Jonathan Miller's Alice

Sir Jonathan Miller CBE (born 21st July 1934) died on 27th November 2019 at the age of 85 following a long battle with Alzhemier’s.

Among his many achievements was his first BBC television drama as writer, producer, and director was the rarely seen but critically acclaimed version of Alice in Wonderland. This was first screened on 28th December 1966 at 9.05pm and was considered by Huw Weldon, Head of BBC TV programmes at the time, as ‘unsuitable for children’. I do agree, for this version is weird and sometimes disturbing: I admire rather than enjoy it. I couldn’t help wondering what the mid 60’s TV audience made of it, or what the viewing figures were. Miller explained his approach: “One you take the animal heads off, you begin to see what it’s about . A small child, surrounded by hurrying, worried people, thinking ‘Is that what growing up is like’?”

I am not sure about 13 year old Anne- Marie Malik’s performance as a sullen, expressionless, and static Alice. The performances that stood out for me were Michael Redgrave as the Caterpillar, Sir John Gielgud as the Mock Turtle, and Leo McKern enjoying himself in drag as the Duchess, but Peter Cook’s Hatter and Peter Seller’s King of Hearts were a disappointment. Ravi Shankar’s sitar music jarred. I was particularly struck by the lush black and white photography by dick Bush, the experimental use of a fish eye wide angle lens to give the impression she had grown large, and the fact that the film was shot entirely on location at the country house Albury Park, Camber sands beach, and with the interiors at the derelict Royal Victoria Military Hospital at Netley.

It is available on DVD released by BFI archive television , the extras include a directors commentary, production stills, and the 1903 silent Alice in Wonderland.

 

STEPHEN MARTIN

You can see video clips at:-

Alice in Wonderland Part One

Alice In Wonderland Part Two

Alice in Wonderland Part Three