‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ (1973) (TV)

‘ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS’ (1973)

Please feel free to comment on my review.

‘Life, what is it but a dream…?’

This is a lovely production ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ with Sarah Sutton in it!

I had the DVD for this on my birthday in May 2013. I’m a huge fan of Sarah Sutton who plays Alice in this production of ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’. Sarah is well-known these days as Nyssa of Traken in ‘Doctor Who’ with Peter Davison. Back in December 1973, she was an unknown child actress!

Sarah was on her way to become somebody. In this, she’s a little girl playing a wonderful character from a timeless classic children’s story by Lewis Carroll. It’s very interesting production, although I’m not very familiar with the story of ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ as with ‘Alice In Wonderland’.

But it certainly was an enjoyable and interesting experience to see this version of ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’. It was so refreshing and unlike any other version I’d seen before. I do remember the poem ‘Jabberwocky’ that was read during the story since I studied it when I was at sixth-form college.

I haven’t read the ‘Jabberwocky’ poem in a long time, but I was aware of what it was about from reading it. So it brought back memories for me. I saw ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ a few times before seeing Sarah Sutton again at the ‘Regenerations 2013’ convention in Swansea, September 2013.

I had the DVD cover of ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ signed by Sarah at the convention. She was delighted to sign it and was unaware of the DVD’s existence before I mentioned it to her. It’s rare for Sarah to have an opportunity to talk about her other acting jobs as she’s very well-known as Nyssa.

At the ‘Regenerations 2013’ convention, Sarah and I had a lengthy chat about her work on ‘Alice’ which I’m very happy about. I’m afraid you can only purchase this DVD of ‘Alice’ from North America as they don’t sell it in the UK. Why, I’ve no idea! To me, this is wrong since it should be sold in the UK.

I felt the same way about ‘The Moon Stallion’ DVD as you can only purchase that in Germany. Sarah doesn’t understand why ‘Alice’ and ‘The Moon Stallion’ aren’t sold in the UK either. I wish ‘Alice’ and ‘The Moon Stallion’ were available to see on Amazon Prime. They were available on BBC Store once.

Another criticism about the ‘Alice’ DVD is the back of the DVD cover. If you look at the credits, Sarah Sutton’s name isn’t mentioned there at all. Why?! Why isn’t Sarah Sutton credited on the DVD? Brenda Bruce and the rest of the supporting cast are fine, but Sarah’s completely out of the picture.

This is rather strange for me since Sarah is essentially the star of the show. Trust me, it is Sarah Sutton as a little girl on the DVD cover! I know for sure because I recognise her on the DVD cover. I mentioned this minor detail to Sarah and she couldn’t believe it either. How shocking and sacrilegious?!

Also, Sarah pointed out to me that the Americans had got it wrong with the DVD cover. On the cover, there are cards sprawled out beside Sarah as Alice. In the actual production, there weren’t any playing cards to be seen. This is something that Americans do with Alice productions, according to Sarah.

Apparently, the Americans keep confusing the two ‘Alice’ stories by Lewis Carroll as a single thing. Of course, there have been so many productions of ‘Alice’ made to this day! I’ve seen many versions of ‘Alice’, including, I shamefully must admit, the 1951 Disney cartoon film that I watched when I was a kid.

I also would like to point out that the Americans have got Sarah Sutton as Alice’s dress wrong. On the DVD cover, it’s blue (blue is my favourite colour by the way). But in the actual TV production, Sarah as Alice’s dress was yellow. Sarah noticed this aspect too when I showed her the DVD cover.

Sarah explained to me that the reason why her dress was yellow in the TV production was because that she couldn’t wear anything blue. This was due to fact that the production team were using the Colour Separation Overlay (CSO) scheme for the story. I’ll explain more about this later on in my review.

Of course these criticisms are implying I didn’t enjoy the DVD. I actually did and it means something very special to Sarah, since she saw this TV film when it came out on its original transmission of the 25th of December 1973 over Christmas. Sarah says she played Alice when she was either twelve or thirteen.

‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ was shown as a Christmas TV special which ran for 74 minutes. It’s not a multi-part serial that you would get with ‘The Moon Stallion’. It’s a single feature and it does feel very Christmassy. Sarah is delightful as a little girl in this version of ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’.

It’s strange to see Sarah at a young age since I’ve seen her as Nyssa in ‘Doctor Who’ and also recently at conventions. Her voice is so high pitched and she’s so sweet and innocent. Sarah and I chatted about how small she was. She said that she looked poochy and chubby, but I find her lovely.

Sarah was pleased that I chatted to her about ‘Alice’ at the ‘Regenerations’ 2013 convention in Swansea. She even showed me some photos of her as a little girl on her iPad when she was making ‘Alice’ and when she did ‘Winnie the Pooh’. Sarah showed me her first publicity shots at nine years old.

I was pleased to see Sarah’s photos when she was dressed up as Baby Roo with that kangaroo headdress on her head. Again she thought she was poochy, whereas I found her lovely. I felt honoured and very special to be shown photos of Sarah as a little girl on her iPad. It made my day at that convention.

This TV production of ‘Alice’ of course is unique. As I said before, the production team used the CSO visual effects scheme for most of the story. This was to present the background settings including the forest; the village; the castle; etc. This means there weren’t any sets built for this TV production.

The actors had to use their imagination by responding to nothing but a blue screen. The sets were actually drawings imposed as background settings when the actors were acting against the blue screen. This was done with two cameras doing two shots of the actors on blue screen and of the backgrounds.

Eventually, the two images are interchanged together to complete the full effect of a character against a backdrop. It’s very primitive, but it’s what they did with very little CGI. Producer Barry Letts used this technique when making ‘Doctor Who’ in the 1970s and it was also used for ‘Underworld’ with Tom Baker.

I’d like to talk about the guest cast that worked with Sarah in this TV production of ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’. Sarah has very fond memories of working with the guest cast in this production of ‘Alice’. She shares that especially when she’s doing interviews for DVDs and on convention panels.

There’s Brenda Bruce who guest stars as the White Queen. I remember seeing Brenda in Series 1 of ‘Jeeves & Wooster’ as she played Aunt Dalia. I greatly enjoyed Brenda Bruce’s sweet portrayal of the White Queen as she seems so bewildered and lightly-spoken when she shares scenes with Alice.

There’s also Judy Parfitt who guest stars as the Red Queen. Judy delivers a pretty fiery performance as the Red Queen and is so remarkable in her make-up and costume. I enjoyed her scenes with Sarah in this ‘Alice’ production. She would appear in a BBC TV adaptation of ‘Little Dorrit’ by Charles Dickens.

There’s also Geoffrey Bayldon who guest stars as the White Knight. For me, Geoffrey appeared in the ‘Doctor Who’ story, ‘The Creature From The Pit’, with Tom Baker. Geoffrey is really funny in this production of ‘Alice’. I enjoyed it when he kept falling off his horse and Alice became quite annoyed by it.

And of course there’s Freddie Jones who guest stars as Humpty Dumpty. I loved Humpty Dumpty’s scenes with Alice, especially when she mistakes his cravat for a belt and when he explains the poem of ‘Jabberwocky’ to her. He also tells Alice a poem before he ends it abruptly on an unsatisfactory note.

It was very funny when at the end of that scene, Alice walked away and Humpty fell down as he should do with all the king’s horses and the king’s men coming to pick him up again. The CSO effects for Humpty Dumpty are truly remarkable for their time, especially with Freddie’s face imposed with Humpty’s egg outline.

Thanks must go to the director James MacTaggart who directed this TV film of ‘Alice Through The Glass’ and had cast Sarah Sutton to play Alice in it. James MacTaggart also wrote the play ‘Boys and Girls Come Out To Play’ from ‘Menace’ which also had Sarah in it. Yes! He cast Sarah to play Alice from that.

I’ve really enjoyed this version of ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ very much! It’s so refreshing to see Sarah in something else other than ‘Doctor Who’ when she was a little girl. It’s also an interesting production of ‘Alice’ where it uses CSO effects. It’s truly amazing how they managed to achieve the story’s realisation on TV in 1973.

I’ve now seen Sarah Sutton in both ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ and ‘The Moon Stallion’. I’m thoroughly delighted about this and I hope to see Sarah in more TV productions she’s starred in that are yet to be discovered. The TV special should be worth seeing at Christmas on a relaxed afternoon.

‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ (1973) rating – 8/10


Return to The Works of Sarah Sutton

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