared to have been influenced by The Wizard of Oz and the works of Maurice Sendak, writing that "Labyrinth lures a modern Dorothy Gale out of the drab Kansas of real life into a land where the wild things are." Nina Darnton wrote that the plot of Labyrinth "is very similar to Outside Over There by Mr. Sendak, in which 9-year-old Ida's baby sister is stolen by the goblins." Copies of Outside Over There and Where the Wild Things Are are shown briefly in Sarah's room at the start of the film. The film also features an end credit stating that "Jim Henson acknowledges his debt to the works of Maurice Sendak".

The film's concept designer Brian Froud has stated that the character of Jareth was influenced by a diverse range of literary sources. In his afterword to The Goblins of Labyrinth, Froud wrote that Jareth references "the romantic figures of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and a brooding Rochester from Jane Eyre" and the Scarlet Pimpernel. Bowie's costumes were intentionally eclectic, drawing on the image of Marlon Brando's leather jacket from The Wild One as well as that of a knight "with the worms of death eating through his armour" from the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm.

The dialogue starting with "you remind me of the babe" that occurs between Jareth and the goblins in the Magic Dance sequence in the film is a direct reference to an exchange between Cary Grant and Shirley Temple in the 1947 film The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.


The protagonist of the film was, at different stages of its development, going to be a King whose baby had been put under an enchantment, a princess from a fantasy world and a young girl from Victorian England. In order to make the film more commercial, it was ultimately decided that the film's lead would be a teenage girl from contemporary America. Henson noted that he wished to "make the idea of taking responsibility for one's life - which is one of the neat realizations a teenager experiences - a central thought of the film."[7]

Auditions for the lead role of Sarah began in England in April 1984. Helena Bonham Carter auditioned for the part, but it was ultimately decided it would be better to cast an American actress. Monthly auditions were held in the U.S until January 1985, and Jane Krakowski, Yasmine Bleeth, Sarah Jessica Parker, Marisa Tomei, Laura Dern, Ally Sheedy, Maddie Corman and Mia Sara all auditioned for the role. Of these, Krakowski, Sheedy and Corman were considered to be the top candidates. Fifteen year old actress Jennifer Connelly was ultimately chosen to play Sarah after her audition on January 29, 1985, "won Jim [Henson] over" and led him to cast her within a week. According to Henson, Connelly was chosen as she "could act that kind of dawn-twilight time between childhood and womanhood." Connelly moved to England in February 1985 in advance of the film's rehearsals, which began in March. Discussing her understanding of her role with Elle, Connelly said that the film is about "a young girl growing out of her childhood, who is just now becoming aware of the responsibilities that come with growing up."

The character of Jareth also underwent some significant developments during the early stages of pre-production. According to Henson he was originally meant to be another puppet creature in the same vein as his goblin subjects. Henson eventually decided he wanted a big, charismatic star to the play the Goblin King, and decided to pursue a musician for the role. Sting and Michael Jackson were both considered for the part, however it was ultimately decided that David Bowie would be the most suitable choice.

"I wanted to put two characters of flesh and bone in the middle of all these artificial creatures," Henson explained, "and David Bowie embodies a certain maturity, with his sexuality, his disturbing aspect, all sorts of things that characterize the adult world." Henson met David Bowie in the summer of 1983 to seek his involvement, as Bowie was in the U.S for his Serious Moonlight Tour at the time. Henson continued to pursue Bowie for the role of Jareth, and sent him each revised draft of the film's script for his comments. During a meeting that took place on June 18, 1984, Henson showed Bowie The Dark Crystal and a selection of Brian Froud's concept drawings to pique his interest in the project. Bowie formally agreed to take part on February 15, 1985, several months before filming began. Discussing why he chose to be involved in the film, Bowie explained that "I'd always wanted to be involved in the music-writing aspect of a movie that would appeal to children of all ages, as well as everyone else, and I must say that Jim gave me a completely free hand with it. The script itself was terribly amusing without being vicious or spiteful or bloody, and it had a lot more heart in it than many other special effects movies. So I was pretty hooked from the beginning."

Beautiful Labyrinth poster by Mark Reihill, courtesy of Planet Pulp.

Midnight Movie: "Labyrinth" (UK/USA, 1986)