Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland


‘…perhaps the mustiness of this enterprise is not for kids, but for nostalgic adults, it’s got an off-kilter energy that feels true to Carroll’s whimsical attitudes…’

The Disney-fication of classic stories works against, rather than for, most adaptations of Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s story. Tim Burton’s films artfully create backstory, but also forces a rigid adventure structure onto Alice’s various forays; part of the charm of the written-word versions is that Alice’s adventures deliberately don’t make a great deal of sense. Writer/director William Sterling’s 1972 adaptation is reasonably faithful to the book, and while the result doesn’t exactly flow, it has a few magical moments that make it worth a look.

Before her Bond fame, Fiona Fullerton makes a wide-eyed and wholesome Alice, introduced as she lapses into the slumber that generates her dreams. Cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth won a BAFTA for his work here, and although the prints are never great for this film, some of the effects are striking, notably the way Alice seems to increase and decrease in size without use of green (or blue circa 1972) screen.

Much of the other trick-work is awful, and the songs don’t quite capture the melodies of John Barry’s score. But cameos abound, as the episodic nature of the adventures allow; Peter Sellers and Dudley Moore squabble as the March Hare and the Dormouse, while Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s child catcher Robert Helpmann is the Mad Hatter. Roy Kinnear is the Cheshire cat, Spike Milligan is the Gryphon, and Michael Horden, Ralph Richardson, Dennis Price, Flora Robson all contribute; it’s not always easy to see who is who under the make-up, which has similarities to the 2019 Cats movie, but the costumes are striking.

Carroll’s story has always been to pin down; there are specific meanings to be parsed from the elliptical characters, but the meanings are hardly relevant. Alice’s adventures defy logic, like a David Lynch film, and perhaps that’s why we still enjoy them. This 1972 British version has all but vanished, and yet it must have been a prestige production of its day. Perhaps the mustiness of the enterprise is not for kids, but for nostalgic adults, it’s got an off-kilter energy that feels true to Carroll’s whimsical attitudes.


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  1. Remember this as a good solid effort. FF was being groomed as a new big star and it was an attempt to take on Disney, always a difficult ask. Can remember more of the movie than the songs.

  2. How come YOU get to watch it when it was made by AMERICAN National Enterprises? Sounds like a commie move to me!
    I’ve got my eye on you buster, don’t think I don’t….

      • Sure as shootin’ it does!
        So how’d a good american film like this get into commie hands?
        You’re an espionage double agent, aren’t you? That would fit into the weirdness of this film.

        • No real agent would admit to being one. I just happen to be a normal person who drives a gondola that turns into a hovercraft. It’s just a question of appearances.

  3. Fun Fact – for several years I participated as a character in the Pittsburgh Zoo’s Halloween Haunted House for kids. I was the Queen of Hearts and modeled myself after Helen Bonham Carter, screaming “OFF WITH HIS HEAD” to all the kids that passed by. Many ran away, a few cried (to my dismay) and some came through the house again and agains, running up to me and saying “what are you doing to do to me?” so that I would scream at them again.

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