August 4, 2019

ALICE, SWEET ALICE and the Great Deception
ALICE, SWEET ALICE (a.k.a. Communion) (1976)
Starring Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula E. Sheppard, Niles McMaster, Jane Lowery, Rudolph Willrich, Michael Harstark, Alphonso DeNoble, Brooke Shields, Louisa Horton, (“Miss”) Lillian Roth. Directed by Alfred Sole. (107 min)

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat😽

And now, another Great Moment in False Advertising…

Back in ‘81, a little film called Holy Terror was unleashed with a trailer touting none-other than Brooke Shields as a knife-wielding psycho who was “too old to play with boys and too young to play with men, so Alice began to play with death!” At the time, adolescent sex comedies like Endless Love and The Blue Lagoon (of course they're comedies) had made her a star. What teenage boy wouldn’t want to watch this soft-core siren add a little murder to the mix? So me and a few buddies packed into my car and headed to the drive-in, ready for a sexy slayfest.

Soon, however, I felt like one of those Looney Tunes characters whose head turns into a sucker. Ms. Shields was not the star or the killer. Hell, her name wasn’t even Alice. In fact, I didn’t immediately recognize her as the 10-year old-little girl who’s murdered in the first few minutes. Though the movie was still enjoyable, with several graphically-nasty death scenes that were part of every teenage diet, I felt duped.

The author attends the premiere of Holy Terror.
Back then, we kids didn’t read reviews or jump online to research a movie’s background. We naively trusted trailers to be on-the-level. So I had no idea that Holy Terror was first-released in 1976 as Communion, then later Alice, Sweet Alice (which it’s commonly known as today). Now older and wiser, I get it. If my grassroots opus was virtually ignored, then one of its actors blossomed into an object of juvenile lust, I’d have done the same thing. Nor would I have been the first one to engage in such questionable marketing tactics.

But unlike other horror films to later capitalize on an actor’s stardom (such as The Burning or He Knows You’re Alone), Alice, Sweet Alice is actually good enough without the ruse. Despite some questionable performances – including Shields’ - it’s stylishly filmed, well-plotted and atmospheric. More importantly, it has held up pretty well from an aesthetic stand-point. While the violence may not seem all that extreme today, it remains pretty potent and the killer's translucent mask is still really fucking creepy. 

A good samaritan tries to keep Endless Love from ever happening.
In the essay included in this disc’s supplementary booklet, writer-director Alfred Sole claims he wasn't inspired by Italian giallo films and that he’d never even seen one. Uh-huh. If that’s true, then the fact that Alice, Sweet Alice looks, sounds and smells just like classic giallo is one hell of a coincidence. The editing style, overall tone and even the murder sequences obviously reflect considerable inspiration from overseas. Like the most notable examples from the genre, particularly Dario Argento’s early work, Alice, Sweet Alice is not-so-much a horror movie as it is a horrific mystery. And that’s okay because Mr. Sole learned his lessons well. Not bad for a guy whose only other directing credit at the time was a porno.

Speaking of which, Sole’s backstory is as interesting as the film itself, both of which are explored in this Blu-ray’s generous selection of bonus features. For added nostalgia, also included is Holy Terror, the version I was tricked into seeing back in ‘81, as many horror fans of a certain age undoubtedly were. All-in-all, this release from Arrow Video is a nicely-packaged trip down memory lane.

HOLY TERROR Alternate cut of the film, with Shields getting top billing and a few editing changes.
"FIRST COMMUNION: ALFRED SOLE REMEMBERS ALICE, SWEET ALICE” - The director discusses the film and his career leading up to it. He’s refreshingly frank, especially when talking about what a dick his cinematographer was. Quite entertaining.
"ALICE ON MY MIND” - Interview with composer Stephen Lawrence.
"IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER” - Interview with actor Niles McMaster, who plays Karen & Alice’s estranged dad.
"SWEET MEMORIES: DANTE TOMASELLI ON ALICE, SWEET ALICE” - An interview with Sole’s nephew (a director himself), who was 6 years old at the time. His named seemed familiar, so when I looked him up on iMDB, I noticed he had directed a few obscurities I once reviewed for another website.
"LOST CHILDHOOD: THE LOCATIONS OF ALICE, SWEET ALICE” - Author Michael Gingold shows us what various locations look like today.
TRAILER & TV SPOTS Including the unbelievably misleading Holy Terror trailer (“Brooke Shields as you’ve never seen her before!”).
2 AUDIO COMMENTARIES – A new one by Richard Harland Smith and a vintage one by Alfred Sole and writer M. Edward Salier.
ALTERNATE OPENING TITLES – After being retitled Alice, Sweet Alice.
TWO-SIDED POSTER – One side features the new cover art, the other is an amusing fake ad for the “Alice, Sweet Alice Killer Kit.”
SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET – Includes stills, cast/crew credits, restoration/production credits and a retrospective essay by Michael Blyth.
REVERSIBLE COVER – Featuring new and original artwork (we’re partial to the new one).


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