Sunday, 7 March 2010


One of the interesting things about Tim Burton's take on Lewis Carroll's Alice is the decision to rename Wonderland's monarch, the Queen of Hearts, as the Red Queen (an identity formerly belonging to the far-less violent ruler of Looking-glass World).

In the process she has acquired a new 'look', as can be seen from this comparison of John Tenniel's original illustration in the first edition of the book, Walt Disney's clearly derivative depiction from his 1951 animated feature and Helena Bonham-Carter as she appears in Burton's film...

Queen of Hearts to Red Queen
As a film aficionado, I couldn't help feeling I had seen a similar-looking queen somewhere before...
Iracebeth the Red Queen
The clue was in the name bestowed on the film character, Iracabeth! Where could that have come from but a Humpty Dumpty-type portmanteau-word combining 'irascible' with 'Elizabeth' That's when I realised where I'd previously seen this regal personage - she was none other than Miss Bette Davis as the Virgin Queen in the 1939 film, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex...

Queen Bette
Don't you think so?

Anyway, it's a good excuse to play you the film's trailer hilariously heavy with hyperbole and laced with Erich Wolfgang Korngold's sumptuous score.

Yep! That's how to tell history!

"Off with their heads!"


Suzanne said...

Having just watched Cate Blanchett in "The Golden Age", that Bette Davis one seems all the more caricatural! You are slowly but surely putting me off from seeing the new Burton film... if it ever gets to Belgium!

Ian said...

Several revies have accused Burton of simply placing the Queen from Black Adder into the story.

Boll Weavil said...

What a great trailor ! I feel I don't need to see the film now.It would only be a let down. How fortunate we are, to still have the natural celluloid successor on our screen - The Tudors (or 'Eastenders in Tights' as I like to call it).Re Alice, I was going to trot out my oft-aired liner that if you can't respect the book, you shouldn't make the movie. Having just watched that trailor, I realise that on that premise, I should deny the cinema-going public, most of the first forty years of film history !
Ziggato : A character that isn't in the original but the director decided to include anyway because it reminds him of his brother.

Eudora said...

Yes, I think so.

I've always wondered what the british think about films like this of Miss Davis, in wich american actors performed british historical characters...., I think that Mr. Scofield did Felipe II of Spain in That Lady, but I never watched this film... Oh those years, when the spanish army attempted to invade England...;)

Brian Sibley said...

SUZANNE - Well, of course, most Elizabeths (Bette, Glenda and particularly Cate) have played it in 'white-face', but I guess that's historical. Helena, in addition, has rather a lot of not-too-subtle eye-shadow!

IAN - Interesting. I went back on YouTube and had a look at Miranda Richardson's 'Queenie' and she is considerably more silly and girlie-ish than Helena. I suspect that most of today's critics don't have enough movie history to reach back to 1939! :0

BOLL - Yes, it is a gem. I managed to avoid everything except a few trailers for The Tudors but did hear an episode of Radio 4's Plantagenet (which is sort of The Archers-pretending-to-be wearing-tights) and I came to the conclusion that unless you're James (The Lion in Winter) Goldman, it's a risky game trying to make history sound contemporary without also sounding ludicrous - although, no doubt, some wiseacre among the groundlings at The Globe said something similar while watching The Tragedy of Richard the Third!

EUDORA - I suspect they were a bit cheesed-off since, two years earlier, they had made Fire Over England with Flora Robson as QEI and Laurence Olivier and Vivien O'Hara (!) in their first film together along with a lot of British theatrical 'luvvies' and - you won't like this at all, Eudora - Raymond Massey as King Philip II of Spain!

Here's the trailer. Boll will really enjoy this one!

And picking up on Ian's reference to our British historical-comedy series, here's how Blackadder portrayed the Spanish in The Queen of Spain's Beard. Like a later British monarch, Eudora, you may "not be amused"!

Eudora said...

:):):):):P Thanks for the link Brian, I enjoyed a lot that chapter of Blackadder, Margolyes did a good work with the spanish.

Sometimes the real history has things that are funny, Did you know that, before Philip II tried to invade England, he was nominated by his father Charles V to marry Elizabeth?.

Andy J. Latham said...

I went to see Alice tonight Brian, but to my surprise was rather disappointed. I can't really put my finger on why though. I felt like there wasn't really much going on. Ah well, you win some, you lose some!

It has caused me to make a decision avoid seeing any more films in 3D if at all possible. I've seen a good few of them now and not one has convinced me that it adds anything to a film. In fact upon watching "Up" on bluray recently, I only realised a couple of days later that it hadn't been in 3D as it was when I saw it at the cinema. Clearly I had not missed this feature on the repeat viewing! :P

Brian Sibley said...

EUDORA - Glad you could laugh at Blackadder's irreverent take on Spanish history! What would have happened if Philip and Elizabeth had wed, I wonder - apart from becoming the subject of another cheesy Hollywood movie?!

ANDY - Your reaction is interesting because I am sure it is one that will be shared by many people despite the fact that on its opening weekend it took more money than any other (non sequel) movie. Did the 3D help the movie --- or the hype?

Ian said...

I'm with Andy. I AM a fan of 3D, but this film didn't need it (other than for added "hype" which appears to have worked - at least for the opening weekend).

Although the trailer really "sold" the 3D, the film itself did not, and was very scrappy and distracting in places. I know there are two different processes - one involving shooting the film in 3D, the other involving some sort of way of going back to "automatically convert 2D to 3D" process. For me Alice too often looked like it was mainly produced using the latter (cf "Christmas Carol" or "Avatar" which were made to be 3D from the off).

Regardless, I came away from Burton's remake disappointed. The film didn't engage me and I'd already seen the highlights in the trailer. Looking at my Twitter feed it seems I'm not the only one. I'd be surprised if this one had much life at the cinema once word of mouth gets out. Not a bad film, just not a very good one - mainly because of the lack of any kind of emotional depth, or a decent story.

Andy J. Latham said...

Yeah, Ian put it better than I could last night. I just didn't feel anything for Alice herself at any point in the film. I found the only interesting character to be the Red Queen. Helena did a great job with her.