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Alice in Wonderland

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I was first introduced to Bill Osco's Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Comedy in college. My friends delighted at the fact that I would not be eighteen until the end of freshman year, and tried to show me everything they could think of that I shouldn't be legally viewing yet. Nothing was terribly shocking, but I suppose actually corrupting a minor wouldn't be as fun. When one friend got a hold of a copy of Alice, our entertainment for the evening was clear. We piled onto a dorm room bed, huddling close together in the blueish glow of a tiny laptop, and prepared for our journey into musical pornography.
I've watched bizarre porn in groups since then, but nothing has been as awkward as my first time with Alice. I still remember the absolute silence in the room once we realized exactly what we were watching. There's nothing quite like graphic sex scenes to remind you how many other people are in the room with you, trying desperately to think of something clever to say and stop wondering if anyone is actually enjoying this in its intended manner. The first time is, of course, the most awkward, and subsequent viewings have made Alice one of my favorite films to share.
I'd hope it would be obvious, but this installment of The Cult Club is not safe for work.
Alice (Kristine DeBell) is a librarian – hair up, but no glasses – and is absolutely terrified of intimacy. Her boyfriend begs her to touch him, to live a little and have fun, but she rejects even a kiss. They break it off. Alice realizes that she has always been too busy growing up to have any sort of fun, and wonders what she'd do with a chance to start over. The White Rabbit joins her, offering the opportunity, and they step through the looking-glass together, entering a world where everyone is only too happy to help Alice in her journey to find herself.

The first questions about Alice are always about the music; how, exactly, does a musical porno work out? It's not the way one would expect. No singing occurs during sex unless it's simulated, and most of the songs are surprisingly clean. There are a few about sex, of course (notably “What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing on a Knight Like This?” and “He Can't Get His Ding-a-Ling Up”), but the majority are about self-examination and following one's dreams. There are also instrumental pieces accompanying art school-worthy interpretive dance numbers. The music itself is upbeat with hints of swing, but the catchiness of the songs is due more to the bizarre subjects and lyrics than the composition.
Given that Alice is more substance than sex, there is actually a script present. Alice follows the White Rabbit from one lesson in love to another, connected by raunchy title cards and burlesque music, hearing a different message from everyone she meets and attempting to put them together. Alice's conservative view on the world expands beyond her own body, and her insistence that every fornicating couple she meets should settle down and start a family is quickly shot down by the other residents. Let loose. Relax. Learn to love yourself and others. She holds her newest lessons foremost in her mind, struggling to make room for the next, eventually so overloaded that she is forced to run from Wonderland and figure it all out for herself.
Lewis Carroll's characters are a minority in the film. There is no Cheshire Cat to smile at Alice, but the Rabbit leads her to the Mad Hatter and the head-craving Queen. Yes, that kind of head. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum have one of the more graphic scenes in the movie together. More general fairy tale characters populate Wonderland, including knights, Humpty Dumpty, and lesbian nurses. There are also “animals” in the form of spandex suits and fuzzy accessories, but they are thankfully only present in the musical sections.

The actual eroticism in the film is questionable. There is so little full-on sex that the “R” version is only about ten minutes shorter than the “X” version, though it still contains plenty of nudity. The circumstances surrounding every harder scene make it hard to maintain any mood that may arise. Many of the actors look very odd, either naturally or in costume, and while none of them are themselves “performing,” they are often present while others are.
I'm sure someone out there enjoys Alice as intended, of course. There are certainly redeeming factors. The actors are natural, unshaven but well-trimmed, and most have minimal makeup. There's none of the uncomfortable-looking roughness so common in current films in the same genre. Two of the actors were married at the time, and they look like they're legitimately enjoying their scene together, posing for the camera but not enough to jeopardize the pleasure of the act. Alice's adventures may be frightening because of who joins her, but the acts themselves seem inviting enough.

The original intent for Alice was to make porn with a high budget. This means, of course, a high budget in terms of 1970s pornography. Given that the music is reasonably catchy, the actors are plentiful, the dancing is well-choreographed, and the shooting location is lush and spacious, one can see where the funds went. Rather than despair over the lowered budget, the filmmakers instead embraced it, turning Alice into the very picture of camp.
This is where the charm of the film really shines through. The costumes look like castoffs from a Halloween store clearance sale. The few special effects don't bother trying. The director is visible, clapboard in hand, for a few frames. Cuts are rough and unrealistic. An actress looks straight at the camera and says, “Who do I have to f**k to get out of this movie?” It's clear that it's all intentional, and that's what makes it magical. Everyone involved knows exactly how ridiculous their project is, and it's obvious that they love it.
Date Added: 10/28/2012 by Helene Cixous
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