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Alice In Wonderland: Classic Film Collection (Review)

Infinity Entertainment Group, 2010, Not Rated

By Phil Morehart · March 31st, 2010 · Couch Potato
Tim Burton’s latest has catapulted Lewis Carroll’s most famous creation back into the cultural limelight. Capitalizing on this, Infinity Entertainment Group has released a bare-bones single-disc assemblage of related shorts and features that span the history of cinema — some adhering closer to Carroll’s vision than others. Though raggedy, the collection contains a few gems.

The live-action/animation amalgams Alice in the Jungle and Alice Rattled by Rats (both 1925) are odd inclusions since they have nothing to do with Carroll’s tale whatsoever. The stretch is excusable since a young Walt disney directed both of them (though they were released through Raystone Pictures). They’re rudimentary cartoons but interesting snapshots of disney’s burgeoning style decades before his company created the Alice standard bearer with their 1951 classic.

The animated feature Alice of Wonderland in Paris (1966) riffs on Carroll to follow Alice to a caricatured Paris where a quintet of French-themed children’s stories emerge, including two of Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline tales.

The animation is crude and spotty, but the film is lively thanks to voiceovers by Carl Reiner, Howard Morris and others.

But Infinity’s atrocious presentation of live-action British musical Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1972) is inexcusable. It looks and sounds like a beat-up VHS tape, which is unfortunate since the film itself is an entertaining, faithful adaptation with a who’s-who of British stars (Peter Sellers, Dudley Moore, Michael Crawford, Sir Ralph Richardson and more) exquisitely dressed to recall illustrations from early print editions of Alice. A shame.

The DVD’s saving grace is the rare 1915 version of Alice in Wonderland, directed by W.W. Young. Previously existing only in fragmented form, Alice has been restored here to its full 52-minute running time. The young Viola Savoy is passable as Alice, but the show belongs to the menagerie of impressively costumed creatures she encounters. Their presence elevates the trippy factor tenfold. The print has a few defects but is otherwise lovely, making this a must-have for any silent cinema obsessive. Grade: C



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