MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)
Anne-Marie Mallik as ALICE
Peter Sellers as KING OF HEARTS
John Gielgud as MOCK TURTLE
Wilfrid Brambell as WHITE RABBIT
Michael Redgrave as CATERPILLAR
Peter Cook as MAD HATTER
Leo McKern as DUCHESS
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In 1966, director Jonathan Miller directed a version of “Alice in Wonderland” for the BBC’s Wednesday Play. This black-and-white surreal classic took a pass on a lot of the more fantastic elements of Lewis Carroll’s original story and set Alice in a bizarre mid-world between hers and the Victorian era. Starring soon-to-be-stars like Peter Sellers and even an appearance by Eric Idle, this version of the classic tale is unlike any you have seen.
WHAT I LIKED
I have held a special place in my heart for the story of “Alice in Wonderland” simply for its original inception: to be utterly ridiculous and nonsensical. Over the years, there have been many adaptations, but this is by far the most bizarre I’ve seen. That’s good for the interest in this movie, which is steeped in the 60s and doesn’t quite translate to a modern age.
What I respect the most about this version is Miller’s brave efforts to not tell a children’s tale but rather tell a strange tale for grown-ups. If you think the Tim Burton version of “Alice in Wonderland” is trippy and out there, just wait until you watch this one.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
On the whole, I just don’t get the films of the 1960s. There are some that I enjoy, but the style of filmmaking just doesn’t seem to click with me. Such is the case with this version of “Alice in Wonderland.” On one hand, it feels like an old “Twilight Zone” or “Outer Limits” episode. But on the other hand, it just seems to be detached from my own sensibilities.
While I do respect Miller’s decision to not cover his high-class actors with make-up, prosthetics and masks, the story does lose a lot of its charm and becomes more creepy than ever. After all, am I the only one bothered by these dirty old men running around the British countryside, treating thirteen-year-old girls to what appears to be a drug trip afternoon?
There is a place for the BBC’s “Alice in Wonderland,” but for me, it’s more for historical significance and a quite impressive gathering of respected actors in one film.
The DVD comes with a director’s commentary as well as a behind-the-scenes photo gallery and a spotlight on Indian musician Ravi Shankar, who provided the score.
What’s most valuable on this DVD release are two alternate versions of “Alice in Wonderland.” One is a Wednesday Play biopic of the real-life Alice Liddell in “Alice,” which is a bit tedious but worth noting. The real gem on the disc is Cecil Hepworth’s 1903 eight-minute silent film, which is the first photographed adaptation of the story. Sure, the print is practically unwatchable due to damage, but it’s still fascinating to watch, with a commentary track by a film historian.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Anyone who wants a really, really, really trippy “Alice in Wonderland.”