A couple days ago, I broke with a very decent working pace on Boschen and Nesuko, went to the mall with Tim, and bought a lot of DVDs. Well, five. But two of them have two movies on--'twas a value pack of four film noirs, none of which I've seen, for only eight dollars. Of the four, one's directed by Fritz Lang and stars Edward G. Robinson, which I figured was worth the eight dollars in itself.
I also got another Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes DVD, and Jonathan Miller's 1966 version of Alice in Wonderland.
In spite of numerous flaws, I'd have to say that this is definitely my favourite film adaptation of Alice and Wonderland so far.
Looking at IMDb's page for it, you'll see that there's no shortage of information on the film so there's little I can add.
Filmed in beautiful, gloomy black and white, the film, as Jonathan Miller notes in the commentary, was definitely made more for adults than children (which led to a rather hilarious confusion with the BBC that resulted in Miller being labelled a paedophile). And yet many agree it's also the most faithful adaptation of Lewis Carroll's book--in fact, the cast and crew worked without a script; Miller simply typed up relevant pages from the novel the night before each scene was shot.
Aside from a general reverence for Carroll's words, thereby conveying their meaning significantly better than other adaptations, there are several other very striking features . . .
The movie feels very, very much like a dream. Miller speaks in the commentary with disdain for the standard Hollywood dream sequence with glossy sets and smoke machines. His dream movie goes with the idea that the strange things one experiences in a dream don't necessarily seem strange while you're experiencing them. Several reviewers disliked the way Alice often seemed entirely disengaged with her scenes, often speaking through telepathy, but I found it to be a very cool technique. And, on the subject of the girl herself, Miller made the inspired choice of searching for the antithesis of the usually cast perky, bright Alice, instead finding a serious, almost sullen, perpetually sombre child. Which was, in his view, more evocative of a Victorian little girl.
The rest of the cast is amazing, not only for their ability, but also for their names; John Gielgud as the Mock Turtle, Michael Gough as the March Hare, Michael Redgrave as the Caterpillar, Peter Sellers as the King of Hearts, and several other brilliant British actors. All of whom worked for scale, a mere five hundred pounds.
This leads to an aspect of the film that I simultaneously liked and disliked; there are no animal costumes. In the end, I think that's the best choice, but I very much rebel against the idea of Alice in Wonderland entirely (with the exception of the Cheshire Cat, who speaks with Alice's voice) without talking animals. I didn't like it at all until I thought about it a moment--in 1966, what would the best in make-up and special effects provide in that department? Awkward prosthetics that would partially obscure an actor's performance while inevitably looking like nothing more than effects.
My main problem with the movie is that it's too short, barely over an hour. One senses all the film Miller was forced by the BBC to cut. But it is more than worth checking out for its great delivery of Carroll's dialogue, dreamy sombre atmosphere, and shear stunning visual beauty.
As a side note, I was made again to reflect on how American McGee, in his attempt to make Alice "darker" for his video game, in fact made the story far more innocent. I have nothing against it, but I'm always bemused by the fans who think that Alice running around with a knife is some seriously fucked up shit. That violence which is the dominate feature of the pastiche is always safely fiction, while the logic and ideas of Carroll's original work are always quite real.