Director: Jim Henson.
Screenplay: Terry Jones.
Starring: Jennifer Connelly, David Bowie, Toby Froud, Shelley Thompson, Christopher Malcolm, Warwick Davis, Kenny Baker.
Imaginative fantasies have become commonplace of recent times with the release of “The Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter” films etc. This has been made possible with the technology we have now, helping to bring fantastical imagery to a new level. However, this 1986 film preceeded those using old-fashioned puppetry from “The Muppets” creator Jim Henson and based on an original story by Terry Jones from “Monty Python” fame.
When her baby brother is stolen by the Goblin King (David Bowie), young Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) must mount a rescue operation. A plan made doubly tricky by the fact he has hidden his castle in the middle of a treacherous labyrinth populated with the weird and the wonderful.
This being a childhood favourite of mine, it was nice to visit it again recently. It also serves as a reminder as to how good Jim Henson and his puppets were. With most movies now relying on computer generated special effects, it’s refreshing to know that a more inventive approach was once used. However, some scenes do show up the limitations (and strings) and some stunted dialogue and amature acting don’t help matters. Despite this though, it’s the sheer imagination, fantastical otherworld and it’s eclectic inhabitants that capture your attention in a way that children’s films don’t quite do anymore. When I was young, I wholly entered into Henson’s world and upon a recent rewatch, was reminded how easy that was to do. It’s still effective now and with a shared enthusiasm from my CGI exposed young daughter, it’s testiment that a young audience today can still be captivated by it. Not so long ago, special effects had an integrity about them and Jim Henson and his puppet company were one of the best in the business. Henson was still honing his skills before his untimely death a few years after this. Ironically he died in the same week he was going to sell him company to one of the modern computer generated giants of today. A little known company called… ‘Disney’.
A fantastical, family friendly classic that I much loved as a youngster and have the pleasure to relive with my own children. It has aged fairly well. Although, I often wonder if Bowie actually had that excessively ridiculous codpiece written into his contract. Dear oh dear, David. Have you no shame?