The Key


An actor friend recently said of Freddie Jones, (pictured), “I want that man to live forever.”

There are relatively few adaptations of Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (none using the original title), though filmmakers have plundered its best-known bits (Humpty) for their (usually poor) versions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. But there’s quite a nice version made by the BBC in 1973, starring future Doctor Who companion Sarah Sutton, who is ALMOST an acceptable age for the part, and acts quite well. A little too poised and prim as an adult, she makes those very qualities work in service of characterising a Victorian child.


The supporting cast isn’t hugely starry, but the choices are good — Freddie Jones as the egg man is inspired, and it’s inevitable that perennially aged, aged man Geoffrey Bayldon should have a crack at the White Knight (maybe my favourite character — I can’t read his verse without tears flowing sluggish as mercury down my cheeks.

(Though regular Shadowplayer Simon Kane has pointed out that Ian Holm takes the role beyond the infinite in an otherwise rather overblown 1996 version with an impossibly over-sexy adult Kate Beckinsale.)

Overall the thing is just about funny enough — most adaptations aren’t — and plenty strange, thanks to its use of chroma-key to blue-screen in settings faintly recalling Tenniel’s illustrations. Like the novel, it’s almost too crazy, lacking the logical glue that just barely holds together the fragmented nonsense of Wonderland.


6 Responses to “The Key”

  1. And of course, Bayldon is also still with us (just watched him in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed again). I smell a sequel! Through the Looking Glass, anyone?

  2. This WAS Through the Looking Glass… they’d have to do a prequel, but the White Knight and Humpty don’t appear in Wonderland (everyone thinks they do because of all the movies that mix up the characters).

  3. Thanks for this! Jones takes the prize. What a fit!
    The whole thing’s perfect nightmare fuel, but then prosthetic animal masks and buck teeth always are. (“The Mighty Boosh” had a very effective late 70’s kids’ show aesthetic.) A pleasingly unredacted adaptation too, although it’s clear from this why the scenes that normally do get cut get cut – The Lion and the Unicorn feel like stumbling upon some eccentric, ancient yet improvised ritual that might yet end in one being thrown into a wicker man… and the segues in the sheep sequence are very effective- properly dreamlike (although as a child I did use to dream in chromakey, probably specifically as a result of programming like this).

  4. Glad you were able to track it down! Should have realized it would be on the youtubes.

    Reeling from the info that Bayldon is still extant. He was probably always younger than he looked, but still. Catweazle Walks!

  5. John Seal Says:


    I did realise that Jones and Baylsford are both in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, though. So the sequel possibilities remain.

  6. Alice and the Monster from Hell?

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