As I eagerly await Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland, I’d like to profile some of the other film versions of the Alice stories that I’ve seen. There are so many, I’m not sure if I’ll ever find all of them, but I’ve probably seen the vast majority. I’ll list my favorites first (starred), and go from there. [And I’ve included a few clips scattered throughout, thanks to YouTube.]
*Alice – 1987, written and directed by Jan Svankmajer, featuring a live-action Alice and many puppets. Incredibly surreal, it captures the darkest side of Carroll’s tale. Also has the best White Rabbit I’ve ever seen, a taxidermy display come to life. When Alice shrinks, she turns from a real girl into a small doll. Many of the creatures are constructed from animal skeletons. Very disturbing, just how I like it! Very little dialogue, mostly action. [Here’s a clip of the scene where Alice descends, not down the rabbit hole, but via an old creaky elevator.]
*Through the Looking Glass – 1999, live action, starring Kate Beckinsale as Alice, directed by John Henderson. My favorite strictly Looking Glass adaptation. Has the best Tweedledee/Tweedledum, strangely reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange. Also a stand-out performance by Ian Holm as the White Knight.
*Alice in Wonderland – 1950, starring Carol Marsh as the live-action Alice, with “puppetoons” by Lou Bunin. Begins with live action depiction of Alice’s life, with stop-motion puppetry once she’s in Wonderland. Good for a musical version (I’m not overly fond of musicals) and has a fantastic Cheshire Cat.
*Dreamchild – 1985, live action, with Wonderland creatures by Jim Henson’s studio. A wonderful although not-entirely-true story of the real Alice Liddell, in her 80’s, traveling to America for the centenary celebration of Lewis Carroll. While there, she has flashbacks of her life with Carroll (portrayed perfectly by Ian Holm, who shows up again in an Alice movie) and scenes from the Alice books. One of the best tea party scenes [starts at about 3:20 in this clip] with truly creepy Mad Hatter and leering March Hare.
*Alice in Wonderland – 1966, live action, directed by Jonathan Miller, starring such classic actors as Peter Sellers and Peter Cook, with soundtrack by Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar. Black and white. Very slow, dreamy quality, hardly any dialogue, but captures the mood very well. All the Wonderland characters are played as “regular” people (i.e., no elaborate costumes), which serves to make it both more realistic and more surreal than other productions. Alice walks among them and yet never seems to quite directly interact with them, just a step removed.
Alice in Wonderland – 1985, live action, produced by Irwin Allen, covering both stories in about three hours. Packed with stars such as Sammy Davis Jr. (as the caterpillar) and Ringo Starr (the mock turtle). The songs are, for me, a bit tedious, but overall it’s pretty fun.
Alice in Wonderland – 1999, live action, distributed by Hallmark, starring Martin Short as the Mad Hatter and Whoopi Goldberg as the Cheshire Cat. Better than I had expected, but not great in my opinion.
Alice in Wonderland – 1951, the Disney cartoon classic. Combines both books into one storyline. I find this one more enjoyable to watch with the sound off and music playing over it. Like “Dark Side of the Rainbow”, folks have synched up another of Pink Floyd’s albums, The Wall, with this movie.
Miyuki-chan in Wonderland – 1995, anime version of the stories, with strange sexual overtones. Takes a lot of liberties with the storyline, and seems to mostly exist to put buxom cartoon girls in sexy Alice-themed outfits.
Alice Through The Looking Glass – 1966, live action, made-for-TV musical starring (among others) Ricardo Montalban and Jimmy Durante. Pretty awful, I had a hard time watching it till the end, especially the musical numbers, though the Jabberwocky scene with Jack Palance was pretty awesome.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – 1972, all-star live action musical with Michael Crawford, Fiona Fullerton, Peter Sellers (showing up here again), etc. I found this insanely dull. It follows the book almost perfectly, but without any inspiration. The songs, as is often the case, are agonizing.
Alice in Wonderland – 1983, stage production, starring Nathan Lane, Richard Burton, Kate Burton and Colleen Dewhurst. Interesting use of the original Tenniel illustrations as the backdrops, otherwise fairly boring, with an uninspired performance from Alice. However, the Cheshire Cat scene with Geoffrey Holder (who played Punjab in Annie) is worth watching.
Alice in Wonderland – 1933 live action with puppet-type costuming, starring W.C. Fields, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper. Pretty decent adaptation (one of the first), and it’s fun to see some of the famous actors from early films.
Alice at the Palace – 1982 stage production, starring Meryl Streep as Alice. I haven’t seen this yet, in fact I just bought the DVD to watch at the next Alice Days celebration, but I have seen some clips on YouTube.
Alice in Wonderland – 1976, awful porno version starring Kristine DeBell. Alice is an uptight virgin librarian who finds the door to a Wonderland filled with lascivious characters. Bad. So bad. It’s been pointed out to me that there are probably myriad pornos with Alice themes, but this is the only widely-available one I know of.
Alice in Acidland – 1968, directed by John Donne. Not very Alice-like, really, but I had to rent it for the title. Horrible film warning of the dangers of pot and acid, similar to Reefer Madness.
Phoebe in Wonderland – 2007, live action, not technically an Alice retelling, but rather a beautiful plot of its own with strong ties to Alice and some enacting of the Alice story. Stars Ellen Fanning, Dakota Fanning’s little sister, and she is amazing as a little girl with Tourette’s who falls in love with Alice in Wonderland as her school puts on the play.
Alice’s Misadventures in Wonderland – 2004. I am dying to see this after watching the preview, but sadly it doesn’t appear to be available.
Silent versions – there are at least two early silent films of Alice, a 1903 version by Cecil Hepworth that is available as an extra on the DVD of the 1966 Jonathan Miller production, and a 1915 version starring Viola Savoy that is available as a package with a silent Oz rendition (here’s a clip, featuring an eerie white rabbit).
There are also a few fairly mediocre animated versions floating around, but many aren’t available anymore or just aren’t worth mentioning.
I’m sure there are more, and if you’ve seen a good one that isn’t mentioned here, please let me know!