The first-ever film version of Lewis Carroll’s tale has recently been restored by the BFI National Archive from severely damaged materials. Made just 37 years after Lewis Carroll wrote his novel and eight years after the birth of cinema, the adaptation was directed by Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow, and was based on Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations. In an act that was to echo more than 100 years later, Hepworth cast his wife as the Red Queen, and he himself appears as the Frog Footman. Even the Cheshire cat is played by a family pet.
With a running time of just 12 minutes (8 of which survive), Alice in Wonderland was the longest film produced in England at that time. Film archivists have been able to restore the film’s original colours for the first time in over 100 years.
If you have seen either Disney version of Alice in Wonderland, and thought the were too “friendly” or too energetic, this 1966 version of Alice in Wonderland is for you. The film which was made by British theater director, Jonathan Miller, is a stark take on the classic story. Influenced by surrealism and Victorian architecture, this version of Wonderland is less magical and more creepy. Add to this a great cast that includes: Alice (Anne-Marie Mallik), the Mad Hatter (Peter Cook), the Caterpillar (Sir Michael Redgrave), the Duchess (Leo McKern), the King of Hearts (Peter Sellers) and the Mock Turtle (Sir John Gielgud) and you have for movie that is difficult to turn away from. Both unsettling and captivating at the same time, it may change the way you think about the “Alice” story.
Don’t take my word for it? Check out some footage:
With Tim Burton’s vision of Wonderland topping the box office, this a great time to revisit an underplayed classic. One that stands in stark contrast to Burton’s and Disney’s vision.