Employing virtually every prominent Bristish performer of its time, this magical and intoxicating version of the story explores Alice's dizzying adventures in the rabbit hole both faithfully and metaphorically as a coming of age story.
Alice (Fiona Fullerton) falls down a rabbit hole and into a magical dream world populated by surreal characters and bewildering adventures. It's a journey of self-discovery for Alice as she searches for a way out of Wonderland and encounters many bizarre creatures such as the White Rabbit (Michael Crawford), the March Hare (Peter Sellers), the Queen of Hearts (Flora Robson), and the Dormouse (Dudley Moore). Musical highlights include the inspiring song "The Me I Never Knew." Written by
While this adaptation has a plethora of talent in front of and behind the camera, including impressive sets, costumes, make-up and dazzling special effects, it has two main flaws.
First is William Sterling's hesitant direction, not knowing when to pick up the pace or cut a number that's not working; overall, there's a sense of lag and lethargy. His credits show that this was his last theatrical release (though this fate should have befallen any number of directors over the years).
Second, is the fact that this is a musical. Now, you might expect that with John (Dances With Wolves, Body Heat, James Bond) Barry handling the tunes, that there would be some outstanding music and you'd be right (the arrangement of "The Me I Never Knew" alone is powerful enough to demand that this music be re-released on CD!). The "musical" works best when Barry is allowed to put Carroll's words to music. It falters, however, as does too many minutes of the film, when he's forced to put music to long-time collaborator, Don Black's lyrics. Black is no novice, having won an Oscar for his lyrics to Barry's Born Free, but these songs are tack-ons, fillers; they don't work and Barry/Black have a thankless task trying to make them do so (it would be like writing a musical to Shakespeare and throwing out The Bard's lyrics).
Fiona Fullerton is a handsome Alice, and while her singing isn't professional, it has an endearing warmth. Her voice improved as she became a pretty and capable British stage actress, excelling in, yes, musicals.
Barry/Black went to better success with the UK stage hit, Billy.
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