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Jan Svankmajer's Alice [Blu-ray] [1988] [US Import]

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Frequently Bought Together

Jan Svankmajer's Alice [Blu-ray] [1988] [US Import] + The Quay Brothers - The Short Films 1979-2003 (Two Discs) [DVD]
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Product details

  • Directors: Jan Svankmajer
  • Format: Animated, Closed-captioned
  • Language: Czech
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: First Run Features
  • DVD Release Date: 15 April 2014
  • Run Time: 84 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 362,898 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



This adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland mixes animation and live action to create a dreamlike world, but don't let that fool you into thinking it's simply a kid's film. Young Alice (Kristyna Kohoutová, spoken by Camilla Power) watches a stuffed and mounted rabbit come to life in her playroom and follows it through a magical drawer into a strange world that resembles a 19th-century toy store come to life, with a few specimens from a natural history museum thrown in. Czech animator Jan Svankmajer retains the familiar story elements but tweaks them with bizarre imagery brought to herky-jerky life with his spasmodic style of stop-motion animation. The caterpillar becomes a sock puppet with dentures, while other crazy creatures materialise as creepy skull-headed beings that bleed sawdust. Throughout the tale Svankmajer returns to punctuating close-ups of Alice's lips telling the story, just to remind us that this is a tale told. In the best surrealist tradition Svankmajer uses familiar objects in unfamiliar ways, giving a fantasy quality to the banal (and the not so banal) while tipping the dream logic to the edge of nightmare. While the imagery remains more unsettling than genuinely disturbing, younger children will certainly be happier with Disney's brightly coloured animated classic Alice in Wonderland. Older children and adults will better appreciate Svankmajer's sly visual wit and unusual animation style. --Sean Axmaker

About the Director

An acclaimed Czech surrealist artist and filmmaker

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 70 people found the following review helpful By reverend mother on 21 Jan 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I am really writing in reponse to those who suggest that this DVD is too dark for children. My children (girls age 4 and 2) saw this in the late 80's and called it the 'real' alice, prefering to watch it over and above the disney version which stayed in pristine condition in the video cupboard. I have lost count of how many times they watched this film - they never tired of it. So why did they like it? Who knows. THey were never scared of it as far as I could see. Perhaps it said someting to them about their own childish world which is full of seemingly strange and sometimes senseless events. They also liked the Narnia videos made around the same time, and 'The Box of Delights' both of which had dark undertones for very young children. When i was small I read unsanitized versions of Grimm and other European fairlytales, graduating onto Lord of the Rings and Gormenghast when i was 11. I loved them, and gobbled up books like this. They also loved dark stories like 'Not now Bernard by McKee (look it up, it's fab). Apparaently there are sound psychological reasons for the appeal of such dark materials for children so please don't dismiss this out of hand as a film for the young.
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62 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Ms. J. Kitchen on 12 Aug 2005
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
Like some other reviewers, my parents taped this from late night telly for me to watch, back in the depths of childhood.
As for this film not being suitable to children, I say - pish!
Disurbing images, etc etc - it's only wierd to *rational* grown-ups, who've had a lifetime of conditioning in what consitutes *normal* film-making.
As a child, I loved this film, thought it was crazy, beautiful and amazing - it didn't give me nightmares, or make me afraid of milk or meat, because I didn't know it should be scary, no one told me.....
I say buy it for yourself, buy it for your kids, buy it for your grandparents, buy it for people you meet in the street and abandon twee disney forever!!!
Long may your socks dig holes and your jam bring forth drawing pins!!!!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By B. L. Buxton on 30 Dec 2008
Format: DVD
This isn't a review, it's just to let you know.

I have lived with this film all my life, and it's one of the few films that absolutely made my childhood. I loved it. Seeing a slab of meat squidge across the table and slither into a pot was not scary in the least back then, although looking at the film now I can understand why my nan always groaned when I said I wanted to watch it. I didn't think anything of the animal skulls or the fact that the white rabbit was stuffed. In fact we had a spoon exactly like the one the rabbit uses to eat his sawdust, and I remember using it whenever I ate porridge so I could pretend I was him.

This film is completely suitable for children. Remember that children have a far more open mind than any adult. In fact it's probably better for people to watch it as a child, because seeing it for the first time as a teenager makes you go "Uuurrrgh! No way!". I believe you can only fully appreciate it by loving it through your childhood.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Steven Adam Renkovish on 23 July 2011
Format: Blu-ray
A young girl sits next to her older sister in front of a creek, casually tossing stones into the bubbling waters out of boredom. Her sister quickly grows tired of this, and slaps her on the hand. She angrily stares dead on at the audience. This young lady is Alice. This is Lewis Carroll's beloved tale in the hands of Czechoslovakian animator, Jan Svankmajer - and you have never seen anything like it. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Alice in Wonderland, as you've never seen it before.

Once we are in Alice's room, it is immediately clear that she lives in an unconventional household. She is surrounded by sewing materials, porcelain dolls, mason jars full of preservatives, as well as stuffed creatures - leading us to believe that her father is probably a taxidermist, although we never see him. Alice lies down, perhaps to contemplate the events of her day, when something catches her off guard. The stuffed rabbit in the glass display begins to move. She watches in horror, as the rabbit pries its paws out of the wooden boards which it was previously nailed to. It dons a top hat and a pair of rusty scissors, and smashes its way out of the display, before running outside, leaving a trail of saw dust in it's path. Rather than hopping down a rabbit hole, this demented creature crawls into a desk drawer, which serves as the entrance to a dark cavern, which leads to an alternate dream world. Alice follows after him, and, after having a bit of trouble, wriggles inside the desk drawer. Once we are inside, we notice two things: most of this hallucination resembles Alice's immediate environment, and most importantly, we are definitely not in Wonderland.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Rossettian on 23 May 2011
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Strangely, in a past review of the BFI's Jan Svankmajer - The Complete Short Films [DVD], I wondered whether the BFI would go to the trouble of releasing any of Svankmajer's feature-length films on DVD. Low and behold, the powers that be got their act together. Lord knows I've been through enough trouble already, trying to get hold of a second-hand VHS copy, only for it to get chewed up in my video player! This release is, then, very welcomed indeed.

As an avid fan of both Alice books, Svankmajer's version, along with Jonathan Miller's sadly out of print 1966 film, is in my eyes the most faithful and original adaptation there is. (Having said that, the episodes of the Duchess, the Cheshire Cat and the Mock Turtle are missing, so it isn't totally complete.) It is inevitable to compare it to that OTHER animated Alice, the 1956 Disney version, but in terms of technical prowess and visual eye-feasts Svankmajer's version is far superior. It is idiosyncratically Svankmajer (as is only to be expected as it was his first feature) in the tactile quality of the objects and characters that populate his Wonderland; this new spotless transfer enhances this in a way that previous releases have not, as it allows you to soak up every bit of crumbling plaster and every dry leaf in great detail. The BFI have done well, in their blurb, to call this film "creepy and disturbing" is far removed from (nearly all) other adaptations that prefer to portray Alice as a chirpy, jolly and spunky young lady: the only similarity she shares with other Alices is the colour of her hair. This Alice is more or less mute, save for the close-up of her lips as she narrates all the dialogue.
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