Alice In Wonderland – A Silent First

Long before Disney’s animated version or Tim Burton got his hands on it, Lewis Carroll’s classic book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland received it’s first film adaptation during the age of silents.

The 1903 version of Alice In Wonderland, directed by Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow, stars a young teenage May Clark as Alice and is based on the artwork of Sir John Tenniel, the original illustrator for Carroll’s story.

Shot at Hepworth’s studio in Walton-on-Thames, UK, the director also makes an appearance as the Frog, and his wife can be seen performing costumed as both the White Rabbit and the Queen of Hearts. Best of all in my opinion is the family kitty as the Cheshire Cat looking completely grumpy and nonplussed with the whole thing.

The surrealness of the story beams through the film well over a century later, and it’s clever use of special effects in particular for the scenes where Alice shrinks and grows are fantastic to watch. The White Rabbit is rather terrifying to me though, and I feel like the costume designer for Donnie Darko could well have gotten their inspiration for the design of ‘Frank’ from this 1903 silent.

Alice Dreams Silent Film IntertitleThe White RabbitDown the Rabbit Hole - Alice In WonderlandDrink MeAlice shrinking effect in the silent film versionSilent Film Intertitle - Alice In Wonderland (1903)Alice meets a grumpy Cheshire Catmad-hatter-teaparty-silent-filmAlice In Wonderland Playing Card ProcessionThe Queen of Hearts - Alice In Wonderland
Originally 12 minutes in length, the BFI was able to restore 8 minutes of the surviving film from ‘severely damaged materials‘. So if you have some time spare today (or whenever you’re reading this), have a watch, it’s a great way to celebrate Lewis Carroll’s Birthday today.

Tod Browning – The Edgar Allan Poe of Cinema

Tod Browning by Basil Gogos

Today marks the birthday of actor, screenwriter and director Tod Browning.

We have Browning to thank for the classic and the most well known version of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi, as well as cult favourite and deeply disturbing Freaks (I still can’t shake scenes from that film years later, and the memory of it gives me shivers yet!)

Bela Lugosi as Dracula by Basil Gogos

The early life of Tod Browning is fascinating. Particularly how as a teenager he ran away from home to become a performer – traveling and working a variety of jobs in circuses, sideshows and carnivals. The biography Dark Carnival: The Secret World of Tod Browning is an interesting insight into the life of the man whose films are so well known in the horror genre.

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Friday Film Pick – Coffee and Cigarettes

I’ve been on a bit of a Jim Jarmusch kick as of late after finally seeingOnly Lovers Left Alive. A friend recently reminded me of Jarmusch’s excellentCoffee and Cigarettes, and it’s as fantastic to watch years later as the first time around, easily making it my Friday film pick for this week.

Iggy Pop & Tom Waits Having Coffee

Shot in black and white, the film is a series of vignettes of people drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and talking, woven together in such a way only Jarmusch is capable of.

Tom Waits in Coffee and Cigarettes
Friday Film Pick - Coffee and Cigarettes

‘Coffee and Cigarettes’ features an eclectic cast with the likes of Tom Waits, Steve Coogan, Cate Blanchett, and Steve Buscemi popping up in these visual striking, often comic and surreal conversational segments.

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Silent Ladies – Stacia Napierkowska

A Look At Silent Film Actress Stacia Napierkowska

Stacia Napierkowska with dogI’m absolutely enchanted by these photos of French silent film actress Stacia Napierkowska. Best known for her portrayal as Marfa Koutiloff in Louis Feuillade’s 1915 silent film serial Les Vampires – particularly episode 2, ‘The Ring That Kills‘, dancing as a vampire bat, she was a talented dancer and actress, as well as having also tried her hand at directing.

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Friday Film Pick – Byzantium

Byzantium Film Poster

Confession time – I love vampires.

Well not literally, BUT vampire mythology, literature and film.

Sorry though Twi-hards, as much as I love sparkles, I don’t like Twilight. I even read the series. And those are many long hours of my life I’ll never get back. Thanks Stephenie Meyer.

Eleanor Trapped in the Lift

Anyway! Byzantium however is a totally different beast than sparkle-town.

Directed by Neil Jordan (also the director of 1994’s film adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interveiw With a Vampire), Byzantium tells the story of a vampire mother – Clara (played by Gemma Arterton) and daughter Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan).

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Friday Film Pick – Quadrophenia

Looking for some essential films to watch this May long weekend? Might I suggest to you The Who’s 1979 film Quadrophenia directed by Franc Roddam.

Quadrophenia Blu-ray Cover

Quadrophenia is easily one of my favourite films. I’ve owned it on VHS, DVD and most recently the excellent Criterion version on Blu-ray. My fascination with Mods and Brighton really began with this film when I first viewed it as a teenager, and continues to this day.

Mods riding to Brighton

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