Alice in Wonderland (1915)
Director: W. W. Young
Cast: Viola Savoy, Herbert Rice, Harry Marks
Synopsis: Alice goes with her sister to a picnic and then she falls asleep and starts dreaming about a wonder land full of talking animals and walking playing cards.
Viola Savoy plays Alice in this early silent adaptation of incidents from both Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. She’s good enough, but it’s the creatures she encounters that capture the viewer’s attention. This being 1915, long before the concept of CGI etc, all the creatures are actors in costumes that barely rise above pantomime quality but which were probably quite impressive for their day. The film shows most of the familiar scenes from the books although, possibly because of the technical difficulties involved, it fights shy of showing us Alice shrinking and growing. The Mad Hatter’s tea party is also missing, which is something of a surprise.
Watching this version of Alice in Wonderland, it struck me how easily the story of Alice could be told as a horror story, with babies turning into pigs, mad monarchs threatening everyone with decapitation, etc. As it is, the combination of outlandish costumes filmed against real rural or coastal locations and the absence of dialogue gives this film a strangely surreal, dreamlike atmosphere at times that is quite pleasant to watch.
(Reviewed 7th December 2008)