Paramount stuck half their contract players into this waxworks version of the nonsense classic, but you’d hardly know it since most are all but unrecognizable under elaborate get-ups & papier-mâché heads. Whimsy & charm are equally hard to find in the rush to move all those famous characters thru sets that honor the letter but not the spirit of the famous Tenniel illustrations. Obviously, comedy megger Norma Z. McLeod was the wrong guy for the job, only a bit of vaudeville from Edward Everett Horton’s Mad Hatter & Charles Ruggles’ March Hare, and Gary Cooper’s touchingly unsteady White Knight make brief contact with the audience. A legit release from Universal DVD greatly improves on the look of previous Public Domain editions, but the film remains a dog.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: In this adaptation, the similarities with THE WIZARD OF OZ/’39 are quite striking. And so are the leaps in film craft a mere six years later.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Those who find the famous Disney animated version from 1951 too bland and the Disney-Tim Burton adaptation of 2010 too . . . er . . .too Tim Burton, should check out the delightful 1949 version that features fabulous stop-animation from Lou Bunin and a damnably catchy Gilbert & Sullivan-esque score. That’s should check out. The Disney lawyers couldn’t suppress a Stateside release, but they did manage to screw up the film processing for a color-compromised product that was always problematic and now has aged poorly. Those with Lewis Carroll’s powers of imagination may wish to view the remains via HULU or short clips on YOUTUBE. A MoMA restoration from a decade back brought slight improvement, but the film desperately needs a full digital ressurection.