Down the Rabbit Hole
April 27, 2014 6:55 AM   Subscribe

Curious Alice is a 1971 anti-drug film produced by the National Institute for Mental Health. Meant to reach children 8-10 years old, the film didn't really get it's intended message across. You can read more about it at the National Archives.
posted by dortmunder (33 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite


That's amazing. I don't know what I like the most...the girl's drawn-on hair, her Cindy Brady lisp, or the fact that the movie shows you absolutely nothing about drugs except that cartoon characters talk about them. I think this is going to go into Friday Night Movie Night rotation!
posted by xingcat at 7:23 AM on April 27

Paul F Tompkins' take
posted by cnanderson at 7:33 AM on April 27

Adding to the story of Alice: the restoration of Curious Alice, from slightly hazy and rather faded negative to what you see today. Serious kudos to Charles Joholske, who color-corrected the film by eye.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:35 AM on April 27 [4 favorites]

Not to be confused with "Go Ask Alice."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:12 AM on April 27

Yeah, ZenMaster, that's what the PFT that I linked above is about. Man, the 70s were weird, huh?
posted by cnanderson at 8:16 AM on April 27

The shifting hair animation is pretty mesmerizing.
posted by The Whelk at 8:33 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]

Well, I can honestly say I liked it better than Tim Burton's version.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 9:02 AM on April 27 [2 favorites]

That score is some serious Raymond Scott / Terry Riley / Boards of Canada awesomeness.
posted by mykescipark at 9:14 AM on April 27 [6 favorites]

I love that this is on the National Archives YouTube account, and not UbuWeb or something.
posted by univac at 9:19 AM on April 27 [2 favorites]

mykescipark, the music is great. I was just looking at the blog post linked from the YouTube page to see if there was info on who did the music or the film itself (I'd love to see a collection of their work!), alas, there was no such info, but the critique is pretty good in its own right.
posted by univac at 9:24 AM on April 27

All I could think was the people who wrote and produced this were SO HIGH!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:40 AM on April 27

"Go ask Alice, when she's 2 feet tall..."
posted by Fuzzypumper at 9:57 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]

Sure makes dope look cool. Wonder what it's like to feel like that...? I want to freak apart my tender brain by taking LSD.....
posted by caddis at 10:35 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]

Man, the 70s were weird, huh?

I would've been a year or two older than Alice in 1971 (turned twelve that year), and thus got all manner of this kind of "anti" drug propaganda. Which worked until maybe 1972 when I suddenly knew kids who were smoking a little dope, not going mad, or becoming hopelessly addicted. They just seemed to laugh a lot.

Which is the big weakness in so much anti-drug propaganda. It only works until you get a little first hand information at which point it serves best as entertainment.
posted by philip-random at 11:00 AM on April 27 [2 favorites]

I'm not gonna lie, that made me want to take some drugs.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:06 AM on April 27 [4 favorites]

posted by allthinky at 1:13 PM on April 27

This is the weirdest episode of Mad Men yet. But I'm always happy when the focus is on Sally Draper.
posted by Fizz at 1:52 PM on April 27 [8 favorites]

> Which is the big weakness in so much anti-drug propaganda. It only works until you get a little first hand information at which point it serves best as entertainment.

No, the worst part is a lack of a sense of proportion, which means that you try pot, it's actually a lot of fun and you don't get hooked, so you think, "Oh, they must have been full of shit about heroin, too!"

Honestly, there needs to be a drug information movie done by stoners. "Pot is a lot of fun, though watch your motivation issues. Alcohol is readily available, extremely tasty and very relaxing - but you gotta keep a lid on it or you end in the gutter. Avoid white powders and pharmaceuticals. Psychedelics can be difficult, and if you are already a little wiggy, you should avoid them, but they can be extremely rewarding - arrange your trip like you would arrange any other very important trip, and then relax and enjoy it."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:30 PM on April 27 [14 favorites]

I wonder what I might have thought had I been shown this as a kid. Maybe I would've thought that drugs were confusing and childish and avoided them? As it was, I was shown that drugs were scary and dangerous and so naturally I had to go see for myself.

By the way Sonny Bono, I was so happy when I heard you died by slamming your head into that tree on that ski slope. I am going to have another happy dance about it right now.
posted by telstar at 3:13 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]

and the tree said "I've got you babe"
posted by hortense at 3:31 PM on April 27 [3 favorites]

At the point when the Cheshire Cat was giving her directions, I kept thinking "try to remember everything you passed, but when you go back, make the first thing the last." What a brilliant era in children's animation that was!
posted by Westringia F. at 3:44 PM on April 27 [3 favorites]

Stuck too closely to the source material. "This could have been a wonderland"? Really? You mean that place where Alice was nearly decapitated?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:00 PM on April 27

The most 70s moment wasn't the animation or the close-eyed caterpillar ( what was it with drug education things having to stick every single slang term for a thing in a sentence that makes people sound like demented thesaurus robots?) it was Alice going "oooooh! A liquor cabinet!" like at child accessible level and height and not locked.
posted by The Whelk at 4:03 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]

Does a screaming PCP-crazed Helen Hunt arrive in Wonderland, pull glass shards out of her flesh, and battle Alice to the death? That would be the best PSA crossover ever.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:41 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]

The Whelk: "The most 70s moment...was Alice going "oooooh! A liquor cabinet!" like at child accessible level and height and not locked."

Uh...uh oh. My "liquor cabinet" is the bottom drawer of the pantry. I've never even heard of lockable liquor cabinets.
posted by Bugbread at 7:10 PM on April 27

My "liquor cabinet" is the bottom drawer of the pantry.

We keep our bleach and other delectables down there.
posted by telstar at 9:50 PM on April 27

i'd comment but i'm busy looking at my hand. really looking at my hand.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 7:38 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]

So Go Ask Alice was about a teen that had instant access to college age "friends" due to her parent's profession, that took place while the Golden Age of Refrigeration was plateauing (baked goods:oven::gelatin preparations:refrigerator). I'd trust the review if it was more of a compare/contrast with Laurie Halse Anderson or a similar current YA author with a mental health background. What makes these expositions contemporaneously successful? What benefit do we gain from reviewing without a historic lens? We have come so, so far, and have far to travel before mental health issues, including addiction, are addressed as compassionately and comprehensively as, say, cancer. (So of course I'm free-associating Virginia Slims ads...) As individuals as families, we want the 99% to get to a better tomorrow, with the support, understanding and compassion of the 1%. The disdain personally distracts me from "what did we learn from that?" "How are we better now?" "Where do we want to be?" "What will progress look like?" "How can I participate in that progress?"
posted by childofTethys at 8:50 AM on April 28

The disdain....

Whose disdain? Disdain for what?
posted by lodurr at 10:48 AM on April 28

The disdain was in the Go Ask Alice article. Disdain that historic efforts were ridiculous. Who was the intended audience? How was the PSA shared? What was media like then? It's certainly a vintage piece of style and design- no disdain there. Good question, I've got some self-reflection to do.
posted by childofTethys at 4:01 PM on April 28

From "The Curious Case of Curious Alice":
This isn’t just a case of modern audiences seeing something different than when the film was originally made. In the 1972 publication, Drug Abuse Films, the National Coordinating Council on Drug Education (NCCDE) criticized Curious Alice for being confusing and potentially counterproductive to drug abuse education. In the report, the NCCDE, an independent organization that received funding from NIMH, evaluated scores of films for scientific accuracy and effectiveness. The review panel classified Curious Alice as “restricted”, writing that young viewers “may be intrigued by the fantasy world of drugs” and that it should only be presented with a “very skilled facilitator” in order to “probe for the drug attitudes” of an elementary school class. (In other words, teachers, don’t bother trying to use this film to get kids to stay away from drugs because it’ll require way too much extra work on your part.) For the record, Curious Alice was by no means singled out for criticism– the NCCDE recommended only about 16% of the films they reviewed for widespread use.
posted by lodurr at 9:49 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]

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