Archive for Alice in Wonderland

The Shadowcast: Let’s Get Small

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2019 by dcairns

New podcast up!

Fiona and I take a microscopically close look at the TIMELY and IMPORTANT subject of human miniaturization, with a particular focus on THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, FANTASTIC VOYAGE and INNERSPACE. Mike Clelland suggested the middle film, and from there things kind of snowballed. Shout-out to Mike.

Still audibly suffering from slight colds on this one, but the NEXT one was recorded earlier and you’ll hear some seriously bunged-up sinuses on that. Here, we just sound like a sexy, husky couple of Glynis Johnses, than which nothing could be better.

The discussion also encompasses (or brushes past) DOWNSIZING, FIRST PAVILION, BODY TROOPERS, THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING WOMAN, and there are audio extracts from… well, I’ll let that be a surprise (and perhaps a mystery). Momo the podcat offers his views on the miniature human’s potential as snack.

Annoyed with myself for failing to mention the excellent (if slightly racist) miniaturization joke in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slapstick, which demonstrates the virtue of sandwiching virtually a whole novel between set-up and pay-off (more authors should try that). So I’m mentioning it here.

The 30s novelette He Who Shrank which is quoted from is by Henry Hasse and is worth seeking out online. Other literary works referred to are Richard Matheson’s all-important The Shrinking Man, Isaac Asimov’s Fantastic Voyage II: Electric Boogaloo*, Alice in Wonderland and The Arabian Nights.

The audio mixes at the start and end are designed to make genre fans dance around the room in a gleeful sugar rush. Let us know if this happens. Send photographic evidence.Very small people may already be inside all of us. Is there a message you would like passed on?

*Not its actual title.


The Monday Matinee, Episode 5: Beneath the Earth

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , on May 15, 2017 by dcairns

Kinda outrageous the way THE PHANTOM EMPIRE not only cheats its way out of every cliffhanger, but spends the first five minutes of every episode doing so — that’s 20% recycling! This time, Gene Autry and the kids escape being blown up because… the makers back-engineer a sequence we weren’t shown before, in which a couple of Junior Thunder Riders notice the peril he’s in — a trail of gunpowder has been lit, blazing through the secret tunnel he’s trying to escape down, certain to blow up the bag of powder he’s carrying — and ride to the rescue, somehow outpacing the blazing fuse and opening the secret door to let him out of the exploding tunnel. Nice work. You bastards.

The plot, though not really any more advanced than it was by the end of Episode 1, is now somehow so fankled and guddled that the opening recap cards read like a surreal fold-in exercise by William Burroughs. This one is my favourite ~

Now read on ~

For a man falsely accused of murder, Autry devotes a remarkable amount of time to ensuring his radio show doesn’t go off-air. This episode is mostly about him relocating his broadcast gear to a secret shack so he can continue riding the airwaves. Then the Thunder Riders attack, and once again there are echoes of BIRTH OF A NATION again as the homestead is besieged. The bad guy scorches the lock off the door using his highly technological… fire cock.

Fortunately, all the Thunder Riders ride off for very little reason, leaving the one guy with the fire cock to get beaten up by Gene. Gene then disguises himself as the felled fire cock operator, so that when the Riders come back, they take him with them. Which is exactly what they wanted, anyway. He may as well have just surrendered. His only advantage here is they don’t actually know they’ve got him.

Disappointing that so far the fun robots, with their tin boy scout hats, only wind the garage door leading to Murania open and closed. An automated door would probably be more efficient, and less likely to rise against one.

Queen Tika is not impressed by Gene’s disguise: “You dare to wear your oxygen helmet in my presence? Off with his helmet!” An echo of the Queen of Hearts here — there will be more Alice references later. We’re down the rabbit hole here, folks.

I’m starting to formulate a theory that THE PHANTOM EMPIRE is a prequel to SONS OF THE DESERT, and that Dorothy Christy’s Queen Tika gives up her underground kingdom to marry Stan Laurel. And that’s why she’s so bitter. But I’ll have to finish the serial in order to know how plausible my theory is.

The Queen gives Autry another of her lectures, using her big floor monitor. Over a shot of a beggar: “Feast your eyes. He is from your world. We have none of that here.” Shot of Frankie and Betsy: “There are friends of yours. They may become beggars.” Then a shot of the deadly lightning chamber: “The death chamber. There’s where you’ll be in five minutes.” Kind of an odd thing to show him on television, since like everything else in Murania it’s right next door.

So, Gene is shoved in there and they prepare to shock him with 200,ooo volts — which might be suspenseful if they hadn’t already shown us the secret exit. To try and ramp up the terror, they actually show Gene get zapped and DIE. So he is dead, then.

Tune in next week to see his scorched remains!

Airless in Wonderland

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2016 by dcairns


I had never even heard of this 1949 British ALICE IN WONDERLAND. I have suspicions it may have been suppressed by Disney, but maybe it was just judged not entertaining enough. But if so, how to explain the 1972 ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, possibly the least entertaining thing since the Aberfan disaster, which got tons of airplay in my dim youth?

This one has wonderfully smooth stop-motion animation — their ways of integrating the live-action Carol Marsh (of BRIGHTON ROCK fame) are simple, but adequate. Split-screen predominates rather than matte shots or rear projection. Lou Bunin, whom I had never heard of, was in charge of animation. A Russian-born American and former apprentice to Diego Rivera…


Unfortunately the script pursues some pointless conceit of Lewis Carroll’s characters all having real-life analogues. This extends the framing structure endlessly, a real problem since the movie also reproduces all of Alice’s to gain access to the garden of Wonderland — I’ve never seen the caucus-race presented on-screen before, and now that I have I understand why it’s usually cut.

Pamela Brown plays Queen Victoria and voices the Queen of Hearts. A couple of other popular actors do voice-only duty: Peter Bull (unspecified role/s) and Joyce Grenfell (Duchess AND Dormouse). There’s a preponderance of French crew, including Claude Renoir as co-cinematographer.

It’s curiously unaffecting, maybe because the material is so familiar and the film does nothing very effective to re-energize it. There’s an arch style of playing which nearly everybody adopts when doing Carroll (which is why Ian Holm’s White Knight is so startling), and you then need either magnificently odd production design or some other means of refreshing it. Here, the smoothness of the animation is coldly admirable but the designs and characterisations aren’t uniformly beautiful or charming, though there’s some nice use of Regency stripe and some of the flattened stylisation is pleasing in its approach to Yves Tanguy.



Worse, it isn’t funny. Disney’s version is criticised for Americanizing the characters but it does have a certain slapstick energy. When I saw it as a kid, on a double-feature with CANDLEWICK, it made me feel stoned, before I knew what that was. It’s interesting that Disney couldn’t completely Disneyficate this unconducive material. One reason I hated the Tim Burton version more than I hate my own body is that it mutilates and malforms Carroll’s nonsense into a bogus “empowering” Disney princess tale. There aren’t enough thunderbolts in heaven to punish anyone who (a) thinks that’s a good idea (b) attempts to do it (c) breaks box office records by doing so. The only good thing is that schoolchildren drawn to the book by the Burton monstrosity are due to have their minds blown all over the nursery walls by the unexpected psychedelic hilarity.