Review of Alice in Wonderland: Part 4 (Old)

The last of my pre-Saint Carnival reviews, post on August 19, 2010.

Yo, Cine Beast reporting for duty . . . at last.

Well, here we are. The final part. I’ll admit that I’m glad to be done with these reviews. It feels like it’s been ages since I reviewed a non-Alice film, and I’d like to pursue other things. However, I’m not free yet: we have two more movies to inspect, so let’s begin.

First up, the two-part TV movie produced by the guy behind Lost in Space.

Directed by: Harry Harris

Featuring: Natalie Gregory, Red Buttons, Sammy Davis Jr., Carol Channing, Harvey Korman, Shelley Winters, Roddy McDowell, Jonathan Winters, Jack Warden, Lloyd Bridges, Ernest Borgnine, Pat Morita, with Ringo Starr as the Mock Turtle, and Telly Savalas as the Cheshire Cat

Written by: Paul Zindel

Year of Release: 1985

Running Time: 187 minutes

Budget: No clue. Those are some expensive actors, though.

As you may have guessed, the best thing about this adaptation is the cast. There are some classic actors here. The problem is that most of them only show up for a few minutes, and some of them don’t even have any dialogue (*cough* Shelley Winters *cough*).

With that said, this adaptation is easily one of the better Alices. Remember the sappy 1999 version? That had a great cast too, didn’t it, and it sucked. I’m not 100% sure why exactly this adaptation is superior, but I think it has something to do with the honesty of the script. To elaborate:

In my opinion, the 1999 teleplay was a pandering mess that was clearly targeted at retarded mice, while this adaptation is quite clearly targeted at children. Not mice. Kids. It’s still a pretty sappy movie, but it also has a dark streak to it that intrigues me. To explain, I’ll look at the plot.

Like most adaptations this film follows the original narrative of Carrol’s books (which is a shame), but also features something nearly every adaptation lacks: an antagonist. In this film, Alice is having some reservations about growing up, and at the end of the first act, her fears take physical form as the malicious Jabberwocky. Check it out:

Very 1980’s, huh?

Anyway, I love that the Jabberwocky is the villain, but the concept that he’s some sort of representation of Alice’s gerascophobia irks me. Not because it’s impossible (this is a fantasy film!), but because it goes against the original character of Alice. Ironically, this is the same complaint I made with the 1999 version: in the books, Alice is an incredibly mature girl who doesn’t have any fears about growing up. If this film had come up with a different phobia for Alice, something unrelated to becoming a responsible adult, I don’t think I would have a problem.

The only other failure for this film, of course, is that it’s simply not interesting enough (the flaw of nearly every adaptation). There are some funny lines, but it’s not a comedy; there are some exciting chase scenes, but it’s not an adventure flick. There are some songs, too, but they’re not very memorable.

I’m not nitpicking here; there are a lot of problems with this version. Yet, there’s quite a bit that’s done right. The cast, again, is sensational, including Natalie Gregory as Alice: she won’t be winning any awards, but she’s personable and as adorable as a button, and I don’t mind her American accent. Among my favorites of the adult cast are: Sammy Davis Jr., who gets to show off his tap dancing skills as the Caterpillar; Ringo Starr, who makes the most of his short musical number as the Mock Turtle; and Telly Savalas as the Cheshire Cat, who is once again horribly underutilized in the story.

Despite its flaws, I like this adaptation. Its narrative is lacking and the character of Alice seems misinterpreted to me, but the cast is great fun to watch and film’s mood is happy, not sappy.

Cine Beast’s Rating: 6/10

Directed by: Jan Svankmajer

Featuring: Kristyna Kohoutova . . . that’s it. Whoa.

Written by: Jan Svankmajer

Year of Release: 1988

Running Time: 86 minutes


Budget: Unknown

Holy crap.

So . . . yeah, uh . . . there’s not much to say about this one, I think. It’s the “scary” adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.

It is also the best.

A few paragraphs ago, I criticized Irwin Allen’s TV Alice for failing to identify what genre it belonged to. It wasn’t a comedy, an adventure flick, or even a musical. I think that’s a fair criticism for every adaptation of Alice, actually. Disney’s Alice, Tim Burton’s Alice, etc., none of them could decide on a genre. They were all just in the “Alice” genre. Well, surprise, that’s not good enough!

The reason this movie is the best Alice adaptation yet made is because it chose a genre: Horror.

Oh, and it has an antagonist. That helps, too. A lot.

At the beginning of the film, the eerie tone is set with an uncomfortable close-up of Alice’s mouth as she calmly explains, “Now you will see a film made for children . . . perhaps.” After this we see Alice alone in her hovel of a bedroom, throwing rocks in her teacup, when her taxidermy White Rabbit comes alive and . . . hell with it, I’ll just show you.

This is how you make an Alice in Wonderland movie.

Well, in my opinion, anyway. I must remind myself that most audiences aren’t nearly as morbid or gothic as I am. Perhaps you guys have a personal favorite Alice adaptation? If you do, by all means, sound off in the comment section below. As for me, I’m wrapping this review up, fast.

Cine Beast’s Rating: 8/10


Here’s the problem, though: I haven’t seen every adaptation out there. I’d like to think I’ve seen the most popular ones, but there were a lot of Alice movies made. I’m sure I’m missing a good one. In fact, I know I am!

Specifically, I’m talking about the 1933 Alice, or as I refer to it as, “the Cary Grant Alice.” No, seriously, it’s got Cary Grant in it. As the Mock Turtle. The Mock Turtle. And I still haven’t seen it yet. Don’t ask why: I don’t know. When I do, though, you can count on me to review it and deduce whether or not it’s worth my interest, or yours.

In the meantime, I’m ready to finish this four-part review and move on with my life. Cine Beast, signing off!

Note from 2013: No, I still haven’t seen that Cary Grant movie.

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