In Dreamchild, Dennis Potter addresses the story of Alice Hargreaves, the real-life model for Lewis Carrolls Alice in Wonderland. Potter was clearly fascinated with Alices Adventurs in Wonderland (1865) and had earlier written a tv movie adaptation Alice (1965), which likewise approached the story from the perspective of the relationship between Reverend Dodgson and Alice Liddell. Expectedly of Dennis Potter, the strength of Dreamchild comes in the contrasts between the aging Alice, set in her ways and sense of Victorian propriety, and scenes where the characters from the book come to life to eventually teach her a lesson about the childhood she has dismissed and forgotten. This is affectingly conveyed, although Dennis Potters comic contrast of Victorian virtue against American vulgarity is strainingly caricatured at times. Nevertheless, Dreamchild comes with a great deal of warmth and wit.
Characteristically, Dennis Potter prefers to improve on reality for happier endings. One might take charge with the films papering over and forgiving of the less savoury side of Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carrolls character. Carroll/Dodgson clearly had paedophile intent he took dozens of naked photographs of young pre-pubescent girls. Considering the contemporary outrages against such similarly indecent tendencies in in particular the Catholic priesthood, one suspects that were Carroll/Dodgson a contemporary and not the writer of a classic novel he would be publicly vilified for this. Dreamchild tends to sweep all hint of indecency under the carpet in favour of a more platonic love indeed, the childhood flashbacks are shot with a gauzy romanticism.
Coral Browne (Mrs Vincent Price) gives a standout performance as Alice Hargreaves full of presence and preposterously haughty but where she undergoes a heart-warming change by the end. It is a performance that manages to be wonderfully sly and intelligent. She should have been in award consideration for this performance, although sadly Dreamchild was not widely distributed. There is also an excellent performance from young Nicola Cowper as Mrs Hargreaves naive companion Lucy Cowper is required to run an impressive array of naked and plaintive emotions throughout. Nicola Cowper sadly never went onto consolidate her career she appeared in the Clive Barker adaptation Underworld/Transmutations (1985) and the disaster-laden Journey to the Center of the Earth (1988) and then fairly much vanished into British television. Young Amelia Shankley gives a fresh and appealing performance as the child Alice.
Dreamchild makes do with a slim budget but comes out well. Particularly good are the Henson Creature Workshops recreations of the Wonderland characters, which are given a much darker characterization than they are usually depicted with.
Dennis Potters other genre works are: the tv play Alice (1965); the highly controversial tv play Son of Man (1969), a Passion Play that depicts Jesus Christ as racked with anxiety and doubt; the tv play Angels Are So Few (1970) about a housewife who receives a visit from a man who claims to be angel; Brimstone and Treacle (1976/1987) about a man who claims to be The Devil; the mini-series Pennies from Heaven (1978) concerning Depression-era people who are constantly expressing their inner turmoils in lip-synched musical fantasy sequences; the tv play Blue Remembered Hills (1979) where Potter conducted the unique device of depicting his childhood during the War with adults cast in the roles of children; Pennies from Heaven (1981), the Hollywood remake of the earlier mini-series; Brimstone and Treacle (1982), a film remake of the tv play; The Singing Detective (1986) where a man in a hospital bed, his buried past and the plot of a cheap detective novel blur together into a dazzling meta-fiction; the surreal Track 29 (1988) with Gary Oldman as Theresa Russells possibly imaginary lost son; the mini-series Blackeyes (1989) where the character in a trashy sex novel comes to life to protest her exploitation; Lipstick on Your Collar (1993) where the people in a government office in the 1950s express their fantasies in musical numbers; the tv play Midnight Movie (1994) where an old horror movie screening on tv and a mysterious unsolved murder in the present blur together; Cold Lazarus (1996), the final work written by Potter where the memories of dead writer are ransacked by the people of the future; and The Singing Detective (2003), the posthumous film adaptation of his tv mini-series.
Scottish-born Gavin Millar is a director whose work has almost entirely been in British television. He subsequently ventured onto cinema screens with Danny the Champion of the World (1989), directed the Iain Banks tv mini-series The Crow Road (1996) and had previously directed Dennis Potters work with the tv play Cream in My Coffee (1980). Gavin Millars other works of genre note are the Iain Banks adaptation Complicity (2000), as well as the revisionist Cinderella tale Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (2002).