Universal is cheap!!
Neil B. Saiontz | Austin, TX | 02/26/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I am tired of Universal putting out these crappy versions of releases. UCLA has an entirely RESTORED print of this film in their library and it could easily have been used as a resource for this dvd release. This so-called restoration per other review sites, lists this dvd release's picture as minimal with crack and speckles on the film. As for the 90 minute version, I can tell you for a FACT the original film was 90 mins. The missing scenes involved Alice's sister and the Reverend and his concern about Alice's strange behavior. I saw it on television back in the late 1970's in Baltimore. There was a man who had the entire print who lived in DC and he allowed the local station to use it to show. What happened to the man's print, I don't know, but UCLA also has a complete audio soundtrack on tape for this film and also a separate sound effects and music track which could EASILY have been used on this DVD as an extra and very well may have the extra minutes.They are just trying to make a quick cash in because of Burton's release. I had approached Universal over the past 5 years on 3 occassions asking them to release this and was basically told to bug off. NOW they release it??? Give me a break. Greedy bunch of #$%$^&.There is no love behind this release AT ALL."
Stars and sets make this "Alice" shine, despite problems wit
Muzzlehatch | the walls of Gormenghast | 03/05/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have vague memories (I think) of seeing this on TV as a kid. It's something of a holy grail to nostalgia buffs of course given that nearly every Paramount star who was anybody in 1933 - including most famously Cary Grant, W.C. Fields and Gary Cooper - appears in it, and it's never been on video before. Its reputation isn't all that great though, and the film was shorn of about 15 minutes on reissues which apparently (see below) have been lost for good. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I, inveterate Alice-lover, took a gander.
I needn't have worried. Sure, this suffers from all of the defects one would expect of such a lavish star-vehicle from the day - too much rushing through scenes (even at its original 90 minutes, trying to shunt together big hunks of both "Alice" and "Through the Looking Glass" is going to feel thin), an Alice (Charlotte Henry) who is both too old and just not expressive enough for the part, a director (Norman Z. McLeod) sometimes content to point-and-shoot, and some celeb bits (Cary Grant as the Mock Turtle in particular) that just aren't that great or are too short. And this is one of those rare black and white films where I actually thought more than once while watching "gee, I wish this had been in color". Somehow "Alice" more than almost any classic story, seems to demand a riotous palette of hues.
BUT the sets and art direction - supervised by an uncredited William Cameron Menzies, one of the greatest art directors/production designers of all time but listed here only as co-screenwriter - is truly wonderful, capturing at times the surrealism and madness of the tale with an expressionist's palate of odd shapes and complex backgrounds. Some of the special effects are really excellent as well and seem pretty advanced for the year - the raven flying over Tweedledee and Tweedledum for example, and the flying effects for Alice. And though as I said, the conflation of the two books makes for a dash-through-it-quick-as-you-can feeling to things, the way in which McLeod, Menzies and the rest of the team actually constructed the film is pretty ingenious: it starts with Alice going into Looking-Glass world, rescuing the chess pieces from the fire, then running out of the house and following the rabbit at which point it follows mostly the events of "Wonderland" for 45 minutes or so, only to go back into "Looking Glass" territory smoothly towards the finish.
But the primary joy is in the cast; as mentioned I have some issues, but on the whole I really enjoyed most of the stars, and it seems like many of the more important ones did get into the swing of things. Edna Mae Oliver is delightfully goofy and sly as the Red Queen, Fields is perfect as Humpty-Dumpty, Edward Everett Horton silly but tending towards dangerous as the Mad Hatter, and most of the rest of the names including Sterling Holloway and Jack Oakie seem to be enjoying themselves. Top honors in the end have to go to Gary Cooper as the White Knight - frail, naive, joking, crazy, bumbling, and entirely sympathetic. He dominates the screen and comes the closest I think to being a "real" person - though in the end he's not around long enough to be any more than another crazy dream.
SUMMARY: though this is easily the best "faithful" Alice adaptation I've seen - not that most are that good, mind you - I can't quite give it the top rating, despite the excitement that I felt for it and my general pleasure at the film itself, and that is due almost entirely to the way Universal has handled this release. Though the film doesn't look and sound bad, it isn't in terrific shape either - there are occasional tear lines in the frame and more dirt and speckling than there ought to be, if the film were given much restoration effort. The DVD is completely bare-bones, no extras whatsoever - not even a trailer - and given that it is in fact the shorter reissue, it would be nice to at least be given some information as to why we're getting the shorter version, and what may have happened to the missing footage. I can well understand the anger of some of the reviewers at the cheap way this was put out, timed for the release of the new Tim Burton film and seemingly marketed to capitalize on that - but not to really cater to the collectors who have long waited for it.
Still, a mediocre release of a formerly missing classic is better than nothing, and I think there are enough positives to be accentuated for me to recommend this. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to email Universal with any dissatisfaction you might feel as to the quality of the product. While this "Alice" may not be a masterpiece, it certainly deserved better treatment than this, after 77 years."
The Return Of Paramount's ALICE IN WONDERLAND.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 03/06/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I first encountered this version of ALICE IN WONDERLAND back in the early 1960s when I was home from school recovering from a bad cold. In those days your local TV station would show morning movies before the game shows started. I only saw it that one time until many years later but I never forgot some of the imagery. It may not be Lewis Carroll's ALICE (no movie ever is) but it does create a world of its own which is its strongest selling point. It actually plays better today than in 1933 for with few exceptions (W.C. Fields, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper), no one remembers the other stars (aside from Charlotte Henry best known as Bo-Peep in Laurel & Hardy's BABES IN TOYLAND) and so they can be viewed as characters not stars under heavy make-up. The adaptation by Joseph L. Mankiewicz retains most of Carroll's original dialogue and is more THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS than ALICE. It flows very nicely between the two books and at 77 minutes seems just right. As has been noted elsewhere the film was originally 90 minutes but the missing footage deals with the real world so it probably isn't missed too badly. The question is why was it cut.
For reasons that have never been fully explained or understood, the film has been out of circulation for years (even from TV showings) and was never officially released until now to cash in on the Tim Burton adaptation (just as Sherlock Holmes movies have reappeared in time for Robert Downey Jr's version). That's how the game is played. The cover has even been colorized to hide the fact from most people that the film is in black & white. The production design by the legendary William Cameron Menzies uses black and white to good advantage as does Bert Glennon's photography so fortunately no attempt was made to colorize the film for this release. In fact Universal, who now owns the rights to the film, has made no attempt to do much of anything with this release which is a real shame. I'm sure there are copyright issues involved but it would have been nice to have the Betty Boop cartoon BETTY IN BLUNDERLAND as an added bonus as well as production stills or commentary from someone who admires the film. Although not a perfect transfer, it is light years away from the bootleg and gray market copies available until now and for that I am thankful. Maybe someday it will get the royal treatment it deserves."
This is a wonderful old movie! I wasn't disappointed
Susan | La Mirada, US, Canada | 03/03/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The last time I saw this film was in the late 1960's. As soon as I found out that this version was being released, I ordered it. It just came today and I was a little worried that nostalgia may have clouded my judgment of this film. Happily, I was not disappointed. This is a wonderful movie & now I can watch it whenever I want!!!!!!! This film was made in 1933 and the "special effects" were pretty good considering the technology that was available at that time. Actually the overall quality of the film is very good. There were a few blips, but not enough to obscure the unity of the film
If you don't like old movies, don't order it. If you are looking for absolute perfection from a 77 year old film, don't order it.
However, if you like old movies & both Alice stories (Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass), you will enjoy this 70 minute movie."