Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

UK movie (1985). Thorn EMI/Pennies From Heaven. Pr Rick McCallum, Kenith Trodd. Exec pr Verity Lambert, Dennis Potter. Dir Gavin Millar. Creature fx Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Screenplay Potter, with lines from the works of Lewis Carroll. Starring Jane Asher (Mrs Liddell), Coral Browne (Alice Hargreaves), Nicola Cowper (Lucy), Peter Gallagher (Jack Dolan), Ian Holm (Charles Dodgson), Amelia Shankley (Alice Liddell). Voice actors Alan Bennett (Mock Turtle), Tony Haygarth (Mad Hatter), Fulton Mackay (Gryphon), Julie Walters (Dormouse), Ken Campbell (March Hare), Frank Middlemass (Caterpillar). 94 mins. Colour.

Alice Liddell, now the widowed Alice Hargreaves and nearly 80, comes to New York in 1932 to receive an honorary doctorate at Columbia to celebrate Carroll's centennial. With her she brings downtrodden personal companion Lucy; Alice has become a mean-spirited, avaricious bitch. What the Americans want from her, in the midst of the Depression, is something of the hope and dreams they assume Carroll gave her; what she soon comes to want from them is money. But the experience changes her – or perhaps her memories change (see Perception), for through flashbacks (representing her thoughts), some into her real childhood and some into Wonderland, we discover first her growing suspicion that the relationship between her and Carroll had been paedophile and then her realization (true or false) that all the stuttering, uncertain, middle-aged Carroll had wanted was to be loved by the enchanting coquette she then was. Through this realization she at last discovers within herself the sweet child whom Carroll thought he saw.

This – Potter's second venture into this territory after Alice (1965 tvm) (see Alice in Wonderland [1951]) – is a deeply rewarding piece of fantasy at many levels. Script, direction, music (by Stanley Myers) and cast are flawless: all contribute to an artwork that is extremely affecting. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.