I had very high hopes for this production. Considering the budget, acting talent, and special effects technology involved, NBC’s 1996 mini-series Gulliver’s Travels amounted to the most promising mainstream depiction of size fantasy of the 90s.
In addition to being one of the very few productions to feature all four voyages, Gulliver’s Travels (1996) is the most ambitious of any cinematic adaptation in drawing Swift’s satirical intentions from the fantastical lands Gulliver visits back to his own society. I found the stream-of-consciousness interweaving of Gulliver trying to recount his voyages with his own family’s and colleagues’ struggles to re-integrate the possibly-deluded traveler to be very effective.
Despite the fact that it was on NBC, I had hoped that some of Swift’s more ribald scenes would be at least implied or hinted at, and the Lilliput sequence did preserve giant Gulliver urinating on the Lilliputian Empress. So when it came time for Gulliver to leave the giant farmer who found him and join the court of the Queen of Brobdingnag, I held my breath when I saw who walked through the inn door:
You’re not going to take him straight back to the Queen, are you, Karyn? It’s dark out, and I’m sure you can afford a room. You’ve read Chapter V, right?
Alas, that telltale tongue is the only hint at what the Maids of Honour might have gotten up to with tiny Gulliver. Fortunately, the Queen is every bit as magnificent as we could expect:
Have a long look at the Queen holding Gulliver here, as there hasn’t been a mainstream live-action F/m handheld in the twenty years (!) since. (I’d love to be mistaken about this, so please correct me if I am.)
Kate Maberly does a fine job portraying a tweenage girl enjoying having a living doll to (as Gulliver almost hurriedly narrates) dress and undress.
Let’s get back to the Queen’s court and imagine for ourselves what all those Ladies-In-Waiting are whispering and smirking about:
I imagine entertaining all those fine giantesses must be quite exhausting:
It was inevitable, I suppose, that Gulliver would disappoint the Queen. Behold, if you can, her terrible glare:
Desperate to regain the Queen’s favor, Gulliver supposes to rebut the charge of hailing from “the most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the Surface of the Earth” by demonstrating one of the discoveries of the Enlightenment: gunpowder. What could go wrong?
Cheer up, Glum; when you’re older, you can visit your lovely grildrig at his home in England, and you’ll be the toast of the town.
For size fetishists, Gulliver’s Travels (1996) was probably better than could have been expected. Still, one has to wonder what might have happened if HBO (and its “perv side of the audience”) had gotten hold of the production.
Originally posted: 12 Feb 2016