Have always considered Lewis Carroll's 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' to be a classic of literature, likewise with 'Through the Looking Glass'. It may be oddball and episodic in structure but the atmosphere, humour, colourful characters and Carroll's way of words, like his poetry, logic and paradoxes, are timeless. Its available various adaptations (some of them containing elements of 'Through the Looking Glass') are interesting on their own merits, and mostly, with a few exceptions, range from decent to great. A perfect adaptation has yet to be made.
Not all the adaptations out there are faithful to the book, which is not surprising seeing as great as the story is it is difficult to adapt, but all the various adaptations have been judged by me mostly on their own terms and most have fared well, though a perfect one has yet to be made. Of all the 'Alice in Wonderland' adaptations, this five part 1985 series from Anglia is the rarest and one of the least known. This is a shame because it does deserve to be better known. It is one of the more faithful adaptations and also one of the most interesting, whether it is among the best is debatable. Book aficionados will be delighted by that it is one of the most faithful adaptations (in detail, retaining almost all the key characters and scenes which for an 'Alice in Wonderland' adaptation is an achievement, and spirit and even using John Tenniel's illustrations for the puppetry), and it has a huge amount of charm on its own.
This first part adapts the "Down the Rabbit Hole" and "Pool of Tears" chapters. It does a noble stab at both, though for me "Down the Rabbit Hole" came off better. More mystery and oddball charm and it looked better on a visual level. As a first episode, it is pretty good and sets things up well though there is an understandable feel of still settling at times.
Budget limitations do show though, this was true in general with the adaptation but it is especially apparent in the "Pool of Tears" section at the end with the caucus race. The limitations show in the puppetry, the expression and movement is restricted and it is a little crude. One of my least favourite assets of the adaptation is the mouse's costume, which really sticks out like a sore thumb.
Pacing creaks occasionally, hence the still settling feel. Understandable though with the chapters being the ones to set up the story, personally do not find the "Pool of Tears" chapter among the most interesting chapters of the source material anyway if to be honest. Not saying this in a bad way, just in comparison. The ending felt on the abrupt side too.
Elsewhere though, the episode actually looks good and quite an impressive achievement. The hallway in the "Down the Rabbit Hole" portion is suitably mysterious and a nice job is done with the descending down the rabbit hole. Best of all is the beach, one of the prime examples of the adaptation's wide and skillful array of technical techniques and it has a photographic picturesque-ness look for the backgrounds. Really liked that the designs for the characters adhered close to Tenniel's illustrations, a rarity in 'Alice in Wonderland' adaptations. The live action book-end sequences, showing the origins of how the source material came about, are beautifully filmed and evocative.
Music has a lovely understated whimsy, while the dialogue flows naturally with Carroll's writing shining wonderfully (the writing in the quite charming live-action bookend scenes with its telling-a-story device similarly charms). A nice job generally is done with the storytelling though the other episodes, detailing for me more interesting chapters, do it better, it is amazing at how it covers a lot in its just over twenty minute running time and mostly not feel dull or rushed.
Giselle Andrews is better in the succeeding episodes where she is more comfortable, but she is spirited and winsome enough and is one of the more age-appropriate Alices along with Natalie Gregory. Robert Peters charms as Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll himself). Paul Eddington is a suitably twitchy White Rabbit, and although Mary Miller has the most characters to portray the liveliest contribution belonged to John Braban as the Dodo.
Overall, good first episode of a well done and overlooked adaptation. 7/10
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