Blu-Ray, DVD Review: Alternate Versions of ‘Alice’ to Coincide With Tim Burton’s

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CHICAGO – As a character in Syfy’s version of “Alice” says, “Does this look like a kid’s story to you?” Excepting, of course, the beloved Disney version, there have actually been a number of takes on “Alice in Wonderland” arguably made more for adults than children. Two such versions from very different eras have been released on Blu-ray and DVD to coincide with the theatrical dominance of Johnny Depp & Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”. Can’t get enough of Alice and The Mad Hatter? Pick up one or both of these.
“Alice” Blu-Ray Rating: 2.0/5.0

“Alice” (2009)

Syfy’s take on “Alice” is, of course, going to be untraditional. I’m all for reimaginings of classic tales but this one never quite comes together despite adding elements of science fiction to the oft-told tale. It’s not for lack of effort. Caterina Scorsone is a charming lead as a twenty-something version of Alice who chases her boyfriend to the other side of the looking glass.

Alice was released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 2nd, 2010.
Alice was released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 2nd, 2010.
Photo credit: Lionsgate Home Video

There she finds a new Wonderland, a world similar to Lewis Carroll’s but decades after the original Alice’s visit. The Queen of Hearts (Kathy Bates) controls her people through a casino and the White Rabbit kidnaps people from the real world to populate the Queen’s twisted vision. The people of Wonderland feed off the emotions of the people of the real world.

The new Alice comes to Wonderland with a ring that the Queen of Hearts needs for continued domination. The Hatter (Andrew-Lee Potts) has been reimagined as a trusty sidekick, while Tim Curry plays a resistance leader named Dodo and Matt Frewer plays the White Knight. Harry Dean Stanton and Colm Meaney co-star.

This mini-series version of “Alice” is stale. Too many of the new elements like the casino come off as forced and the piece feels way too long at 184 minutes. The film is not helped by one of the most lackluster HD transfers I’ve ever seen. The video quality on the Lionsgate release is embarassing, not even looking as sharp as most upconverted standard DVDs. And the complete lack of special features makes it clear how little the company thought of this venture. It’s for hardcore sci-fi, Alice, or Tim Curry junkies only.
“Alice in Wonderland” DVD Rating: 3.0/5.0

“Alice in Wonderland” (1966)

The BBC TV version of “Alice in Wonderland” from the era of free love and rampant drug use is so clearly a product of its era that it’s nearly a spoof of what one would expect from a ’60s take on Lewis Carroll’s legendary tale. To use a somewhat outdated phrase, it’s trippy, man.

Alice in Wonderland was released on DVD on March 2nd, 2010.
Alice in Wonderland was released on DVD on March 2nd, 2010.
Photo credit: BBC Home Video

Sadly, it’s also surprisingly dull. This version of “Alice in Wonderland” only really works if the viewer is as stoned as those who made it. The shockingly blank-faced Anne-Marie Mallik stars as Alice in a Victorian era retelling of the classic tale highlighted with music by Ravi Shankar and purposefully not very fantasy oriented. It’s an interesting film without ever being truly entertaining. Without the involvement of some of its more notable supporting players and the Disney revival of the legendary character, it probably never would have ended up on DVD.

This Alice wanders through Victorian settings and meets plenty of weird characters, but one would barely recognize its origin if they only saw a few minutes. It’s SO far removed from the Disney animated version of Burton’s 3D one. It’s more of a satire of the British social structure and a trippy visual experience than what most would expect from “Alice”.

The main draw of this version of “Alice in Wonderland” is the supporting cast, highlighted by several of the greatest British actors of all time including Peter Sellers, Sir John Gielgud, Sir Michael Redgrave, Michael Gough, Alan Bennett, and Peter Cook. It’s for serious “Alice” fans or collectors of classic British television only.

The DVD release of “Alice in Wonderland” includes a director’s commentary, Cecil Hepworth’s 1903 silent film version of “Alice in Wonderland,” Dennis Potter’s 1965 biopic “Alice” about Alice Liddell - the inspiration of Carroll’s creation, “Ravi Shankar Plays for Alice,” and a Behind-the-scenes photo gallery by renowned photographer Terence Spencer.

‘Alice’ is released by Lionsgate Home Video and stars Caterina Scorsone, Andrew-Lee Potts, Matt Frewer, Philip Winchester, Tim Curry, Harry Dean Stanton, Colm Meaney, and Kathy Bates. It was written and directed by Nick Willing. It was released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 2nd, 2010. It is not rated.

‘Alice in Wonderland’ is released by BBC Home Video and stars Ann-Marie Mallik, Peter Sellers, John Gielgud, Michael Redgrave, Peter Cook, and Leo McKern. It was directed by Jonathan Miller. It was released on DVD on March 2nd, 2010. It is not rated. content director Brian Tallerico

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