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LABYRINTH
(Superbit)

My fondness for director Jim Hensonís LABYRINTH ($27), stretches back to 1986 when I first saw the film during its theatrical run. Like THE DARK CRYSTAL, Hensonís other notable movie venture outside of Muppet-dom, LABYRINTH is a marvelous fantasy film that brings to life a magical world of imagination. However, unlike THE DARK CRYSTAL, LABYRINTH also features a number of human performers that interact with the elaborate puppet characters that inhabit the film.

LABYRINTH tells the story of a teenage girl named Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), who lives in a world of make-believe, so she doesnít have to deal with her parents divorce, her new step mother or her baby brother Toby, whom she is forced to baby sit. On one particular Saturday night, Toby wonít stop crying, so Sarah makes a wish that the goblins will come and take the baby away. However, when her wish does come true, she immediately regrets it and makes a plea to Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie) to return her brother. Jareth tells Sarah that her wish is not easily undone, but if she wants her brother back, she will have to make her way through the Labyrinth that surrounds his castle in the heart of the Goblin City. With only thirteen hours to solve the ever-changing Labyrinth, Sarah encounters a number of interesting creatures, some of which help her in her quest and others that sabotage her efforts to get her baby brother back.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made their Superbit DVD edition of LABYRINTH available in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for 16:9 displays. For the most part, this is a really wonderful looking transfer that has been made even better by the extra bandwidth of the Superbit process. On the negative side, the film element used for the transfer does display some small blemishes and other anomalies, as well as less than stellar special effects work that adds some printed in bits of debris to the picture. However, on the positive side, the image appears nicely crisp and offers a fine level of detail. Colors range from slightly subdued to fairly vibrant, although they always appear clean and stable throughout the presentation. Blacks are deep and inky, while the whites appear crisp. Contrast is fairly smooth and shadow detail is on par for a film from the mid-1980s. Digital compression artifacts are virtually eliminated by the higher than usual data rate of the Superbit process. Overall, this Superbit release is the best that LABYRINTH has ever looked in the home venue.

LABYRINTH is offered with 5.1 channel soundtracks in both the Dolby Digital and DTS varieties. Even though both tracks are in the latest digital formats, they do sound dated. Now I don't want to give the impression that the soundtracks are bad, because this is certainly the best that LABYRINTH has ever sounded in the home venue. However, itís fairly obvious that this soundtrack comes from the film's original Dolby Surround stems and does not represent a track that has been re-mixed from the ground up. The forward soundstage dominates the mix, with very little surround activity, outside of ambient and musical fill. Fidelity is a bit limited at the top and bottom, plus sounds lack the cleanness of definition found in latest soundtrack mixes.

Trevor Jonesí score, as well as David Bowieís songs do sound nice, but not quite as good as my soundtrack CD. Too bad, I had hoped that Bowie's terrific song As The World Falls Down would have had a bit more presence than it does here. Dialogue is always crisp and fully understandable, although the voices lack a homogonous quality, as if they were recorded in different same acoustical spaces. Differences between Dolby Digital and DTS are completely negligible on this particular track because of the limitations in the original source. Subtitles have been provided on the DVD in English and Spanish. The basic interactive menus offer access to the standard set up and scene selection features. No supplements are provided on this Superbit title, since all of the storage space on the DVD has been utilized to maximize the bit rate for the video and audio.

LABYRINTH is a charming fantasy film that I happen to like very much. The Superbit process makes it look better and sound better than it has in the past, although not to a degree that will inspire casual viewers who already own the previous release to make an upgrade. On the other hand, die-hard fans will probably want to add this second disc to their collections, while keeping the original DVD for its supplemental content.

 

LABYRINTH (SUPERBIT) 


Labyrinth (Superbit Collection) (1986)

ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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