TV on DVD: Alice in Wonderland (1966) -- BBC

Now Available to Own

Mad About Alice Photo Slideshow

Related Review:
Alice Through the Looking Glass

All apologies to the haunting musical score by Ravi Shankar aside, I can only wish that-- similar to the Pink Floyd Wizard of Oz experience-- there was some sort of rock album that made writer/director Jonathan Miller's insufferable Alice in Wonderland the least bit more enjoyable to sit through.

In fact, just imagining watching Wonderland to a perfectly timed album by The Who, Led Zeppelin or of course, Jefferson Airplane was the only thing-- aside from the sight of Peter Sellers-- that put a smile on my face in the entire seventy-one minute running time of BBC's 1966 melancholic adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic.

Despite the alternately crisp and ethereal black and white cinematography that plays with perspective, contrast, and cinematic trickery on a rather impressive level for a made-for-television feature, there's absolutely nothing to exceptional about the disturbing, dull, dreary, and desperately nonsensical work.

Instead of a cohesive movie, it feels like it's a full length homage to the same sort of short experimental films that director Maya Deren crafted decades earlier as one of the pioneers of independent art film.

However, the problem is that Deren respected and understood her audience's tolerance level for psychological, Freudian imagery and curious editing juxtaposition to add meaning in a challenging, yet succinct running time whereas Miller's sustained full length anachronistically psychedelic Victorian era depiction begins to test our patience almost as soon as Alice starts.

Waking up in a field, the music of Ravi Shankar alerts us to the changeover from reality to wonderland as Alice (wild-haired and sincerely bored looking Anne-Marie Mallik) wanders into a world so bizarre that even Fellini would've told Miller to back the camera up and stop rolling or seriously reconsider living "La Dolce Druggie."

Moreover, I truly hope that whatever they paid stars such as Peter Sellers, John Gielgud, Peter Cook, Leo McKern and Michael Redgrave was enough to have not just wasted their time but genuinely embarrassed the talented cast for roles that could've been fulfilled by anyone walking down the street since nothing makes sense anyway.

Despite an impressive array of bonus features such as a 1903 short adaptation of Carroll's material and director commentary to listen to Miller wax philosophically about a film you must need pharmaceuticals, an accompanying game, a book, or a different rock album to truly enjoy, I cannot imagine recommending this title to anyone children or adults alike. In this case, Go Ask Alice becomes “Go Away, Alice;” I think I'll stick with Walt Disney instead.

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FTC Disclosure:
Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.