Director/Screenplay – William Sterling, Based on the Novel by Lewis Carroll, Producer – Derek Horne, Photography – Geoffrey Unsworth, Music – John Barry, Lyrics – Don Black, Special Effects – Doug Ferris, Ted Samuels & Roy Whybrow, Makeup – Stuart Freeborn, Production Design – Michael Stringer. Production Company – Joseph Shaffel.
Fiona Fullerton (Alice), Michael Crawford (The White Rabbit), Flora Robson (Queen of Hearts), Robert Helpmann (The Mad Hatter), Dennis Price (King of Hearts), Peter Sellers (The March Hare), Dudley Moore (The Dormouse), Spike Milligan (The Gryphon), Michael Hordern (The Mock Turtle), Ralph Richardson (The Caterpillar), Michael Jayston (Reverend Dodgson)
On a picnic with her sisters and the Reverend Dodgson, young Alice falls asleep as Dodgson starts to tell them a story. In her dream, Alice follows a white rabbit down a hole into a bewildering world of strange talking animals and nonsense rhymes.
Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) has always been a story that works to variable effect on the screen. Earlier versions – particularly many of the tv versions – seem lumbering in trying to leadenly imitate the nonsense absurdity of Carroll. On the other hand, some of the adaptations that have worked cinematically – like the live-action Alice in Wonderland (1933) and the Disney animated version Alice in Wonderland (1951) ended up being hated by Lewis Carroll purists for the liberties taken with the material.
This version succeeds not too badly. Lewis Carroll’s nonsense ditties are made to work reasonably effectively in dialogue and song. Fifteen year-old Fiona Fullerton – she appeared thirteen years later as a Bond girl in A View to a Kill (1985), would one believe – makes for a intelligent, nicely self-possessed Alice as she goes through an amusing range of quizzically deadpan “Oh dear”‘s.
Elsewhere it is the same collection of star names in costume that seems to be the customary thing for these live-action Alice in Wonderland adaptations. Some of the faces present such as Spike Milligan transcend the latex, while others like Peter Sellers and Dudley Moore seem completely buried by it. The Red Queen costumery is good but the animal costumes have a habit of revealing themselves as only painted rubber humps whenever the characters start dancing. The painted flats of the backgrounds tend to wear on the eye after awhile.
The other screen adaptations of Alice in Wonderland are:- Alice in Wonderland (1903), a silent British short; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1910), a silent American short; Alice in Wonderland (1915); Alice Through the Looking Glass (1928); Alice in Wonderland (1931), the first sound version; Paramount’s Alice in Wonderland (1933) with an all-star cast of the day including W.C. Fields, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper; the partly stop-motion animated French Alice in Wonderland (1949); the classic Disney animated version Alice in Wonderland (1951); the NBC tv version Alice in Wonderland (1955); the modernised Hanna-Barbera animated tv special Alice in Wonderland, or What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (1966); the NBC tv production Alice Through the Looking Glass (1966); the BBC tv production Alice Through the Looking Glass (1974); the Italian tv mini-series In the World of Alice (1974); a 1976 Argentinean film version; a pornographic version Alice in Wonderland (1976); a Spanish film version Alice in Spanish Wonderland (1979); the Belgian film Alice (1982), which features equivalents of the Wonderland characters in the modern world; a US tv production Alice in Wonderland (1982); a US tv version Alice at the Palace (1982) with Meryl Streep as Alice; a BBC musical version A Dream of Alice (1982) with Jenny Agutter as Alice; a British tv series Alice in Wonderland (1985); Irwin Allen’s all-star tv mini-series Alice in Wonderland (1985) featuring Roddy McDowall, Telly Savalas and Shelley Winters; a BBC tv series Alice in Wonderland (1986); the animated Alice Through the Looking Glass (1987); having been combined with the Care Bears in the animated The Care Bears Adventure in Wonderland (1987); Jan Svankmajer’s bizarrely brilliant Claymation animated Alice (1988); Woody Allen’s modernised urban spin Alice (1990); the US tv series Alice in Wonderland (1991); the British tv version Alice Through the Looking Glass (1998) with Kate Beckinsale as Alice and an all-star cast; the Hallmark tv version Alice in Wonderland (1999) with Tina Majorino as Alice and an all-star cast; Alice’s Misadventures in Wonderland (2004), a modernised indie film take on the story; Alice (2009), a modernised tv mini-series starring Caterina Scorsone as Alice entering into a dark science-fictional wonderland; Malice in Wonderland (2009), a modernised British film that translates Wonderland into an urban environment; Alice in Murderland (2010), an Alice in Wonderland-themed slasher film; Tim Burton’s big budget Alice in Wonderland (2010) and its sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016); Alyce (2011), another modernised urban translation; the modernised tv series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (2013-4); and The Other Side of the Mirror/Alice: The Darker Side of the Mirror (2016), a dark retelling. Also of note is Dennis Potter’s tv play Alice (1965), which explores Lewis Carroll’s relationship with Alice Liddell, the young girl who became the model for Alice, and the later film Dreamchild (1985) in which the real-life Alice reminisces back on her memories of Lewis Carroll and the writing of the story.
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