vintage horror

film study: the VERY FIRST Alice In Wonderland movie..from 1903!


It should come as no surprise to readers of this blog that when I was growing up, Lewis Carrol‘s Alice In Wonderland was – and still continues to be to this day – my favorite fairy-tale ever written. I absolutely love Disney‘s animated film, and I even enjoyed Tim Burton‘s “version”; which, as a fan of Burton, shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Something about the cast of characters, the colorful world it takes place in, and even the themes of Alice being “crazy all along”; these are all things that I find fascinating – there really is no story like it. But when it comes to the concept of a movie version of the familiar story, there’s been many; just look at what comes up when I type in “Alice in Wonderland” on imdb down below.


Looking at this list, there’s a total of ten films on record, [not including all the ones that come up when I click “more title matches”] and that includes two films called “Malice In Wonderland” – which, after reading the plot- doesn’t seem to be  what we’re looking for. Today though, we’re looking at the very first one, the one from 1903[over 100 years ago!] This version involves a girl – named Alice – awakening in a garden beside a white rabbit in a waistcoat with a pocket watch..sound familiar yet? A Director by the name of Cecil Hepworth decided to make [a faithfully as possible] an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s original story: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for the big least, as big as screens were in 1903! Originally running a whopping twelve minutes in length, Hepworth’s film of Alice In Wonderland was – at the time – the longest film produced in all of Britain. In order to keep faithful to the novel, the plan was to try and keep the style of the film to look like  Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations. [which I find fascinating!] The costumes were designed from hand and elaborate sets were built at Hepworth’s film studio – including a rather impressive rabbit burrow. To save on money, which mainly went to costumes and set pieces, family members, friends and their children were used in the cast. [Hepworth even cast his wife as the White Queen]


a screenshot of Alice running from the Red Queen‘s card soldiers

Unfortunately, being as the film is over 100 years old, the full version of Hepworth’s mini classic has been lost: the print that exists is damaged but is still a beautiful, trippy and incredible experience. However, all hope is not lost, as The British Film Institute created a remastered version in 2010. This “remastered” version is nine and a half minutes long, is a black and white silent film, and is definitely an interesting piece of cinema. Don’t be too shocked: it is still creepy in it’s own right, but it is still a landmark in film making. Even knowing that it existed so very long ago, and was able to be restored is magical. For your viewing pleasure, and my wanting to share it with the world, I’ve included the remastered Alice In Wonderland film down below.. but not before asking my usual set of questions – which can be answered after watching: What do you think about this film from 1903? Is it really interesting to know and see that the BFI remastered it for viewing in this day? Or do you think it’s too creepy, and that children would have panic attacks just watching playing cards attack a young girl? Let me know in the comments! Do you have any theories behind Alice In Wonderland? What do you think is truly happening to our Alice? Share your theories below! But enough questions. Without further stalling, here’s the VERY FIRST film take on Alice In Wonderland. [Coming to you from the year 1903]


[a special thanks to the BFI for restoring the film!]

REAL HORROR: check out these GRUESOME vintage special effects from Paris!

If there’s one thing I constantly talk about, [whether on here, or among friends] it’s the fact that when it comes to movies; I despise CGI – specifically, bad CGI. Movies like Blade where the blood at the end looked like jelly, making it impossible to take seriously.  [see that terrible CGI hereTherefore, if possible, I much prefer it if practical effects are used – even if it looks bad, at least it was done without the use of a computer, or some kind of technology; which I like to think deserves points. The reason I bring this up [again] is because – like myself, you probably thought that graphic and violent horror movies are a somewhat newer creation,  something that was probably developed in the 1970s and 1980s what with exploitation horror and those “video nasties“.. I mean, surely the fancily dressed people from Victorian times would be fleeing to the hills, with absolutely no interest in seeing such things as blood spray heavily across a room from a sliced up jugular.. right?

Apparently, we were wrong – because, would you believe me if I said that there was an older, French theater that specialized in just that: horrific and gruesome story telling.

Cleverly calling itself Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, was founded way back in 1897 by a man known as Oscar Méténier and was “designed” for those French theater goers who wanted something a little more.. violent than the typical viewer would care to watch. It was established in an Old Gothic Chapel[coolest. thing. ever] where The Grand Guignol would put dark and gruesome showstoppers, many of which centered around unprovoked, and violent, killings! If this wasn’t enough, the reel [get it?] highlight of the show[s] was the moment that the killer would brutally and violently “dispatched their victim”.. The Grand Guignol made sure to spare no expense in making the act look as real as humanly possible. The crazy part is that all these “shows” at the Théâtre played over 100 years ago, but it’s special effects puts many modern horror films to shame! In fact, these special effects were often considered too realistic for some members of the audience, shown by the fact that vomiting and even fainting was relatively normal for these individuals. If you weren’t puking your guts out or passing out, you could also rent “special rooms” to watch the play from – in case you found yourself aroused, because apparently that happened from time to time.

Unfortunately, though expected, this theater of the macabre performed its final play in 1962, showing that it stayed open for 65 years! However, it went on to inspire some of the most gruesome horror films of the later 20th century, including the iconic Hammer Horror Films!  Below, I’ve added a ton of screenshots from Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol ‘s glory days! so if you’ve read this far, I totally recommend checking out these vintage pictures!

As I said before, Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol has been closed down for a while now, but the fact that the effects were all practical makes me all the more excited, knowing this actually existed at a time- it’s truly something else, and deserves to be recognized; at least in the horror scene of today. If it were possible, I’d totally love to go back in time, and check the theater out – to get a feel for true terror. How do you feel about Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol? Is it the coolest thing you’ve seen all day? Or is it, based on the screenshots above, too gruesome for even the most hardened horror fan? Let me know your thoughts in a comment or two!

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