Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The True Puppet Master part one

Aloha boils and ghouls,
Every now and then I have a nostalgia explosion, wether it be watching beetlejuice for the millionth time, buying special edition barbie dolls or collecting Ghost Busters merchandise, above those things my mind always trails back to one thing. Jim Henson. He is a genius and in my opinion an advocator of practical special effects ( which i feel strongly about). He did wonders for my imagination and made me truly believe in the personalities of inanimate  objects. I love everything that he has done, starting with sesame street then  evolving into the muppets (who are a particular obsession of mine) and then this crazy shit happened.

.. and scared the absolute shit out of me.

Honestly though I loved every second of it. As soon as the darker world of Jim Henson was opened to me I was never truly the same and I dont think any of us were. Ask anyone who was born in the mid to late 80s, if they were freaked out by The Dark Crystal and they will say that it still freaks them out. Back in the day when kids films could be about the genocide of a peaceful race, kidnapping babies and adult men wearing tights falling in love with teenage girls, we were able to watch some pretty messed up stuff without any guilt or consequence because they were meant for us. Lets take a moment to look at the best of these darker Henson productions.

The Labyrinth.
Aside from having the best goddamn poster ever, this movie was the bees knees. Jennifer Connolly was a fox and I totally related to her angst. It is also what I credit for introducing me to David Bowie, in which case this film needs a medal just for that. I never had the hots for him though, he had weird hair and wanted to hang out with stupid weird little dudes. I wanted a fizgig and a Hoggle and a Didimus but I didnt want my head ripped off by a Fiery. It never really occurred to me that most of these characters were being controlled by someone else, they were mechanical or they were puppets with someone's hand up their bums. Henson's team could do amazing things with voice, movement and design, these little puppets and animated props were some of the best actors I had ever seen. The first scene that got my attention was such a small one. It was when she had just said the words to take Toby away and the crying stops, she walks over to the crib and the blanket starts shaking and giggling like a weird demon *shudder* it gets me every time, The rest of the movie is hilarious though even with these crazy critters.

Even though these guys want to rip off your head for their own amusment, they do it in a funky and fun way that almost makes you wish she was more cooperative so he could join in the dance. The whole adventure was unbelievable, the set design, the character design even the way they made you believe the entire labyrinth was so massive. The best example I can think of of a really clever prop device that spun me right the fuck out was this.
This at first looks like an animation which very noticeably is a visage of King Jareth's face and then suddenly.

Frikkin cool!! It was two rocks made to a particular size and shape and placed in a particular spot in a particular angle to force our perspective. It was only meant to be a half a second clip that shows you that Jareth is watching them, it just goes to show the attention to detail that Henson studios had and how powerful their imagination was that they would put so much effort into something so small. Also this.
You really smelt that didnt you? If the name" The Bog Of Eternal Stench" wasn't enough you had little puddles of filth coming up for air every now and then, each with a little prolapsed rectum that came out and farted. Brilliantly gross. It wasnt all decapitation and poisened fruit there was also an unmistakable 80s glamour to this movie that made it feel like a rock opera. It was ever so slightly a musical anyway and the grand ball scene made me want to be as pretty as Jennifer Connolly.

 And the end song by David Bowie broke my heart.
" You've run so long.
You've run so far.
Your eyes can be so cruel,
Just as I can be so cruel,
Oh I do believe in you.
Yes I do.

Live without your sunlight.
Love without your heartbeat.
(Falsetto) I... I...
Can't.. live.. within.. you..."

Oh man, you realize right at that moment that he is a man who is hardly capable of love, but he loves her with everything he has to give, The only way that he knew how to get someone to care about him was through fear so he tried to control her, but she is stubborn and strong and loved her brother far more than she was facinated by him and he was deeply hurt by her rejection. This was my introduction to the complexity of love and it always makes me sad. 

Far more than a silly movie with puppets. The Labyrinth is a well concieved fantasy adventure, created by very talented people and loved by adults and children everywhere. It taught us about family, love, loyalty, friendship, how you can be special even though you're a weird girl who talks to herself and it taught you the usefulness of determination. The Labyrinth is about growing up but never forgetting the things that were magical when you were a child and not being ashamed that you need them still. I grew up watching this film and I will grow old watching this film as well because I am a child full of imagination at heart. All thanks to Jim Henson. So should you need a bit of a jolt back into childhood wonder, give him a call.

Stay tuned for part 2
Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark Crystal.

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