'Alice In Wonderland'
(Peter Sellers, John Gielgud, Michael Redgrave, Wilfrid Brambell, Peter Cook, et al / DVD / NR / (1966) 2013 / BBC Video)
Overview: This surreal, gothic version of the Lewis Carroll fantasy was directed by Jonathan Miller. Miller’s masterpiece was filmed for the BBC in 1966 and stars acting legends Peter Sellers, John Gielgud, Michael Redgrave, Peter Cook and Leo McKern, with dreamlike music written and performed by Ravi Shankar.
DVD Verdict: This challenging 1966 production of 'Alice in Wonderland' by the talented director Jonathan Miller can be watched over and over again with each viewing revealing new details and the great depth of the interpretation, but always while again stimulating the laughter that is inherent in the story.
And it's a real pleasure to watch the apparently effortless and nuanced performances by the old pros such as Gielgud, Redgrave, McKern, Sellers and Muggeridge, along with the usual presence in British productions of a large and very talented supporting cast.
The luminous black and white photography has been beautifully restored and is a pleasure to look at in itself while the music of Ravi Shankar and oboist Leon Goossens is refreshing and endlessly catchy in its melodies and rhythms.
The supplements include a drama by the renowned Dennis Potter about Lewis Carroll and the real Alice which indirectly helps to clarify many of the choices made by Mr. Miller in shaping his production.
Don't look for the dumbed-down, overly saccharine approach that Disney and others take to this and other children's stories but enjoy the knowledgeable-adult level approach taken by Mr. Miller. His commentary is very entertaining, throwing light on his overall approach and providing very many interesting details about the making of the film.
That said, as I watched it I was astonished to find that most of the set pieces were IDENTICAL to the flashback scenes in "Dreamchild." Checking the credits, I was not surprised to find that Dennis Potter was the writer on both of them. Also, as a silent film buff, the inclusion of the 1903 version was almost worth the price of the disc by itself! However, I'm sure that with the digital processing techniques available today that some of the horrible degradation of the nitrate print can be repaired! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the special features of:
Cecil Hepworth's 1903 silent film version of Alice in Wonderland
Dennis Potter's 1965 biopic, Alice, about the real-life Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Carroll's creation
Ravi Shankar Plays for Alice
Behind-the-Scenes photo gallery by renowned photographer Terence Spencer