Eye For Film >> Movies >> Alice In Wonderland (1966) Film Review
Oh dear. Age has not been kind to Alice. With the flurry of revelations concerning Lewis Carroll's private life in recent years and the suggestion that his interest in the real-life Alice may have been less than savoury, the story of her adventures in Wonderland has become increasingly analysed.
Film-makers continue to find her fascinating, however, with adaptations ranging from Disney cartoon to live action mini-series. So, what if anything does Jonathan Miller's adaptation from the Sixties have to offer? Well, if you are expecting animal heads and quirky goings on, then think again. This is Alice on Mogadon, a melancholy and, in places, excruciatingly slow take on the tale with virtually all the comedic moments pared away - along with the anthropomorphic costumes - which Miller intends to present as a satire on Victorian life.
Miller does succeed in capturing the dreamlike quality of Carroll's work as Alice meanders through her adventures, frequently not opening her mouth to speak but rather 'thinking the conversation' but at the pace he sets you may well find yourself drifting off into a dreamworld of your own.
All the familiar scenes are here - the shrinking and growing Alice, the footmen painting the roses red and the Mock Turtle - but despite the stellar quality of the cast, which includes John Gielgud, John Bird, Peter Sellers, Peter Cook, Alan Bennett and Malcolm Muggeridge to name but a few, this version is as dark as a night without any stars.
The lack of any indication of which animal is which frequently makes what plot there is very difficult to follow and while it is possible to see what Miller was driving at by divorcing the tale from its children's status - that people don't have to look like animals to be like animals - this move just adds an extra layer of confusion for the audience. What fun is Wonderland without any wonder?
It's nice to see Alice portrayed as something other than ubercute and blonde, but there is a feeling of datedness about this film that you can't escape. Sellers as the King and Peter Cook as the Mad Hatter make the best of a bad job, but this feels like a vanity project, full of people with whom Miller was pals and hindered by a pall of all-pervasive smugness. On showing Huw Weldon the original version, Miller suggested it might be a bit too long, Weldon replied: "It's disastrously too long" before scything off more than half an hour - shame he stopped when he did.Reviewed on: 06 Apr 2007
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