For Reel

Alice in Wonderland (1933)
January 14, 2016, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Norman Z. McLeod
4 Stars
Alice in WonderlandAs fascinating a failure as Hollywood ever produced, Alice in Wonderland was an ill-conceived adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s beloved novels (this one drawing heavily from both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass). Boasting a cast of all stars–well, an assortment of familiar character actors joined by W.C. Fields, Gary Cooper, Jack Oakie, and a young Cary Grant–the film makes the bold choice of making nearly all of its players unrecognizable under prosthetics and grotesque costumes. Furthermore, it is undeniably horrific at times, including the frenzied climax that sees Alice (Charlotte Henry) throttled around the neck after she converses with her dinner. In the scene in which Alice confronts the Duchess and the pig baby, the woman is rendered with an abnormally large, potholed face, complete with a gaping mouth and tiny peering eyes. In her arms is a child that she hurls in the air, only it is not a child, but a dwarf actor. All this is to say that children might be less disturbed by Jan Švankmajer’s 1988 adaptation of the material. But, aside from the fascination of watching Alice in Wonderland for its parade of the grotesque, it is complemented with genuinely terrific set design by William Cameron Menzies, and the achievement of recreating the illustrations of the novel was an impressive one that yields some undoubtedly compelling results.

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