In this classic tale, Alice falls through a mirror and arrives in a wonderful place called Chessland! Alice's journey across eight crazy squares of Chessland is brought to the screen in ... See full summary »
A modern adaptation of the classic children's story 'Alice through the Looking Glass' written by Lewis Carol, which continued on from the popular 'Alice in Wonderland' story. This time ... See full summary »
Seeing this again after some years only made me appreciate it the more. It is thoroughly inspired, and a true work of genius by Jonathan Miller, who both produced and directed. His interpretation of the famous Lewis Carroll story is as a summer daydream. As the flies buzz, Alice drifts off to sleep on the grass, perspiring in the sun, and the visions begin. Many of her comments are given in confidential whispers, as befits a dream rather than a real drama. She rarely looks at anyone during the action, mostly tending to stare into space as if she were sleep-walking. This studied approach is successful at conveying the intended unreality of the story. It is set very firmly in Victorian times, with perfect costumes and suitably mannered behaviour by all the actors for the period. Miller uses the film to expose the hidden agenda of Carroll's fantasy, which was to use surrealist humour to attack the pomposities, bigotry, and hypocrisies of Victorian Church, state, manners, and society. (It is not for nothing that the Surrealists of Paris later adopted Lewis Carroll as their direct predecessor and Louis Aragon even translated 'Through the Looking Glass' into French.) Miller, with his wide circle of acquaintance, was able to assemble a huge number of famous actors to play cameos throughout this film. Peter Sellers was content to be the King of Hearts, Michael Redgrave was a haughty caterpillar, Leo McKern was dressed in drag as the Duchess, with a pig wrapped in swaddling clothes in his arms, and Miller's former colleagues in 'Beyond the Fringe', Peter Cook (as the Mad Hatter) and Alan Bennett (the latter of whom is still his neighbour directly across the street), were drafted in, ably supported by John Bird, old character actor Finlay Currie (as the Dodo), and a brilliant appearance by Wilfred Lawson as the Dormouse. Michael Gough is a very fine March Hare. Particularly inspired is the sequence at the seashore with Sir John Gielgud and Malcolm Muggeridge as the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon respectively. Muggeridge was not an actor, but a noted broadcaster and author, and his choice was especially inspired. At the time this went out during the Christmas season of 1966, the viewers were divided between those who loved it and those who hated it. The latter mostly had their expectations disappointed, because they thought 'Alice' should be portrayed in a more conventional way, and that what Miller did was some form of sacrilege. (A hysterical over-reaction, if ever there were one!) Miller has always had a tendency to be shockingly innovative in his interpretations (perhaps most of all in his television version of Shakespeare's 'Timon of Athens'). Miller's only commercial feature film, 'Take a Girl Like You' (1970), was not a success, and a large number of people savagely envious of his brilliance and versatility were delighted to seize upon that and stop him entering the film world. He has always had the most astonishing number of bitter enemies. People say he snaps at them. I have only ever known him to be charming and delightful. Who can say? It is all a mystery to me. But this particular achievement in black and white film will live forever, truly it will.
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