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Alice Through the Looking Glass (DVD Review)

8 Feb, 2010 By: Mike Clark

Street 2/9/10
$19.98 DVD
Not rated.
Stars Judi Rolin, Jack Palance, Agnes Moorehead, Nanette Fabray.

You can’t get too snarky over an oddity for the ages that casts Jimmy Durante as Humpty Dumpty.

Curiosity is high over Tim Burton’s March 5 take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, for which you could hear the buzz at least as long ago as last summer. So it makes sense to revive the 1966 NBC TV musical version of Carroll’s Glass sequel — elements of which have found their way into previous screen versions of Wonderland, including Disney’s 1951 animated feature and Paramount’s strange but fascinatingly cast 1933 misfire (not on DVD) in which W.C. Fields played Mr. Dumpty.

The gonzo casting begins with the actor who plays Alice’s father: sculpted-haired Richard Denning (he of famed creature contretemps in Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Black Scorpion). Then, amid Alice’s travels and attempts to become royalty, we get Moorehead as the Red Queen, Nanette Fabray as the White Queen and Ricardo Montalban as the White King (before his first “Star Trek” appearance and Chrysler Cordoba TV spots).

You want more? Well, there’s Jack Palance as the sinister Jabberwocky, whose makeup doesn’t contrast all that much with Jack’s previous unwashed cosmetics playing Attila the Hun in director Douglas Sirk’s atypical-for-him Sign of the Pagan. And then there’s Tom and Dick Smothers in portly padding playing Tweedledee and Tweedledum (but which one did mom like best?).

As for Alice (Judi Rolin), she’s a cute soprano version of Disney’s animated Alice, but it won’t surprise you to learn that the show first aired on the actress’s 20th birthday; she looks as if she could have been drinking 3.2 beer at a mid-1960s Kappa Sig party.  (Interestingly, Mia Wasikowska, about to be seen as Burton’s Alice, is 20 as well).

Though this took the first Emmy ever awarded for costume design, the 1960s laugh track contributes to a tone that will put off Carroll purists. The target audience is likely the very young and significantly older: the first because the story is what as it is and the second because you don’t get casting smorgasbords like this every day.

Extras include two entertaining short segments with co-producer Bob Wynn, who spins anecdotes about show biz in general and this specific show — including worries about hiring Palance because their Jabberwocky had previously decked a couple directors.

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