Guest review by Scott Sentinella, a freelance writer whose work has appeared in “The Carson News”, “The Gardena Valley News”, “Animato”, “Videomania Newspaper”, “Cashiers du Cinemart”, Dugpa.com and ALivingDog.com.
DIRECTOR: Norman Z. McLeod
FEATURING: Charlotte Henry, Gary Cooper, W.C. Fields, Cary Grant, Mae Marsh, Billy Barty, Alison Skipworth, Charlie Ruggles, Edward Everett Horton, Sterling Holloway, and many others.
PLOT: A teenage girl named Alice travels through a mirror into a nonsensical fantasy world where animals talk, mad tea parties are held and queens threaten beheadings.
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: Because of the source material, and because of this version’s especially creepy use of bizarre, grotesque masks on many members of its all-star cast.
COMMENTS: Before Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice in Wonderland, every big-screen adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic book had flopped at the box office, and this early 1930’s curio was no exception. Directed by Norman Z. McLeod (known for the Marx Brothers’ Monkey Business and Horse Feathers), and with a screenplay by Joseph L, Mankiewicz (All About Eve) and William Cameron Menzies (better known as the art director on Gone With the Wind), this primitive-looking extravaganza rounded up some 22 stars from the Paramount lot and immediately hid most of them behind very unpleasant-looking masks and bulky costumes. This Alice was made only five-and-a-half years before The Wizard of Oz, but some of the technology on display here looks like it was left over from the Victorian era. (Incidentally, Alice’s then-starry cast now consists of three legends—Cooper, Fields, Grant; a lot of character actors familiar to viewers of Turner Classic Movies—Horton, Holloway, Ruggles; and then a host of performers unknown to even the most die-hard classic film buffs—-Jackie Searle? Raymond Hatton?) The results are a bit too disturbing, even for Lewis Carroll, but at least it captures the madness of the novel(s) in a way that Burton’s neutered, watered-down disappointment never really does. Like most films based on Alice, this one liberally combines elements of both “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.” This time, Alice (Babes in Toyland’s Charlotte Henry) first finds her way through a mirror and then tumbles down a rabbit hole, where she meets the usual Continue reading GUEST REVIEW: ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1933)