Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Alice in Wonderland (1966)

With the impending release of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland we’ve been inundated with press releases of DVDs for what seem like nearly every version of the Lewis Carroll story ever put to film. It’s all being released or rereleased on DVD due to the awareness of the new film. The one I jumped at – due to a combination of the cast, its reputation, and its unavailability in the U.S. – was this take which was made for BBC television in 1966. To be sure, this version owes more to feature film than BBC TV. Burton may think he’s redefined Alice, but he’s wrong. Surely nobody’s ever explored this story the way Jonathan Miller did 44 years ago – nope, not even the porn musical from the ‘70s with Kristine DeBell. Admittedly, I’ve yet to see Burton’s movie, but come on…

There’s little that’s jolly or wondrous about this take, and yet that very approach makes it a wonder to behold. Shot in crisp black and white (which on this DVD is nearly spotless), the story unfolds like some kind of dream from Ingmar Bergman, or perhaps even more like a nightmare from David Lynch. While all the hallmarks of the Carroll story are present, their execution is mostly unexpected. The most glaring omission is the absence of talking animals and childlike wonder. There are no elaborate costumes or walking cards or giant mushrooms here, yet it remains a work of utter fantasia. Alice (Anne-Marie Mallick) sees the White Rabbit (Wilfrid Brambell, Paul’s grandfather in A Hard Day’s Night) and follows him into a dreamy state that has no singing flowers, or Tweedledum or Tweedledee – after all, that duo first appeared in Carroll’s sequel, so they’re not part of this action. It’s a loose interpretation of the events within the first book. If you know the story, you really don’t need a recap. If, for whatever reason you don’t know the story, then this DVD is probably not for you. It’s for people who’ve seen version after version of the same story but are seeking something different.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.