First off, this film has never been properly restored (to my knowledge) and the copy I have on disc makes this quite apparent. From the opening titles one can hardly read a word. It’s as if a taxi driver in Cairo went into a local cinema and set up his camcorder pointed at the screen. Suffice it to say that the medium is the message to this extent. The story would be almost psychedelic enough just based on the thoroughly bizarre film transfer.
Fiona Fullerton is actually quite good as Alice. The Nigerian-born actress would go on to appear in A View to a Kill (1985).
It’s hard to quibble about a film which employs a dodo bird. This, of course, is to the credit of author Lewis Carroll. Peter Bull is oddly cast as the Duchess. You might remember him from Dr. Strangelove as Soviet Ambassador Alexei de Sadeski.
The disembodied head of Roy Kinnear as the Cheshire Cat adds a rather clunky touch near the end of the film.
But this film really is worth it if for none other than the ten-or-so minutes of Peter Sellers as The March Hare. With prim and proper accent he, along with the Mad Hatter and Dormouse, regales Alice with a pun or two (“spook only when spooken to”). This really was my whole reason for watching, but I’m glad to have experienced the whole slice of mind-altering pie.
Dudley Moore seems a bit misused as the Dormouse as he spends most of the film asleep. For fans of The Goon Show one can spot Spike Milligan as the Gryphon. The scene with the Mock Turtle is when the film really gets going. One even gets the sense that perhaps the production was shot in sequence (due to the comfort the cast seems to have by that point…a characteristic apparently missing in earlier scenes).
Of special notice in this film is the music of John Barry. The world knows him best as the official James Bond composer. His work here lends this production a timeless sheen of orchestral mystery. Perhaps it’s just my faded copy, but there are some truly magical moments every now and then. I wouldn’t call it on the whole a masterpiece, but director William Sterling did an admirable job. This was, in fact, Sterling’s only foray into non-TV film directing. Not bad at all, sir!
The song credits even give one an opportunity to view sous rature in the flesh (“How Doth The Little
Busy Bee Crocodile”). Whether or not Isaac Watts would be pleased, we can assume Heidegger and Derrida would find some jollies.
And so, plenty of croquet and even a Lobster Quadrille. Someone call Gérard de Nerval.