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A rare 'Alice in Wonderland' adaptation that deserves to be better known
'Alice in Wonderland' is a classic, it may be oddball and episodic in structure but the atmosphere, humour, colourful characters and Carroll's way of words, like his poetry, logic and paradoxes, are timeless.
The various versions of 'Alice in Wonderland', as adaptations and on their own merits, have been interesting and mostly good (only 5 that has been rated 6 and below by me, four animated versions- not Disney- and Tim Burton's). Not all the adaptations out there are faithful to the book, which is not surprising seeing as great as the story is it is difficult to adapt, but all the various adaptations have been judged by me mostly on their own terms and most have fared well, though a perfect one has yet to be made.
Of all the 'Alice in Wonderland' adaptations, this 1985 series from Anglia is the rarest and one of the least known. Having seen the whole thing on Youtube (no idea how long it's going to stay up though), it is a shame because it does deserve to be better known. Book aficionados will be delighted by that it is one of the most faithful adaptations (in detail, retaining almost all the key characters and scenes which for an 'Alice in Wonderland' adaptation is an achievement, and spirit and even using John Tenniel's illustrations for the puppetry), and it has a huge amount of charm on its own.
Some of the puppetry on the Wonderland characters is a little crude, with some limitation on expression and movement (though not for all) for the likes of The King of Hearts, The Mad Hatter, The Mock Turtle and The Queen of Hearts, and the mouse's costume in the "Pool of Tears" scene sticks out like a sore thumb somewhat.
Elsewhere, the series looks pretty good and for a television series of its budget shows a wide and skillful array of technical techniques, like setting the action against very colourful and picturesque photographic (like with the beach and woodland scenes) or live action (Rabbit's house and in the court) backgrounds and using Tenniel's illustrations also on screen in the "Old Father William" scene. The five episodes are all book-ended by charming and beautifully filmed live action scenes, complete with evocative costuming.
Music has a lovely understated whimsy, while the dialogue flows naturally with Carroll's writing shining wonderfully (the writing in the live-action bookend scenes with its telling-a-story device similarly charms). The storytelling throughout has the fun, nostalgia, colour charm and wonderfully oddball natures of the source material, with key scenes having their impact, and pacing never feels creaky with each 20-21 minute episode covering a lot of story in a short space of time.
Giselle Andrews is an enchanting Alice, being suitably spirited and winsome. Robert Peters is a charming Dodgson (aka. Lewis Carroll himself) and the sisters are appealingly played too. The characterisations for the Wonderland characters are on point too, especially Bernard Cribbons' mournful Mock Turtle, Joan Sanderson's battleaxe Queen of Hearts, John Barron's doleful Caterpillar and Michael Bentine's very funny March Hare.
All in all, a very rewarding experience and deserves to be better known. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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