Friday, January 8, 2016

Wonderland Watch: Alice in Wonderland (1933)

Well, this was an interesting one.  I meant to tune in for the first fifteen minutes to see what this movie was like, and then realized I'd watched the whole thing.

Alice in Wonderland (1933) is a visual whirlwind and a march of once-big-now-mostly-forgotten actors with a few screen legends appearing along with their contemporaries.  Disney's Alice in Wonderland is an excellent version for the kiddies as Disney's studio really, really knew how to tell a story.  This version feels a bit more, actually, like reading Alice in Wonderland books.  To modern eyes, it's a bunch of rando weirdness occurring, the context and references lost to time, the gags now just bizarre and unsettling events unspooling before our eyes.

85% of the actors are so covered, they're unrecognizable if you don't know their voices.  Which is why, when a young Cary Grant shows up as The Mock Turtle, it truly is a shining moment in cinema.

Cary Grant (right) addresses Alice.  I shit you not.
 It's a strange, strange movies with those odd, pre-1960's stabs at realism mixed with cuteness that just produce terror in the modern viewer's eyes.  The script feels a bit jangly, separate scenes all written for Alice to pass through, interconnected skits, yes.  But there's no tone to the thing other than "holy shit, I cannot believe I'm seeing this."

WC Fields as Humpty Dumpty.  No, I'm serious.
It's a strange movie, not one for the kids, necessarily (the ending is just freaky-deaky).  But still fun, and surprising enough that if you're me, you just plow right through it.

Don't take my word for it.  Here's the whole movie in public domain at

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