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Laramie Movie Scope:
Alice

Alice in Wonderland for children, perhaps (slightly scary)

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(1988; Czech w/dubbed English) Director Jan Svankmajer wrote the script and designed the Victorian setting for an inspired - "made for children perhaps" - slightly scary interpretation, with clever animation, of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.

Pretending she's sitting beside a brook, tossing stones into the water, with an older girl reading a book (who slaps her hand), Alice (Kristyna Kohoutova, the only human actor) is in her room tossing stones into a teacup with a pair of dolls side by side. A stuffed white rabbit inside a glass case - a label indicating "Lepus cuniculus No 23" - breaks free of its metal pinions, dons a red suit, and smashes the glass, escaping into a worktable drawer.

Curious, fearless Alice follows. The rabbit, inspecting his watch (always a few minutes before twelve), cries out he's late (all dialogue spoken by Alice), eats excelsior, and scurries away. Tripping into a bucket, Alice descends on an elevator to the bottom floor, passing various levels of shelves filled with bottles and specimens inside glass jars, landing on a huge pile of leaves with the white rabbit inside.

After the leaves are vacuumed up into another table drawer, Alice finds a tiny key inside the drawer, which unlocks a small door, where she can see (but can't enter) the rabbit within. Inside the drawer she next discovers a bottle with an inky fluid; drinking it makes her into an animated doll, small enough to go through the little door, but she'd left the key atop the table. A tart falls from the drawer; eating it makes her larger than before.

Crying, "Wait for me, sir!" her tears flood the room. After a mouse in a blue uniform swims to her head and builds a fire in her hair to cook his pot of stew, she shouts: "That's going too far!"

Getting smaller again, Alice enters a dollhouse; inside she gets larger. When the rabbit (who calls her Mary and orders her to fetch a pair of scissors) attempts to enter the room, she blocks his efforts; he then summons skeletal creatures to his aid. As a doll again, she sneaks out of the dollhouse, but the rabbit sees her: "There she is. After her!"

Forced into a pot of milky liquid, she turns into a giant doll from which she breaks free of her shell as a carton of eggs hatch skulls and loaves of bread sprout nails; a can she opens spills out bugs. Opening a tin she obtains another key to another door. The mouse in the blue uniform is caught in a trap.

In a room with holes in the floor socks slither in and out like snakes; a big sock, bearing eyeballs and teeth, sits on a large wooden knob, referring to himself as a caterpillar atop a mushroom. After hearing the caterpillar say one side of the mushroom will make her smaller, the other side larger, she slices off a piece from each side; she struggles to prevent her socks from fleeing her feet.

Inside a tiny house she hears a baby crying with dishes flying out the door and windows: it's a piglet with the white rabbit hurling plates. A fish and a frog footman (the latter snatches flies with his tongue from the broken crockery) announce an invitation (a blank sheet of paper inside an envelope) for Alice from the Queen. "She'll have me beheaded!" worries the rabbit, scampering off.

Downstairs Alice opens another door: "No room!" cries the Mad Hatter (a puppet). Beside him sits the March hare (a wind-up toy), buttering watches, at a table with tea settings. "Your hair wants cutting," says the Mad Hatter before announcing: "I want a clean cup. Move around one place!" An ermine crawls out of the teapot.

Departing the insane asylum, back upstairs in pursuit of the rabbit, Alice comes upon two figures from playing cards dueling. "Now off with their heads!" commands the Queen of Hearts. Returning to the first room Alice finds the Mad Hatter and March hare playing cards. The Queen invites Alice to play croquet with flamingoes for mallets to strike pin-cushions, which suddenly metamorphose into chickens and porcupines. On trial for eating tarts, Alice refuses to stick to her script. Was it all just a dream?

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2008 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)