Appellate Judge James A. Stewart now has a fear of mirrors. Thanks, NBC.
"Through the looking glass, that's a different world—a world you must see to believe."
Actually, television in 1966 must have been a different world, if Alice Through the Looking Glass is an example. It would be hard for a major broadcast network to launch a 90-minute all-star musical special like this today. With a new Alice in Wonderland about to hit theaters, this vintage NBC special gets a second look.
Based on one of Lewis Carroll's books, it tells the story of Alice (Judi Rolin, As The World Turns), who mopes in front of a chess board while her parents throw a party downstairs. Soon, the Red King (Robert Coote, Theater of Blood) pops up in a cloud of smoke and tells her about the world inside the looking glass. She soon goes through, meets some more Looking Glass Land royals, and is sent on a quest to reach the castle—if she can get past the evil Jabberwock (Jack Palance, City Slickers). Along the way, she meets a jester (Roy Castle, Doctor Who and the Daleks) who lends a hand, and learns some lessons about courage, pluck, and being yourself.
Among the strongest performances are Palance, who shows off his bad side and his worse side as the evil Jabberwock; Nanette Fabray (One Day at a Time), as a comically awkward White Queen; Jimmy Durante (Frosty the Snowman) as an egotistical Humpty Dumpty whose pride goeth before a fall; and Tom and Dick Smothers, as Tweedledum and Tweedledee (or the other way around). Ricardo Montalban and Agnes Moorehead are featured as the Red king and queen; they're not bad, but they don't get as much to do. All can sing well, and there's a good joke now and then in the mild, family friendly script.
In 1966, this must have been meant as a showcase for those newfangled color TV sets. The colorful aspect comes through in bright cartoonish costumes and obviously painted sets, enough so that the art director and costume design netted an Emmy. It's not high-def, but it's surprisingly free of wear and tear.
Extras include two upbeat 8-minute shorts of reminiscences by Bob Wynn, a co-producer. "On the Other Side of the Looking Glass" deals with the production itself, while "Bob Wynn Tells It Like It Is" looks at his career and Hollywood in general. The latter is way too short, because you get the feeling he has a lot to say. On the other hand, he keeps his remarks as G-rated as the musical, which could be a good thing. It might have been good to tell us more about the cast and how their careers turned out. Yeah, we know about Fantasy Island, but is Judi Rolin still performing today?
Will your kids, once enchanted by CGI and Johnny Depp, sit still for a relatively static 90 minutes? It's anybody's guess.
Not guilty. I'm not taking any chances, though. I'm painting over all my mirrors.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Infinity Entertainment
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