As attentive readers have probably already guessed, I'm one of those people who's looking forward to this Friday's opening of the Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland with more than usual excitement.
Obviously, I'm a Burton fan (and if you are and you're anywhere near the NYC area, I recommend you get to the Museum of Modern Art's Burton retrospective/tribute, which runs thru April 26, posthaste -- it's pretty astonishing). That aside, though, perhaps the main reason I'm so jazzed about the Burton Alice (and I say this with some small embarassment) is because I have no doubt the performance by Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter is going to provide nightmare fodder for several generations of children to come. I mean, seriously -- take a another look at this now familiar puss, and then explain to me how Disney managed to get a PG rating.
Can you say "child abuse"? Okay, I'm kidding, but what I'm really reminded of is Steven Spielberg's dark and disturbing Jurassic Park 2, which opens with a scene of adorable tykes being ripped to shreds by a bunch of terrifiying little dinosaurs. Watching that, and knowing that Spielberg had probably been annoyed as hell at having to direct the original and obnoxiously kid-friendly first Jurassic Park at the same time he was doing the closer to his heart and grownup Schindler's List, you just knew he had directed the scene (and probably the whole flick) thinking "Take that, you little bastards."
But back to the Burton Alice and its undoubted capacity to trouble the sleep of millions of little bastards as yet unborn. Delightful as that may be, it occurred to me that a previous version of the Lewis Carroll classic may have actually beaten Burton to the punch, frightening kids-wise. I refer, of course, to the 1933 Paramount Alice in Wonderland, directed by Norman Z. McLeod, and starring W.C. Fields -- a guy who was not exactly a fan of people below Bar Mitzvah age -- as Humpty Dumpty.
Hell, I saw that for the first time when I was in my twenties and I didn't sleep for a week afterwards; I can only imagine what Depression era kid audiences must have thought of it. In any case, I bring all this up beause Universal has just released the thing on DVD (you can order it here) to cash in on the Burton,one assumes. Which is on balance a good thing, in that it's never been on home video before that I can find. Unfortunately, the restoration apparently leaves something to be desired; Universal did not include the surviving twenty or so minutes of footage cut after the film's original release.
Oh well, it's not a terribly good movie, if truth be told, but I'll probably buy a copy anyway just for Fields' performance. Hmm -- maybe I'll give it to one of my friends with small children, sort of in his honor.
Oh, and here's the trailer for that Burton MOMA show I mentioned earlier, which truly behooves beholding.
Pleasant dreams, kiddies!!!