Alice in Wonderland (TV Movie 1966) Poster

(1966 TV Movie)

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vox-sane3 May 2004
Working with a shoestring budget director Jonathan Miller was able to persuade an impressive cast (Peter Sellers, Sir Michael Redgrave, Sir John Gielgud, Peter Cook, Alan Bennett, Michael Gough, Wilfred Brambell, Wilfred Lawson, Leo McKern, Malcolm Muggeridge, Finlay Currie) to make cameo appearances in his BBC production of "Alice in Wonderland". The results are mixed, with some bright spots (especially the few improvisations Miller left in).

Miller dresses his cast like Victorians, rather than making them look like animals (after all, he says in his commentary, the typical way of doing Alice is to take big stars and then cover them up with animal heads so you can't see who they are).

He takes the book literally. For instance, the Hatter and the March Hare are mad in a real way rather than the typically overblown cartoonish way. Peter Cook's Hatter is soft-spoken, laughing and agreeable, his lines always sounding like non sequiturs; while Michael Gough's March Hare is defensive, suspicious, and genuinely troubling.

The best scene, which probably best captures what Miller was working for, was Muggeridge's Gryphon and Gielgud's Mock Turtle. The fey White Rabbit of Wilfred Brambell ("A Hard Day's Night") is a delight. Peter Sellers, appearing all too briefly, has an amusing bit of business (Miller in his commentary doesn't like it but it suits the scene admirably and in this case Sellers the slapstick authority knew what he was doing better than the director -- the scene cries out for what he does). Michael Redgrave is phenomenal in his all-too-brief turn as the caterpillar, but the scene is damaged by truncating the poem "You are Old, Father William" to the point that it makes no sense on any level. Peter Cook's Hatter is engaging at first but his one-note madness is quickly tiresome. More interesting at the tea party is Wilfred Lawson's Door Mouse (watch his hands -- he knows his business); and Michael Gough ("Batman"), who has an aura of danger.

The pros in the cast all do their best, and no fault can be found with the big-name stars who are doing good work for peanuts.

Miller's concept of Alice is the primary reason the film ultimately doesn't work. The girl he chose as Alice has a very interesting face, and is wonderfully untraditional. Sometimes her delivery (heard half in voice-over and half in dialog) shows promise. But Miller, probably to accentuate the dreamlike fixation, has her walk through the movie like a somnambulist, not becoming involved. The little emoting he does allow is almost always to show Alice's rudeness. For the most part her facial expression is fixed and unengaged, and this is Miller's fault.

The cutting from scene to scene is abrupt. Part of this is probably Miller's continued obsession with the working of dreams, and partly because a lot of transitional material was cut out at the request of the bigwigs to make the show move faster. And because Miller is quite literal with Carroll, he makes the mad tea party actually have the monotonous languor of people trapped in a long afternoon tea that will never stop -- and it becomes tedious.

Oddly, on the DVD, far better than the movie is the director's audio track. Jonathan Miller gives a full 80 minute's description of what he tried to do (and what price limitations left him able to do); and when the movie is seen in that light, it makes a lot more sense. Sometimes Miller explains why things were done, sometimes he desperately tries to justify what was done. In all cases, his commentary is interesting and he never falls into the trap of describing what's going on, but always why it's going on.

The movie looks good, and individual turns by actors are superb, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
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Alternative 'Alice'
genekim4 October 2004
Beautifully filmed in a satiny black & white reminiscent of old photographs, this 1966 BBC adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" may displease purists for its less than conventional, as well as decidedly minimalist, approach. It's not a traditional rendering of Lewis Carroll, and doesn't pretend to be; there are no phantasmagoric sets or actors encased in over-sized costumes or big musical numbers or fancy photographic effects. The Alice of this production is a taciturn, stony-faced girl who is neither frightened nor fascinated by her experiences in Wonderland, which is mostly made up of the interiors and exteriors of old English mansions and houses. But in its unorthodox way, it brings Carroll's text to life in a way I don't recall experiencing in other adaptations of the Alice books.

It's apparent that in creating this alternative Alice, producer-director Jonathan Miller expects you to be already familiar with its source; he's evidently assuming you will recognize what he's chosen to leave in as well as leave out, as well as his re-imagined settings. Only a few of the actors are made to look anything like the characters in the Tenniel drawings, such as Leo McKern as the Duchess or Peter Cook as the Mad Hatter; you're basically on your own when it comes to spotting the White Rabbit or Caterpillar or Frog Footman, all of whom are dressed "normally" in period costumes. (Presenting the Carrollian characters as real people isn't a new idea; I recall a TV adaptation of Alice starring Kate Burton in which Humpty Dumpty was portrayed by an elderly man in a rocking chair.)

By tossing out entire scenes, characters and exchanges that were in the book, Miller gives us a sparer, edgier retelling of the Wonderland story, but doesn't stray too far from the original. Why such a sullen, passive Alice? My guess is, this is supposed to be an Alice who fully realizes that she's in a dream and treats her surroundings accordingly.

And so this Alice (played by a charming Anne-Marie Mallik) sits looking bored and disinterested during the Mad Tea Party. Other productions customarily play this scene with all kinds of manic energy, but in this film, the tea party is deliberately drawn out with long, open rhythms reminiscent of an Antonioni or Resnais film. (Alice's Adventures in Marienbad, anyone?) And seemingly for the first time, while I was listening to the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse prattle away, their nonsense started to make wonderful sense. It's easy enough for an actor to recite lines like, "What day of the month is it?," but here, the performers sound like they really mean what they say (and say what they mean).

That same emphasis on dialogue is apparent in the beach scene with the Mock Turtle, played by Sir John Gielgud, and the Gryphon, played by Malcolm Muggeridge. The Mock Turtle's words never sounded so delightful to me before, and thank goodness Gielgud didn't have to deliver them through some huge Mock Turtle mask. This scene also provides one of the movie's most striking images, of the Mock Turtle, the Gryphon and Alice walking barefoot along the shore, with Gielgud softly singing the "Lobster Quadrille" a cappella.

For those seeking a more conventional book-to-film translation of "Alice," I would suggest the 1972 British movie musical starring Fiona Fullerton, complete with elaborate sets and costumes and velvety color photography and songs. Although it was slammed by the relatively few reviewers who saw it, I thought it nicely conveyed a dreamlike quality of its own, especially in its transitions - I found it much more enjoyable than the 1933 Paramount movie or the 1951 Disney animated feature.

But if you think you've had your fill of Alice movies and TV shows, then I urge you to try this one - I think it makes Lewis Carroll sound fresh all over again. (There's very interesting musical accompaniment by Ravi Shankar.) And for a wonderfully acted movie about the real- life Alice Liddell Hargreaves and Lewis Carroll, I urge you to see "Dreamchild" - but that's another review.
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Alice in Chunderland
Klickberg28 September 2008
"Who am I?" asks a shabbily dressed, scruffy-haired incarnation of Lewis Carroll's immemorial little girl lost. Of course, the answer's come in various forms ever since such cinematic endeavors as Cecil Hepworth's "Alice in Wonderland," made in 1903 (at 12 minutes, the longest British film of the day; Cecil, you'll remember, two years later made the world's first "dog star" with his monumentally successful "Rescued by Rover," which was shown so many times that the celluloid literally deteriorated, forcing the filmmakers to completely "re-produce" it two more times; his "Alice in Wonderland," unfortunately, did not boast such a success, and thus all we have today is something that looks as though it tumbled down the rabbit hole one too many times). But enough of this sluice at the bottom of the March Hare's treacle well, eh?

Made for the BBC's The Wednesday Play television series, Jonathan Miller's take on the subject matter is, as is traditionally the case, a unique one. With a budget approximating nothing more than his usual "taped stage plays" for which he previously gained great renown (think preter-PBS), Miller decided to illustrate what Alice would have gone through had all of her nonsensical dreams been steeped in the quotidian reality of her ordinary life. There are no talking birds, no storytelling mock turtles, no dormice living in teacups. In fact, short of a crude cut-out superimposition of a very ordinary looking "Cheshire cat" flying in the sky (a la the Teletubbies' eerily omniscient baby in the sun), there's really no special effects or anything that would evince this one of being the least bit chimerical…

… that is, unless you know the story of Alice in Wonderland already. Ostensibly, what Miller is doing here is showing us the curious, towheaded girl's "adventures" set in a world where people merely sound like birds and look like supine caterpillars sitting loftily back in their Victorian chairs and wondering aloud, "Who are you?" Imagine Wizard of Oz, but without all the costumes, flying monkeys, and mercurial trees pulling at the heroine's hair.

Suddenly, we along with Alice find ourselves in a land where we were already (that is, of course, if we were a haughty 11-year-old girl wandering lackadaisically through our castellated house in the late 19th century). What we see is the "reality" of the dreamworld of Alice's waking life.

And this is exactly what Miller captures in this version of the epic "children's" tale for stoners and mathematicians. In fact, the only real sense of "dreamland" we can extract from Miller's vision is a kind of proto-Gilliam realm of canted camera angles and unsettling juxtapositions of close-up faces in deep-focus environments (think Brazil or particularly Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, which clearly owes both its visual and aural style to Mr. Miller). Truthfully, after watching this late 60's stark, black-and-white opus (if ever so disjointed and flawed), one would have to assume that Terry Gilliam took much of his artistic sensibility from what is definitely far more than a simple made-for-TV broadcast.

With a quadrille of British mainstays—Peter Cook as the Mad Hatter, Sir John Gielgud as the Mock Turtle, Alan Bennett as the Mouse, an uncredited Eric Idle, and the King of Hearts himself, Peter Sellers—Jonathan Miller, with lilting, ethereal score by Ravi Shankar, does what no other director has done to date with this timeless urtext: he shows us what would have happened had Alice stayed awake during her infamous tour through dreamland.

PS: If this one doesn't do it for you, try out Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer's nightmarish Alice (1988), which must be the most haunting adaptation of Alice's adventures yet put on celluloid.
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Curiouser and Wonderfully Curiouser!
krzykra25 November 2003
Alice in Wonderland is one of the most astounding works of literature. It has therefore inspired many entertainers to do many different variations of Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass.

Jonathan Miller's BBC version is extremely different from most adaptations of Alice, especially the Disney version (which is not really the most accurate portrayal of Lewis Carroll's logically illogical world). Miller evokes a rather haunting and surrealistic Victorian dreamworld filled with stuffy grown-ups numbly adhering to propriety and social etiquette. Alice is lost in this landscape, trying to find herself and trying to understand the process of growing up.

This variation is clearly more suitable for adults, since the mood is darker and none of the characters have any makeup at all. But the cast is excellent, with appearances by such legends as Sir Michael Redgrave, Sir John Gielgud, and Peter Sellers. Anne-Marie Mallik portrays a more sullen Alice but is perfect for this version of Wonderland.

A unique and artistic production- a must for Alice fans who like to see Lewis Carroll in all forms!
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Lazing on a sunny afternoon in the summertime in 1862/1966
Spondonman31 December 2008
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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Peter Cook Is By Far The Best Of All The Hatters'
johnstonjames17 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This is probably the most superior of all the adaptations of 'Alice'. I didn't say the most fun or has the best gimmicks, but it's probably the most intelligent and erudite of them all.

Director Jonathan Miller hired cinematographer Dick Bush(yea i know,ha ha)to film this BBC TV production in 35mm B&W, using deep focus,wide angle cinematography, a technology that is usually associated with theatrical features. The result is probably the best filmed 'Alice' of them all.

The Mad Hatter's tea party is probably the best here out of the dozen or more versions I have seen. It's done without corny special effect gimmicks, no overt slapstick, and no cute little songs. It's just done with subtlety and understatement. The resulting effect is probably the maddest,craziest,and funniest of all the tea parties put on film. Peter Cook is without a doubt the funniest and best of all Hatters I have seen, and I've pretty much seen all of them. He really seems like a man gone mad. And not a sweet madness like Johnny Depp, but a very disturbing kind of madness.He is also the most sophisticated in his portrayal.

This is one of the most faithful adaptations. The only real flaw being that the Caterpillar is not smoking a hookah. The reason is obviously because it was made for TV at the time and that would have bothered censors.

As far as a work of cinema goes, it's beautiful and it's perfect. It has a offbeat sensibility about it that echoes the Richard Lester films of that period. This is a true masterpiece.
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Jonathan Miller's Alice in Wonderland is a masterpiece.
jeremiahclayton-111 November 2005
There have been several films that attempted to bring the viewer into the dream of Lewis Carroll's Alice.. but none have succeeded like Jonathan Miller's 1966 BBC Alice in Wonderland. A legendary cast.. without costumes.. improvises Lewis Carroll's work with an unsettling brilliance. The result is a film that casts a new light.. or shadow.. on a story beloved by millions. A dark environment both in aesthetics and passion.. Jonathan Miller recreates Alice's dream into a nightmare. One that doesn't allow the viewer to get comfortable unless they can accept the evil undercurrent that moves the story forward.. or backwards. The film is cast with many legends of the screen and stage.. all of whom provide performances worthy of the legend accolade. The character of Alice is represented differently than in traditional adaptations. She seems almost removed from the "reality" taking place before her.. even at times when she is involved in the "reality" as much as the characters of her dream-world. Jonathan Miller's Alice in Wonderland for BBC television is a must-see for anyone who enjoyed Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass or anyone who enjoys low budget films that are improvised into timeless masterpieces.
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A surreal BBC "Wednesday Play"
StevenCapsuto14 August 2008
This is an experimental TV-movie from the BBC's "Wednesday Play" anthology. That series was always willing to risk trying something different, and this ambitious, low-budget "Alice" is certainly different. I don't exactly *enjoy* this film, but it's certainly fascinating.

I appreciate it as an experiment in what television could do. I admire the cast of iconic and talented Britons who wouldn't normally coincide in the same project: Peter Sellers, John Gielgud, Leo McKern (in drag as the Duchess), Michael Redgrave, Peter Cook, Wilfrid Brambell, Alan Bennett, Malcolm Muggeridge, etc.

I also admire the creativity it took to imagine this quintessentially British tale accompanied by Ravi Shankar music.

Some viewers may find the film too creepy and surreal, but the original book is pretty disturbing to begin with. This film is fairly incoherent, but then so is the book, which follows the ever-shifting logic of a dream.

The biggest problem (aside from pacing that now seems too leisurely) is that Miller's production assumes you already know what's going on. For instance, it assumes you know that the two men dressed as... um... men are actually the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle.

In other words, this is an "Alice" for people who are already overdosed on adaptations of "Alice," and who might appreciate a weirdly different take on the familiar story. Or to narrow that audience a bit, people age 12 and up who might appreciate a different take on the story.
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A Dream of a Film, Perfectly Judged
robert-temple-15 January 2008
Seeing this again after some years only made me appreciate it the more. It is thoroughly inspired, and a true work of genius by Jonathan Miller, who both produced and directed. His interpretation of the famous Lewis Carroll story is as a summer daydream. As the flies buzz, Alice drifts off to sleep on the grass, perspiring in the sun, and the visions begin. Many of her comments are given in confidential whispers, as befits a dream rather than a real drama. She rarely looks at anyone during the action, mostly tending to stare into space as if she were sleep-walking. This studied approach is successful at conveying the intended unreality of the story. It is set very firmly in Victorian times, with perfect costumes and suitably mannered behaviour by all the actors for the period. Miller uses the film to expose the hidden agenda of Carroll's fantasy, which was to use surrealist humour to attack the pomposities, bigotry, and hypocrisies of Victorian Church, state, manners, and society. (It is not for nothing that the Surrealists of Paris later adopted Lewis Carroll as their direct predecessor and Louis Aragon even translated 'Through the Looking Glass' into French.) Miller, with his wide circle of acquaintance, was able to assemble a huge number of famous actors to play cameos throughout this film. Peter Sellers was content to be the King of Hearts, Michael Redgrave was a haughty caterpillar, Leo McKern was dressed in drag as the Duchess, with a pig wrapped in swaddling clothes in his arms, and Miller's former colleagues in 'Beyond the Fringe', Peter Cook (as the Mad Hatter) and Alan Bennett (the latter of whom is still his neighbour directly across the street), were drafted in, ably supported by John Bird, old character actor Finlay Currie (as the Dodo), and a brilliant appearance by Wilfred Lawson as the Dormouse. Michael Gough is a very fine March Hare. Particularly inspired is the sequence at the seashore with Sir John Gielgud and Malcolm Muggeridge as the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon respectively. Muggeridge was not an actor, but a noted broadcaster and author, and his choice was especially inspired. At the time this went out during the Christmas season of 1966, the viewers were divided between those who loved it and those who hated it. The latter mostly had their expectations disappointed, because they thought 'Alice' should be portrayed in a more conventional way, and that what Miller did was some form of sacrilege. (A hysterical over-reaction, if ever there were one!) Miller has always had a tendency to be shockingly innovative in his interpretations (perhaps most of all in his television version of Shakespeare's 'Timon of Athens'). Miller's only commercial feature film, 'Take a Girl Like You' (1970), was not a success, and a large number of people savagely envious of his brilliance and versatility were delighted to seize upon that and stop him entering the film world. He has always had the most astonishing number of bitter enemies. People say he snaps at them. I have only ever known him to be charming and delightful. Who can say? It is all a mystery to me. But this particular achievement in black and white film will live forever, truly it will.
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An extremely offbeat and interesting experimental adaptation of Lewis Carroll's classic book
Woodyanders18 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Without a doubt one of the strangest adaptations ever done of Carroll's famous book, director Jonathan Miller's spare, yet moody and intriguing take on the weirdly haunting story eschews flashy stylistic flourishes in favor of a more low-key approach that's occasionally a tad static and slightly dull, but always provides a bold, inventive, and overall refreshingly different telling of the tale. The Alice featured herein is quite sullen and snooty; she's more of a passive spectator than an active participant in her journey through a decidedly dark and dour Wonderland populated by colorful eccentrics with more than a hint of danger to them. The cute Anne-Marie Mallik may not be especially charming or likable as Alice, but she effectively projects a supercilious attitude that makes her compelling just the same. However, it's the choice supporting cast of top-rate legendary British thespians that gives this odd program a considerable lift: Peter Sellers does well as an amusingly meek and dotty King of Hearts, Michael Redgrave likewise excels as a haughty Caterpillar, Leo McKern is a hoot in drag as the batty Duchess, Wilfrid Brambell is perfect as the fey White Rabbit, and John Gielgud is sublime as the Mock Turtle. The tea party sequence rates as a definite highlight, with stand-out turns by Peter Cook as a gloriously unhinged Mad Hatter, Wilfred Lawson as the drowsy Door Mouse, and Michael Gough as a supremely sinister stuttering March Hare. The slow druggy pace takes a little getting used to, but ultimately manages to work as the narrative becomes more progressively surreal and nightmarish, reaching a hysterical fever pitch with an out of control courtroom trial that degenerates into total bedlam (Alison Leggatt's fearsome and ruthless Queen of Hearts is genuinely frightening). Crisply shot in gorgeous black and white by Dick Bush (the artful fades and dissolves are particularly impressive), with a groovy sitar score by Ravi Shankar, this bona-fide curio is well worth seeing for those looking for a unique and unconventional interpretation of this often told story.
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The best version of the book I've seen.
How-Now-Brown-Cow6 June 2007
Most versions of Alice in Wonderland involve bratty little girls running round a brightly coloured world inhabited by clichéd characters that sing irritating songs, and the film usually has a moral of some sort. The book has been very Americanised. But not this version.

What attracted me most was the way the film was shot. It was filmed on a wide angle lens, which beautifully distorts characters' faces. The scenes in which Alice drinks the 'Drink Me' bottle are cleverly done, with the wide angle lens allowing barely any need to change furniture size.

Also as good is the fact the characters (The White Rabbit, The Dodo, The March Hare) do not wear any face masks or prosthetics. Instead, they are simply dressed in Victorian clothing, which allows the actors to make full use of their acting abilities.

The film consists of long sequences of silence, reflecting that of an endless boring summers day. As well as this, the actors always stare off into space whenever not doing anything which gives a feeling of an old photograph.

The actors are quality. The Mad Hatter's Tea Party and the Court scene are simply wonderful, with Peter Cook as the absurd Hatter and Peter Sellers as an excellent King of Hearts.

Overall, this is the best version of Wonderland that's been made, in my opinion. I highly recommend it to all fans of the book.
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Jonathan Miller spins a surrealistic yawn
highclark16 July 2005
Jonathan Miller's version of "Alice In Wonderland" is at times both very beautiful to watch and somehow mildly boring to sit through. Boring perhaps because of the detached performance of Anne-Marie Mallik who plays Alice. Jonathan Miller has Mallik play Alice as a girl who watches her own dream fantasy of 'Wonderland' from the outside of the looking glass rather than someone who has gone through the looking glass. It's almost as if Alice knows that she's dreaming and is able to control her own dreams, yet is somehow bored and barely amused with the dream world she has created. Mallick walks through 'Wonderland' as a somnambulist chaser. Transitions from scene to scene include drowsy dissolves or close ups of Mallick in all of her hair brushed beauty staring away from the camera. Large sections of Mallik's dialog are heard by way of voice over while the other actors work around her silence acting in the gaps.

One of "Alice's" strengths is in the rest of the compiled cast. There are some very good performances, most notably Wilfred Brambell as the White Rabbit, John Gielgud as the Mock Turtle, Peter Cook as the Mad Hatter and Michael Gough as the March Hare and of course, Peter Sellers as the King of Hearts. It's too bad that with the two most brilliant comedic minds of the mid 1960's, that of Peter Sellers and Peter Cook, that more freedom wasn't given to explore the comic possibilities these two could give to the story. But having this comedic freedom was not to be part of Miller's vision. Miller describes on the audio commentary of the DVD his dislike for two ad-libs provided by Cook and Sellers. Apparently because of the tight shooting schedule, there wasn't any time for lengthy re-shoots of the two ad-libs that made it into the final cut. Thank goodness for small compromises, I would hate to think of anything Sellers or Cook did on film that would be lost to the cutting room floor.

Even though Jonathan Miller's artistic resume up until the release of this film could boast of a man steeped in the comedic tradition of the Cambridge Footlights and the ground breaking satirical group 'Beyond The Fringe', his version of "Alice In Wonderland" surprisingly finds itself mostly miles away from humor. However, what it lacks in humor it makes up for in the haunting sitar backing music by Ravi Shankar.

This isn't a bad movie, just terribly frustrating and surprisingly boring at times. The good news is that it's only an hour long. This is a trip you should take; just don't get your hopes up too high.

For fans of Monty Python, look for Eric Idle in the choir near the end of the film. He appears at around the 58-minute mark.

7/10 Clark Richards
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an impressive take on a disturbing book
didi-514 June 2007
Jonathan Miller's conception of Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland' is dark, disturbing, fun, and inventive.

His cast (including Michael Redgrave, Wilfred Lawson, Peter Cook, Leo McKern, Peter Sellers, and Wilfrid Brambell) are all fairly good but Alice, for me, is the one who is of most interest. The character sleeps and dreams the story, so this Alice sleepwalks through the madness, observing and rarely commenting on what goes on.

This is definitely not a production for children. It is rather scary in places, and is beautifully shot and produced. It has a very sixties feel, not just because of the subversiveness of many of the cast, but because of the way the story has been adapted.

Costume is Victorian - rather than the cast portraying actual animals - and this works well.

This film is available from the BFI on videotape.
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This adaptation is very surreal and very dreamlike!
p-halley14 July 2007
I'm just writing to disagree with previous comment which complained about Alice's dialogue /expressions not matching upto accepted conversational practices. I think it's obvious that the whole mesmeric quality of this version was intended to portray how things disjointedly happen when you are actually dreaming. Sometimes, you are just observing the bizarre things going on around you (when dreaming)and your thoughts may contact other figures who are there even if your mouth isn't actually doing anything.

Basically, when dreaming anything can happen, so to knock this adaptation because it wasn't made like any other prog' following conventional methods is pretty crass.

If you want a pretty accurate portrayal of what a dream 'could' look like on the screen then this is a very good attempt. Also, to get all these seasoned players together in one film is a fine achievement-Peter Cook steels the show for me!
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One of the better Alice in Wonderland adaptations
CantileverCaribou28 February 2018
Probably will remain in my top 3 Alice in Wonderland film adaptations (it only covers the first book), just below Svankmajer's wonderfully surreal stop-motion version, titled Alice, and I'm somewhat ambivalent about whether I prefer the Disney version or not-it's nicely colored and the characters are more similar to the drawings In Carroll's book, but it has the goofiness of a Disney film, of course. This adaptation is quite faithful to the original book, though a few scenarios might have been removed for time or were altered in some way, but most of the dialogue remains the same.

I was expecting it to feel more like a big studio production, and while the production values were quite good, it's not reminiscent of a Hollywood film or the British equivalent. It has the aura of a B&W art film-and the girl playing Alice (makes me think of a French New Wave heroine), who never smiles, often scowls, is rather sullen, often avoids eye contact or talks while not even looking at the character she's speaking to, and is clearly older than 7 (I believe that was the stated age of Alice in the book). Though she's a bit sassy in the book and not a push over or anything, her behavior seems altered quite a bit based off my, admittedly somewhat time-eroded, memories of Alice and Wonderland. The other change is, while the film is quite faithful in terms of the scenes adapted, the actors are all humans with no attempts to dress them up as the curious assortment of talking animals, odd creatures, and flat card-like men and women found in the book.

The choice of sitar music, with occasional accompaniment, by Ravi Shankar (and someone else I hadn't heard of on oboe) was an interesting and surprisingly fitting choice. I always imagined Canterbury prog or some old folk music with flutes.

In some sense I think it has a more dream-like continuity than the book, because the whimsical passages of Carroll lend's the novel a more structured and deliberate quality, compared to the way the scenes flow and our edited in this version.
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One of a kind Alice
amosduncan_20001 August 2011
I'm not sure I completely buy Jonathan Miller's account of the book, but his interpretation (as he explains it on the commentary track) is pretty wonderful on balance. It's funny, surprising, beautiful and mostly about the nature of dreams. The cast, for fans of British movies and TV of the period, may have never been equaled. There's one from "Help", there's one from "A Hard Day's Night", there's the midget from "The Prisoner!" Wonderful. The only real question is "Where's Dudley Moore?" At any rate, I just found out about this movie, it's only been out on DVD for a year or two but it's one I think I will always treasure.
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The best...
keith-712-3834688 August 2010
Just the perfect thing for a warm, woozy, Sunday afternoon. This is Carroll's Alice done to perfection; and, from beginning to end, I was enthralled. Anne-Marie M.'s playing of Alice is spot on: She's a terrible beauty and Sphinx if ever there was one, but instead of posing riddles, she disdains answering them and explores Wonderland as if it was a cipher and she's another encrypting algorithm.

Miller's approach to conveying Alice's experiences in Wonderland are refreshing, relieving, when compared to so many "kiddy" pantomime versions and effects-heavy versions. The camera magic is reminiscent of Rivette's nod to Carroll, CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING..., and the conclusion, Alice's waking, is startling and rupturing, a bit like the ending of Assayas' IRMA VEP to this viewer. I was reminded, too, of Peake's GORMENGHAST crossed with De Broca's KING OF HEARTS what with Alice exploring a Victorian estate gone barking mad, bad, and dangerous to know ascending to the heights of delirium with Peter Cook's Hatter entering a courtroom as of swinging on a clock's pendulum.

This is a moving picture Alice to watch again and again.
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Film Location
iab123-115 February 2008
This version of Alice in Wonderland is an excellent film - very much reflecting the book but also reflecting the 1960's and the wishes of the director. I'm not sure if this is the correct forum for this question - but here goes! I am pleased to learn I live in one of the houses used in the making of this film. I would very much like to obtain copies of some of the stills taken of my house and other locations in the film. Particularly the beach location (Pett Level - you can just see Dungeness Nuclear Power Station on the horizon in one scene) and the filming which took place in Hastings. Does anyone know who I should approach? or where the stills and other archive material might be stored? Or would all this material be destroyed by now? Any ideas/suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks Ian
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peacham21 September 1999
The great Johnatan Miller succeeds again. Its been years since I caught this film on PBS but the way the story is interpreted is so unique and original. just hints of make up,no animal costumes to be seen. Gielgud as the mock turtle is as good as any of his Shakespearean or stage performances,as is Redgrave haughty Caterpiller. strong support by an A list cast of theatre pros. The interpretation is too sophisticated for most children. this is an intellectual's alice in wonderland.
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An unexpected view through Carroll's looking glass...
Tetra12316 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Those in search of the usual quirky world of Wonderland--that of singing turtles and fluffy pinafores--will leave this film feeling intensely disappointed. Miller's Wonderland is a recipe of adult Victoriana and social themes, charming like an Edward Gory picture book; in other words, in the most Gothic sense. Yet, with all it's moody obscurity, it reveals itself to be unique in its presentation of adult themes within Carroll's story. Like other Victorian and Edwardian pet works of the time--Barrie's "Peter Pan" and Wilde's "Picture of Dorian Grey"--"Alice in Wonderland" revolved around themes of childhood, "growing up" and human mortality. Regarding those matters, I felt Miller truly captured the wistful, romantic mood that dominated the art of Carroll's time.

However, Miller's version of "Alice in Wonderland" is not entirely somber; as Alice lounges lazily in a field, luxuriating in a hazy midsummer day--the buzzing of insects heard distinctly around her, you get a strong sense of the Trancendentalism described in works on the natural world, by writers like Thoreau and Emerson. In a story that Miller could've easily lead down the path of anticipated whimsy (one that's surely had its share of travelers, all attempting to capture the eccentric magic of Wonderland,) viewers instead find a rare time capsule of sentiment and social attitudes. Not simply a period costume drama riding on beautiful gowns and luscious filming locations, "Alice..." encapsulates the general feeling of an era.
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The most unique of the Alice in Wonderland adaptations there is
TheLittleSongbird20 October 2013
Not the best, I personally have a preference for the 1933 film, the Disney film, the 1985 version(though it is uneven) and the 1983 theatre production. It is on par though with the 1999 and 1972 versions and is much better than Tim Burton's film and the Burbank Films Australia and Jetlag versions. This Alice in Wonderland is certainly fascinating and is the most unique adaptation of the book, though Anne-Marie Mallick's Alice was too detached and expressionless even for a character that was written in the film to be like that, the film drags in places and the Old Father William poem recitation made little sense truncated and felt pointless. The croquet match sequence is also on the strange side, though in a way it's meant to be. The black and white photography is beautiful though, and the costumes and sets are very charming and surrealistic. Ravi Shankar's music is very hypnotic and dream-like in quality, very ideal for the atmosphere. The story has a much more surreal and darker touch than most Alice in Wonderland adaptations, but it still entertains and the Mad Hatter tea party sequence is truly memorable. The highlight is the Gryphon and Mock Turtle scene, brilliantly done. Jonathan Miller directs with a wonderfully weird style with a touch of subtlety when needed. The dialogue is in keeping with the tone of the film yet doesn't completely ignore Lewis Carroll's writing either. The best line? Personal favourite is Peter Sellers' "they don't have verdicts like that anymore"(or something along the lines of that). The supporting turns are excellent, especially Peter Cook as the maddest Mad Hatter there has ever been- and in a good way-, while Wilfred Brambell's jittery White Rabbit, Michael Redgrave's aloof Caterpillar, Michael Gough's twitchy March Hare, Peter Sellers' hilarious if too brief King of Hearts and John Gielgud's touchingly melancholic Mock Turtle stand out too. To conclude, a good Alice in Wonderland adaptation and very uniquely done. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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think about the time period the story is set before being too overly critical of the film
seymorejl29 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I study Victorian literature and though I have not read Lewis Carroll's book I would like viewers of this movie to understand the time period in which it is set. It was written in 1865 and during this time period England was in the midst of colonizing India--thus the Indian music. If one thinks this is a "hippy" movie because it was filmed in the mid-1960's and appears to be very dreamlike, then I suggest that he/she read up on the story and the time period a little more. During the 19th century in England, children were expected to be seen and not heard--they were not expected to be creative and/or imaginative. Victorians were to be very proper and know their place in the world. The dreamlike surrealist feel of the movie fits very well for something that is suppose to be a dream (i know this sounds obvious, but some forget to remember it's a dream). Enjoy and remember the time in which it is set.
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Trapped in the mind of Alice
dbborroughs23 December 2007
Jonathan Miller adapted the Lewis Carrol work for the BBC's Wednesday Play series. Using music by Ravi Shankar and a style that is truly dreamlike he has deconstructed the novel in such away as to have it play as the unconscious ramblings of a teenage girl. Its profoundly disturbing in its way since almost none of the actors are costumed as animals so its very hard to know who is who unless you really know the book, what they say takes on a different sort of weight.Its very well done, but I don't know if I'd show it to any children since I'm not sure what they would make of it. Very much a product of its time the tone and feel of the piece is very much akin to almost any of the films from England from the period (say Richard Lester's Beatles films or Bedazzled, or something with Eleanor Bron). The cast is wonderful allowing for a show case for people like Peter Sellers, Peter Cook, Michael Gough, Michael Redgrave, John Gielgud and Leo McKern. Its a unique and very successful telling of the story, however its so odd I don't know if I ever need to be trapped in Alice's head again.
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A Different Play on the Alice in Wonderland Story
nowego21 June 2018
A fascinatingly, surreal and psychedelic version of the Alice in Wonderland story. Shot in a Gothic black and white style, the cinematography is very well done and still holds up 50 years later.

The cast is very very good, particularly Anne-Marie Malik in her one and only role of Alice. She's petulant and outspoken, but also very reserved and examining. She's adorable, and her delivery of lines add to the dreamlike quality of the movie. She makes the whole movie worth watching.

Filmed as a TV play it's surprisingly well made, thank the BBC for that, they do some exceptional work.

Jonathan Miller's Alice in Wonderland is worth viewing if you can find it.
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claudia_osteen21 November 2009
Does anyone know where or how I can get this Soundtrack? I love it, but can't find it on any Ravi Shankar compilation albums. If you can tell me where to find it then I will be infinitely grateful! And I will love you even more if you email me the answer to my yahoo is thanks! p.s. I am a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland in general and this is by far one of the best adaptations (along with jan svankmajer's "Alice") because it gives the impression that maybe alice is the one who is going insane rather than everyone around her. The cinematography is beautifully done, and the music is perfect...not to mention there is a wonderful cast. I believe that this is suitable for children, but is very much made made for adults. It is a work of art!
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