Alice in Wonderland

Director: Cecil M. Hepworth
& Percy Stow

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

The poor preservation on the first film adaptatation of Alice in Wonderland (1903) actually lends to its phantasmagoric nature. Originally ten to twelve minutes long, depending on how fast the crank was hand-turned, this was the longest film made in the United Kingdom up to 1903, more than three times as long as the majority of earlier British films.

Alice in WonderlandEven at such, ahem, "length," it was only able to present itself as a series of moving illustrations for, rather than a cohesive telling of, Lewis Carroll's classic.

Because of the expectation among exhibitors & their audiences that a film program would consist of many short-short subjects, Alice in Wonderland was actually made available as a "set" of episodes, & in some kinetoscope parlors & early cinemas, there'd only be a couple episodes shown at all, amidst totally unrelated shorts.

So the eight minutes that survive probably has pretty much the same impact it had before bits of it were lost.

Alice (May Clark), asleep in the garden, awakens to the appearance of the white rabbit looking at his watch. She follows him down the rabbit hole into a room with only one small door.

She drinks the handily provided shrinking potion with expected results, & I never cease to marvel at the ingenuity of these very early silent films for special FX one would think took longer to introduce into cinema.

Fragments of familiar scenes from the Lewis Carrol story parade haltingly before us in a true dreamlike manner with tremendously cool FX featuring the Cheshire Cat (a lovely large tabby), the tea party with the rabbit & the mad hatter, the short tempered queen of hearts & sandwich board entourage, ending in a chase scene & Alice awakening in her own garden.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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