Alice Through the Looking Glass (1966)
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this family-friendly 1966 NBC special is a musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass, featuring a cast of then-well-known stars, like Ricardo Montalban and Jack Palance. There's nothing objectionable, although the Jabberwock character and three fairy-tale witches might frighten preschool-aged kids. The '60s-style musical numbers and low-tech sets might put off some older kids used to slicker special effects, but younger children will appreciate Alice's fantasy adventure.
What's the story?
In NBC's 1966 musical adaptation, Alice Through the Looking Glass, young Alice (Judi Rolin) is summoned through a mirror into Looking Glass Land, where the White King and Queen (Ricardo Montalban, Nanette Fabray) and Ren King and Queen (Robert Coote, Agnes Moorehead) ask her to help them defeat the evil Jabberwock (Jack Palance), who is threatening their subjects. Alice decides she's up to the task, and that she'd love to be a Queen herself, so she travels through the magical kingdom making new friends like nursery-rhyme characters Tweedledum and Tweedledee (The Smothers Brothers) and Humpty Dumpty (Jimmy Durante) and Lester the Jester (Roy Castle) on her adventure.
Is it any good?
There's no denying that the painted sets and cheesy costumes are quite dated, but that's to be expected, even from one of the most expensive network specials from 1966. More than four decades later, most adult audiences will only recognize about a third of the actors, but unsurprisingly, young kids won't care. The costumes, the singing, and the live-studio audience don't take away from the charm of Alice's journey through Looking Glass Land.
It's wonderful to see the late Montalban, best known to those under-50 as Mr. Roarke, Khan, and the grandpa in Spy Kids, who was actually an accomplished musical-theater performer early in his nearly-70-year career. The always-funny Smothers Brothers, a creepy Palance, and legendary Durante are also a treat, and English entertainer Castle is particularly memorable as a Jester who helps Alice. Rolin, the actress who plays Alice, isn't as impressive as the all-star supporting cast, but she looks the part, and that's enough. This is not the definitive adaptation of Carroll's story, but it's an appealing throwback to a time when networks put on original family-friendly productions.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about Alice's response to being in Looking Glass Land. Should she have volunteered to become a Queen, or was she being manipulated by the White King and Queen?
How does this musical compare to the other Alice adaptations?