Fans of the book who are looking for a treat in watching a version filled with notable British comedians and dramatists will be sorely let down, when watching this mess of a project. If anything, it is has been widely reported that director Jonathan Miller refused to have any of the supporting characters in animal costumes, as it would be silly to have such actors don their respective character’s outfits, thus lessening the cachet of his valued telecast.
Alas, by doing so, Miller creates a real mess of a narrative for anyone unfamiliar with either the book or Disney’s more popular animated classic from 1951. All the actors are dressed in Victorian attire, leading viewers to question exactly who they are and their relationship to Alice.
Add to this the fact that in most scenes young Anne-Marie Mallik seems so unenthused by her appearance on screen that she does her level best to provide as lifeless a performance as is humanly possible, despite being in the company of some of England’s most talented thespians of the time. For most of the film, she simply stares off camera, as if reading from a prompter.
One must wonder whether Mallik was heavily sedated during the shoot, or simply enjoyed too much of the accompanying soundtrack by Ravi Shankar, known for his sitar prowess, not to mention also hanging out with the Beatles during their, shall we say, period of experimentation with narcotics.
Some of the more qualified actors, such as Cook and Sellers, do their best to elevate what is at best a half-baked idea made in a rush for a TV medium not ready for innovative ideas such as the ones director miller had in mind. Alas, both of these comic geniuses can’t make up for the complete lack of common sense required to sort out the preceding and following messes left by the inept cast and crew.
Trivia note on BBC‘s Alice in Wonderland: In an early scene where Alice meets a crowd she supposedly drowned with her tears (even that was hard to figure out, given the bad editing), one can recognize a very young Eric Idle (of Monty Python fame) as a young man joining in on the ruckus.
Points must be given to the director for trying to come up with a new and innovative way to present Carroll’s timeless tale. If anything, the generation of viewers from 1966 may have had the right frame of mind (given the era’s high psychotropic drug usage) to really dig this groovy take on Alice. Sadly, nothing in the world could possibly convince today’s young viewers to enjoy this messy TV play, without comparing it to its countless (and better) TV and movie cousins.
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