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Alice in Wonderland

When you have a friend whose favorite story and inspiration is Lewis Carroll, you tend to stay on the lookout for gifts related to the bizarre, possibly drug-induced tale. Regretably, I found a copy of a 1950 version which is easily the worst my friend and I have ever seen. It’s even worse than the one featuring Sammy Daviess, Jr. as the Caterpillar (and no, I will not be watching said version again just so you people can watch me squirm).

While the film was made in 1950, it was transferred to video in 1990. The guilty party was KidsClassics, a company with obviously little to no money for obtaining new material to peddle to unsuspecting children. Also, despite its approximate running time of only sixty minutes, the film seems to make time slow to a standstill. Yeah, as you can tell, this was a very painful experience for all involved.

The “film” begins, horribly enough, at Oxford University, where we meet Lewis Carroll and his many boring, dry colleagues. Yes, because when kids think “Alice in Wonderland,” they think a prologue involving Lewis Carroll discussing the latest happenings and goings on at Oxford University. Cheese and crimeny, who thought this would entertain kids? It was here my friend and I immediately decided this film was obviously not made in 1990 (this was before I had done any research, mind you). The film is scratchy and almost creaks with age, making it a viable candidate for a MST3k short. Of course, it’s not at all short. Not nearly. At. All.

Lewis and his associates blabber on for what seemed like an Ice Age until someone who I had to assume was the Queen showed up. Yeah, see where this is going? No? Don’t worry. What this film is oh-so cleverly trying to assert is how Carroll based his fable on the people he knew at Oxford. Again, why do we, or more importantly, the kids to which this movie is aimed, care? The answer to such a question fails me. And to tell the truth, I have no idea what was said during this part of the video. Everyone was so boring it took all my strength to make halfway funny comments over the audio. Thankfully a childhood of obsessively watching Mystery Science Theater had trained prepared me for such a duty.

So…something happens to where a literal Alice and her compatriots are forced to be locked in their rooms while the Queen is on campus. Lewis feels bad (don’t ask why because I don’t care and you shouldn’t either), so he swipes a tart from a table and takes it up to the blonde lass. Oh, by the way, the “lass” looks to be about 30. I’m not kidding, this is the oldest actress to play Alice I have ever seen. Then Alice’s friends run into her room, where Lewis has…vanished. In a great moment of continuity, he’s back outside just in time to look up at Alice’s window and wink knowingly. Oh, Lewis, you rapscallion! Where ever did you gain your ability to transport yourself wherever you desire?

This may come as a shock, but what I’ve been covering up until this point has eaten up only 13 minutes of the entire film. And when your overall running time is little over an hour, that’s pretty insane. Can we get to the story, for crying out loud?! Oh, thank goodness. Lewis has taken Alice and her friends on a boat ride and is trying to entertain them with a story. One of Alice’s friends, who looks like a serial killer with her icy, demonic expression, demands she not hear said story. But pooh to her, I say. On with the whimsy!

Whoops, nevermind, the whimsy is just as terrible, and now we have a new element to bring to the table: pure, unadulterated horror! Oh my dear Moses is this part of the movie bizarre. Rather than have actors play the various creatures of Wonderland, the filmmakers chose to implement “puppet animation,” a fact boldly advertised on the video’s cover. What is this “puppet animation,” you ask? Why, nothing more than really scary claymation. We get our first glimpse when the White Rabbit strolls onscreen, whose sunken-in cheeks and bulging eyeballs made me recoil in sheer horror. Even more frightening, the words coming out of his mouth were never in sync with his lips! Agh!

You can probably predict what happens next. Yep, Alice follows the Rabbit into a hole (obviously made out of cardboard, mind you). One could say this was done to add some more mysticism, but one would be wrong, wouldn’t one? Yes, one would. Alice falls down a seemingly endless tunnel (she is hanging from a wire), then lands in Wonder…land. Next she enters a room where the Rabbit is currently making a hurried exit through a door. She tries to pursue him further, but the door shrinks. Blast! Now, I wouldn’t have a problem with the following events (regular Alice fans will know she eats and drinks her way to various sizes) if the film didn’t insist on keeping us in this one room for far too long. A few minutes is one thing, but after a while we actually started fearing Alice would never exit this area. Not out of worry for her, mind you, but because we couldn’t stand watching it anymore.

Transcription of Events: Alice drinks from a vial and shrinks. She tries to climb up a table leg and falls. She eats a dessert and grows tall. She opens the door with a tiny key. She can’t fit, so she cries. The tears flood the room. She shrinks again. She meets a mouse in the water. They get on the vial. The mouse worries about Alice’s cat. She placates him. Then she sings! Yep, she breaks out into song, and it went on until my soul began to beg for mercy. Honestly, this movie was just plain infuriating.

My friend later pointed out the makers of this film seemed to purposely take the most boring parts of Lewis Carroll’s book and put them into their film. I would have to agree with her. What adaptation of AiW doesn’t include the Caterpillar? Well, this one. Even though the character is clearly displayed on the cover, he is no where to be found in the film. Instead, we get a bunch of claymation birds holding a caucuss race and reciting dry poetry. Oh sure, that’ll keep the tykes riveted to the screen! Give me a break.

Before I end this review, just know there was a lot of ground I chose not to cover. Believe me, you’re better off not reading about any of it, except for one section. It involves the crazed women who throw pots and pans and have the baby who eventually turns into a pig. You know, those broads. I’m sure anyone not familiar with the story is scratching their heads right about now, but stay with me. These characters get a song, and while that in itself is not traumatizing, random shots of live action magma spraying into the heavens spliced overtop the animation IS to almost every degree. Mind you, the magma looks more like blood than anything else, so I was quite literally recoiling in horror during this song.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will now leave you for today knowing I actually sat through this entire film and came out alive. It ends with the real Alice waking up on her boat (you can tell she has trouble paying attention to Carroll’s rambling) and claiming his story is real. Then she looks over her shoulder to see the Rabbit, who gives her yet another knowing wink. Ah, how perfectly charming…and wretch-inducing. This film should be taken out back and buried underneath the lilies, because the longer it stays in mankind’s consciousness, the longer we’ll have war, famine, and disease.

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