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Alice in Wonderland

3.7 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Fans of Lewis Carroll's classic novel for children will be fascinated by this startling 1966 interpretation by Jonathan Miller, a noted British theater director. Influenced by surrealism and Victorian architecture, Miller's black-and-white version of Wonderland is a dour and creepy place, not the frenetic and charming bustle usually depicted. A brunette Alice (Anne-Marie Mallik) wanders like a sleepwalker, rarely looking anyone in the eye, and has fractured conversations with the likes of the Mad Hatter (Peter Cook, Bedazzled), the Caterpillar (Sir Michael Redgrave, The Lady Vanishes), the Duchess (Leo McKern, Rumpole of the Bailey), and the Mock Turtle (Sir John Gielgud, Brideshead Revisited, Arthur). The result is probably an accurate picture of the adult world seen through a child's eyes--an unsettling and intriguing vision. Also featuring Peter Sellers as the King of Hearts and music by Ravi Shankar. --Bret Fetzer

From the Back Cover

A subversive and haunting retelling of the classic children's story featuring legendary actors Sir Michael Redgrave, Sir John Gielgud, Leo McKern, and satirists Peter Sellers, Peter Cook, and Alan Bennett. This surreal masterpiece was filmed for the BBC by stage and screen director Jonathan Miller. Miller's Victorian Gothic version of "Alice in Wonderland" captures the menacing undertones of Lewis Carroll's story while poking fun at middle-class England.

Special Features

  • Director's commentary track
  • Behind-the-scenes stills gallery by world renowned photographer Terence Spencer
  • Cecel Hepworth's 1903 film of Alice in Wonderland
  • Essay by author and critic Wheeler Winston Dixon
  • Music specially composed by Ravi Shankar

Product Details

  • Actors: Mark Allington, Alan Bennett, John Bird, Wilfrid Brambell, Peter Cook
  • Format: Black & White, Live, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Homevision
  • DVD Release Date: November 18, 2003
  • Run Time: 72 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000CG8I8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,478 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Alice in Wonderland" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
If you are expecting a light cartoon version of Alice and Wonderland, you won't get it with this.
This is one of the wierdest versions of the story I have seen yet. It is somewhere between a dream and a nightmare. The story flows like a dream where scenes jump from one spot to another in a sort of almost episodic flow. This version is also a satire of the British aristocracy and culture.
This was made for the BBC as a Christmas special in 1966.
The soundtrack is by Ravi Shankar. The cast is composed of some of the best known names of British comedy and theatre. Among the cast Peter Cook plays the Mad Hatter, Peter Sellers is the King of Hearts, But the real scene stealer is Leo McKern as the Duchess(!).
All in all, this is a pretty dark version of the story. It is also one of the more "British".
The British release also has an 8 minute silent version from 1903, director's comentary, production stills and cast bios. The American release may have more or less of these things.
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This is the most complex movie rendering of Carroll's classic, and one of the stranger ones. It's a 1966 BBC production in black and white, and done on a shoestring budget. As a result, there's just about nothing in the way of special effects - and certainly no animal-shaped costumes for the dormouse, white rabbit, and all the others. Instead, the characters simply dress in a deliberately over-done Victorian style, probably put together by raiding the stock BBC costume closet.

But what characters! Peter Sellers (who played in other Alice movies as well) is the King of Hearts, Peter Cook is the Mad Hatter, Leo McKern is the Duchess(!), and that's just the start of this star-driven production. Ravi Shankar composed the music and performs much of it, giving an other-worldly sense that fits Carroll's dreamscape perfectly. It's a kind of dream continually on the edge of nightmare without ever quite crossing the line, the same feeling you get when watching "The Prisoner" TV series.

But Alice truly makes the story. Ann-Marie Mallik, in what may be her only acting role, was the perfect choice. She moves through the dream with all the reserve you'd expect of a browbeaten Victorian child, but with all the presence and a little insolence of a woman-child entering her teens. Although she's more observer than participant in most scenes, she conveys a quiet sense of being fully engaged in it all.

This isn't a disneyfied, silly production for children. Nor is it a surreal exaggeration like Jan Svankmajer's (which I also enjoyed). It's a serious and baffling work. In that sense, it's more true to Dodgson's original work than any other Alice I've seen. This one has my highest recommendation.

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In Lewis Carroll's original work, Alice is a charming, witty and precocious 7-year old, engaging in sparkling point-counter-point exchanges with all manner of strange characters and situations as she wanders from one scene to another, not always predictably and not always to her liking or desire. This reviewer is unfamiliar with Victorian English society of the period, but surely these encounters are brilliantly realized satire, the animal characters selected to portray various characteristics of the nobility and commoners.
So it should be no surprise that this low-budget (£32,000 and a 6-week shooting schedule) 72-minute BBC B&W production is done with all live actors, no animation, yet is faithful to the book. . Quoting from the enclosed folder, "...there was no script; Miller (the director) simply typed out the dialogue from Carroll's book each day and presented it to the cast on the set, and after a few rehearsals, they would do a take." Principal characters are portrayed in human form in Victorian period costume, making full utilization of the Tenniel illustrations where possible. For example, the white rabbit (Wilfred Brambell in an outstanding portrayal) is a fussily dressed, brisk-gaited English gentleman with pocket watch, top hat, braided uniform with tails, bow-tie, white gloves, and a white fan. Alice's dress and hair style is perfectly realized.
Some of the key scenes are shortened. For example, the pool of tears leading to the caucus race (to dry off) was created by a giant Alice crying in frustration, not shown, so the sudden appearance of water is confusing. The recitation of Father Williams to the Caterpillar (an excellent Michael Redgrave) was regrettably truncated to only a verse or so.
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Format: DVD
What a surprise that a gem like this exists!! I had never even heard that this was created until just recently. The 4 previous reviews all have very good points so I won't go into great detail. It is a disjointed affair, but well worth the trouble to delve into. The girl chosen as Alice seems years too old for the role though. If bizarre 60's movies are not something you are into, then I would advise those people against getting it. If you like weird films like Wonderwall or shows like The Prisoner, you may be able to enjoy this film. I find it fascinating and it is highly psychedelic. There is no doubt that this is a 60's take on Alice. Incredible camerawork with much detail put into camera angles and setting really add to the surreality of this work. Leo McKern is hysterical as the Dutchess. Peter Cook and Peter Sellers have some fun with their roles as do all the cast. No one has a very large role. This looks like it was a blast to make and should entertain anyone with an open mind. I would say that it is not geared toward children as many versions of Alice are. Most little kids will be confused and possibly disturbed. This is much more fun for grown-ups. See if you can spot the Monty Python cameo.
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