Saturday, July 18, 2009

Go Ask Alice

Alice! Alice Blue Gown; to the Moon, Alice! And, of course, that dangerously curious Alice whose penchant for going down holes and passing through mirrors got her into such scrapes. Alices take many forms...

Mia, it turned out, had every reason to look this wary while playing Woody Allen's Alice. Now there's a story that didn't turn out well...

Neither does this one, particuarly - it's only a middling best-case scanario no matter what when the best you're going to do is Fred MacMurray. Am I the only one who finds this an almost painfully embarrassing picture to watch? Hepburn's Alice is just so raw, so needy, and so surrounded by horrors and buffoons.

This Alice is pretty raw and needy as well, but in an on-purpose gritty '70s cinema kind of way. Of course, it also created one of the least gritty sitcoms in television history, but much can be forgiven in the context of having also given rise to the character of Flo "Kiss Mah Grits" the Waitress.

Little got forgiven this particular incarnation of the Carroll book - it's remembered, if at all, as the movie that almost sank Paramount (along with the fledgling career of Charlotte Henry, its Alice), a misbegotten, over-elaborate attempt to recreate Tenniel's illustrations using awkward masks and ungainly costumes. I do like any picture that credits Edna May Oliver, Alison Skipworth, and May Robson above Cary Grant, though.

By contrast, this ... unique interpretation of the deathless children's tale is remembered, if at all, as one of the last of the quasi big-budget, 35mm pornos. It's not exactly an all-star production, although the musical numbers (!) were arranged and conducted by Hollywood staple Peter Matz, whose other credits range from Color Me Barbra to Lust in the Dust.

My only association with this one is that title perplexed me deeply as a child; it must have shown up on television at some point. A town ... like Alice. The only Alices I knew were Grandmother Muscato's cleaning lady, a tiny, sweet-natured Polish woman who seemed impossibly old to a six-year-old and, more my contemporary, our pastor's daughter, a rather more vinegary female. Neither seemed even vaguely municipal.

Similarly, neither had a restaurant, although at least one of them cooked.

And this is one that would not have turned up in my straitlaced little hometown...

While this one definitely did. I know many Carroll purists find this Alice even less appealing than other Disneyfications of the classics (to put it mildly), but I've always had a soft spot for it, even before it got brilliantly turned inside out (if you haven't seen the link, do go now - but come back!).

Another Alice turns up (if not particularly alive and well) in a latish addition to the "whatever happened" mini-genre that kicked off a decade earlier, in this case with Geraldine Page and Ruth Gordon trashing their own reputations just like Crawford and Davis before them.

Even so, they didn't begin to go as far as some Alices. The subtext, by the way, of the teasing "See Alice's Trip in Psychedelic Color" tagline is that the balance of the (brief) running time is in glorious black-and-white. Apparently, this one is best considered less in relation to Wonderland than as a remake of Reefer Madness.

This was the first talking Alice, and it looks to have been just about as surreal as anything cooked up in Acidland. Great poster, but otherwise just about as obscure as can be - perhaps a result of having been distributed by the not-exactly-MGM Unique-Cosmos Pictures.

There are, of course, lots of other Alices, old and new, and on the horizon we have the prospect of Tim Burton's take on the tale. I have a feeling it will have more than a touch of Acidland itself...

1 comment:

  1. Muscato said, "Neither seemed even vaguely municipal."


    Others that came immediately to mind: Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and I Love You, Alice B. Toklas and a youthful fave of mine, the TV movie of the succes de scandale Go Ask Alice.