Jam Tomorrow, Jam Yesterday, But Never, Ever Jam Today

Lewis Carroll’s Alice books have been adapted for stage and screen many times. What stands out about the 1985 made-for-television version is that it’s full of celebrities, but many of them were past their prime by the eighties. I remembered George Gobel (who played the Gnat) and Jonathan Winters (Humpty Dumpty) from reruns of the old Hollywood Squares.

Sammy Davis Jr. played the Caterpillar, and because it would have been a waste not to have him dance, he temporarily transformed into Father William to do so.

And Ringo Starr was the Mock Turtle, although the Walrus was not Paul. (It was, in fact, Karl Malden.) The part everyone seems to remember, however, is a seemingly unhinged Carol Channing as the White Queen.

She turns into a sheep at one point, which actually does happen in the book of Through the Looking-Glass, but there it’s presented in a matter-of-fact way. (Hey, you know how dreams work.) In the movie, it’s kind of disturbing. Speaking of disturbing, this is also the adaptation with multiple appearances by the Jabberwocky, who must have been pretty scary to the kids.

The monster was supposed to be a symbol of Alice’s fears, which she needed to conquer in order to grow up, a pretty heavy-handed addition to the story. I’m not sure Alice needs that sort of moral tacked on. Aside from that, the costumes were kind of creepy; and much of the dialogue was taken directly from the books, but delivered in a way that really drove home when someone was making a joke. I guess I can see this as somewhat necessary, as kids in the eighties might not have known when Carroll’s Victorian humor was supposed to be funny, but it did make it seem like Wonderland was one big comedy club. There are some good things to say about this adaptation, like how it included characters that some versions skip, but overall it was pretty bizarre. If you want to see aging celebrities in creepy costumes acting weird, then this is the movie for you! And hey, I still prefer it to the Tim Burton film.

This entry was posted in Authors, Celebrities, Lewis Carroll, Television, VoVat Goes to the Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Jam Tomorrow, Jam Yesterday, But Never, Ever Jam Today

  1. Bryan Babel says:

    The creature is called a Jabberwock; “Jabberwocky” is the poem about it.

  2. Pingback: I’ve Got an Anglo-Saxon Attitude | VoVatia

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