Off With Her Head: Sammy Davis Jr. is a caterpillar |

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Off With Her Head: Sammy Davis Jr. is a caterpillar

As I mentioned yesterday, the Very Important Date of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (EW gives it a C) has me revisiting the 1985 TV version of the film. Here’s one of my favorite clips, featuring Sammy Davis Jr. as the hookah-smoking caterpillar. He’ll kick you downstairs…into the deep, dark recesses of your memories from 1985. Don’t worry – I’ll give equal treatment to Ringo Starr as the mock turtle, Carol Channing as the White Queen, and even John Stamos as the messenger during the next week!

Watching this as an adult is so weird. So many questions. Was every scene of this thing shot in the same big room? Why was the caterpillar dressed as a Revolutionary War general while Alice got to crossover into a local stage production of Peter and the Wolf?

The thing that most perplexed my sister and I (we used to watch this on VHS endlessly), though, was somehow not the sudden wardrobe change – we were oddly at peace with that, as well as the preposterous notion that this bewigged 9-year-old would obviously be aware of the Lewis Carroll poem called “You Are Old Father William.” No, what rattled us the most was that we could not understand how Alice would have known, even vaguely, all the choreography for her little dance with the caterpillar/war general. At first she pretends she’s still getting the hang of some of those moves, but by the middle of the song, they are both just GOING FOR IT.

In this way, the Sammy Davis scene from Alice is very much like the final scene of our other favorite VHS, Annie, when Daddy Warbucks and Annie launch into a “I Don’t Need Anything But You” song-and-dance extravaganza complete with dueling tap solos. These little girls in our favorite movies were so talented! And prescient! We dreamed of the day our dad would pull over his minivan during a routine jaunt into Chicago so that, boosted by a gust of windy confidence that blew out of nowhere, we could bop single file (maybe walking like Egyptians?) along the Stevenson Expressway. Never happened. We could not tap.

So, I guess the entire internet already hates Tim Burton’s Alice. I’m still going to see it. The bad buzz has yet to diminish my desire to see my favorite story in 3D/IMAX if it’s available…I mean, what the hell? I’ll spend three hours of my weekend on a Tim Burton trip. The question is, do I see Alice in Wonderland on opening weekend, or watch my 1985 Alice in Wonderland DVD with an assortment of small cakes I can snack on every time little Natalie Gregory gets to eat? DECISIONS.

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More Alice:
Watch a 107-year-old ‘Alice in Wonderland’
EW’s review: Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’

Annie on Twitter: @EWAnnieBarrett

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