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Lazing on a sunny afternoon in the summertime in 1862/1966
First time I saw this was on December 28th 1966 which was its first broadcast on BBC1, the next time was exactly 42 years later on a pristine BFI DVD. I was worried my childhood memories might be shattered by discovering it was simply a trippy '60's cop-out, but I needn't have been. Sure, it's a product of its time same as everything is, but it was and remains a unique filming of the classic tale by Lewis Carroll and imho the best version made so far.
Young Alice is transported by dream one sunny summer day to Wonderland where many adventures befall her. Whether Carroll was attracted or not to little girls ("I like all children, except boys") and whether that explains why his diaries had some ripped out pages at key moments is something we'll never know for sure now - I think he was merely a repressed idealist but he created a timeless story for children of all ages. His 90 page painstakingly hand written original edition which he gave to Alice in 1864 as "a Christmas gift to a dear child in memory of a summer day" is currently online from the British Museum and well worth a read.
Jonathan Miller's erudite sharp focus black and white production assumed that it was really meant for satirical adults, however it still managed to impress this particular 7 year old and especially his 5 year old wife to be and their counterparts 42 years later. Favourite bits: Michael Redgrave as the Caterpillar and John Geilgud as the Mock Turtle; Alice's walk with Duchess Leo McKern down the path through the woods followed by the camera crew weaving in and out of the trees and forward and backward; almost every scene has something of note though. Maybe I could have done with a bit more of Ravi Shankar's exceptional tunes but no worries. It's a pity John Bird's and Peter Sellers' post Goon Show improvisations were left in - it's no good Miller saying it was in the spirit of Carroll when their obvious inspiration was Spike Milligan, just one eg from 1954's Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler Of Bexhill On Sea: "Suddenly! Nothing happened! But it happened suddenly mark you!" And I still wonder how much the production influenced the Beatles with their image for 1967? Apparently the finished film was considered too long by the BBC and 30 minutes were chopped off. Off with their heads - all those potential Pinteresque moments lost!
This is something to treasure: an arty BBC film that was genuinely arty, entertaining and still eminently watchable generations later. It almost managed to capture the illusive illusionary qualities of dreams and those seemingly beautifully languid sunny days of the '60's both 19th and 20th century.
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