Sunday, March 6, 2016
By MICHAEL WALSH
Some seven weeks after launching Reeling Back, I happened upon the fact that November 26, 1864, was the day that Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson had presented the manuscript of his work in progress, Alice's Adventures Underground, to its inspiration, 12-year-old Alice Liddell. I summarized the story on November 26, 2013, to introduce a posting of my review of the 1976 fantasy Alice in Wonderland, a picture sold as "an X-Rated Musical Fantasy."
As it turned out, I had reviewed the film twice. My first notice was published in 1976, the year that an R-rated version opened in downtown Vancouver. The second ran in 1980, when the X-rated re-release arrived in Blaine, Washington. Both reviews were posted, together with an Afterword on the subsequent movie career of the film's talented star, Kristine DeBell.
To my surprise, that posting has become the single most visited page in the Reeling Back archive. The hits became so regular and so numerous that around the house I occasionally refer to Reeling Back as Alice Central.
Then, on Thursday afternoon (March 3), Alice emailed me.
Dear Mr. Walsh,
Somehow the article you wrote about me in 2013 has floated to the top of my Google search, behind my personal website and before three pages of porn. ;)
I throughly enjoyed the article save for these two sentences; In this case the ads can be trusted. Kristine DeBell is the only Alice in this X-rated Wonderland.
This is incorrect. I was not on set for the filming of the X rated scenes. They were added later; the original film had a few minutes cut for an R rating in 1976.
Yes, the note was from Kristine DeBell. The two sentences with which she takes issue are at the end of my review of the 1980 (hardcore) version. They addressed the question of whether she had crossed the line separating softcore from hardcore sex performance. I concluded that she had.
I was wrong. This morning I added a note to that effect to the 2013 posting's Afterword, together with a belated apology to Ms DeBell for contributing to the mythology that has grown around her participation in the film.
Released to theatres on her 22nd birthday (December 10, 1976), Alice in Wonderland was a showcase for its young star's acting, singing and dancing talents. It was made at a time of revolutionary change in American society and cinema, a time when film contracts often contained the phrase "some nudity required."
What DeBell wanted me to understand was that her performance had its limits. In what she calls "the one most damning scene, I will admit to allowing movie magic."
Clarifying the point in a second email, she says that fans "thought it was me in every scene," adding that "you didn't need a trained editor's eye to notice the not so subtle differences."
She also is clear on the fact that "I did a few very tame things in the film that might be on HBO today." DeBell agreed to let me quote our correspondence, which includes her belief that a denial "will not change people's minds about what they think they saw . . . there are pages upon pages of porn when one Google's me. Disheartening to say the least . . ."
As noted in the Afterword to my 2013 Alice posting, DeBell resumed her acting career in 2012, with four new films. Since then she's added a starring role in 2014's Three Wicked Witches and a supporting part in Trophy Heads (also 2014), In 2015, she starred in Hunter, and appeared in Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance. Scheduled for release this year are a drama called Darling Nikki, the comedy Office and Compromise and another drama, Merrily.
As she mentioned in her email, Kristine DeBell has a personal website.
The added material to my Alice in Wonderland posting is not the only recent addition to Reeling Back. The archive continues to grow, with a dozen new items:
WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT — New, not restored, this is my take on the current feature film starring Tina Fey as Afghanistan war correspondent Kim Baker. Freely adapted from a book by newspaperwoman Kim Barker, it changes our heroine into a TV news reporter. (Posted March 4)
INCIDENT AT OGLALA — Director Michael Apted's 1992 thriller Thunderheart was inspired by American Indian Movement member Leonard Peltier's controversial murder conviction. Together with Robert Redford, Apted revisits the evidence in this 1992 documentary feature. (Posted March 2)
LE DÉCLIN DE L'EMPIRE AMÉRICAIN — The first Canadian feature nominated for a foreign-language film Oscar, director Denys Arcand's 1986 drama brings together a chatty group of Québec intellectuals. Once energized by the prospect of building a new nation, they have matured into a sophisticated appreciation of good food and sex. (Posted February 29)
THUNDERHEART — Based on a 1975 murder investigation on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation, director Michael Apted's 1992 thriller tells the story of an FBI agent's unexpected spiritual journey. Val Kilmer stars as the lawman who confronts the consequences of pride and conquest. (Posted February 17)
THE GOONIES — I'll never forget Sean Astin's performance in this 1985 teen comedy directed by Richard Donner. In it he plays an unlikely action hero who has the improbable name Michael Walsh. (Posted February 25)
THE WOLFPEN PRINCIPLE — A slice of B.C. film history, this 1974 drama written and directed by Jack Darcus contrasts the immigrant experience with First Nations alienation. In it an odd couple of society's outsiders plot to free the wolves from the Stanley Park Zoo. (Posted February 22)
REEL VANCOUVER: AN INSIDER'S GUIDE — Published in 1996, freelance film journalist Ken MacIntyre's 186-page celebration of Hollywood North was a handbook for location spotting in and around the city. Fully indexed, it remains a valuable resource for B.C. cinephiles. (Posted February 23)
THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO — One of writer-director Woody Allen's best pictures, this bittersweet 1985 comedy tells the story of a Depression-era film fan who charms a movie character to come down from the screen for an adventure in her real world. Mia Farrow and Jeff Daniels star as the fantasy's lovers. (Posted February 19)
DEATH HUNT — The 1932 media circus surrounding the RCMP pursuit of the "mad trapper of Rat River" inspired this 1981 feature from director Peter Hunt. Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin star in a shoot'em-up that mangles the "true story" beyond all recognition. (Posted February 17)
OUR FEATURE FILM FEST: 19 — In Part 19 of a 20-part series, Reeling Back continues The Greater Vancouver Book Feature Film Festival with restored notes on the seven independent productions with the cult cachet needed for a program called Midnight Madness. (Posted February 15)
JURASSIC PARK — Aware of how much kids love dinosaurs, Steven Spielberg directed this 1993 adaptation of Michael Crichton's best-selling science-fiction novel. In a triumph of computer-generated imaging (CGI) technology, lost worlds were restored to life and a film franchise was born. (Posted February 12)
FIRE AND ICE — In a creative marriage that was meant to be, heroic fantasy artist Frank Frazetta joined forces with adult-animation pioneer Ralph Bakshi to produce this 1983 cartoon feature. Sword and sorcery fans consider it a classic. (Posted February 9)