06th Aug2019

‘Alice Sweet Alice’ Blu-ray Review (Arrow Video)

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula Sheppard, Niles McMaster, Jane Lowry, Rudolph Willrich, Michael Hardstark, Alphonso DeNoble, Gary Allen, Brooke Shields | Written by Alfred Sole, Rosemary Ritvo | Directed by Alfred Sole

alice-sweet-a-blu-cover

When ten-year-old Karen (Brooke Shields, in her first screen appearance) is killed in church on the occasion of her first communion, her seemingly innocent older sister Alice (Paula Sheppard) becomes the prime suspect. Matters become complicated as more of Alice s family members are attacked, along with residents of her apartment building. Can a twelve-year-old girl be capable of such mayhem, or is someone else with a vicious plan destroying her family?

1970s “killer kid” proto-slasherAlice Sweet Alice comes from from director Alfred Sole – who would later go on to spoof the genre a mere three years later with Pandemonium – and is one of those horror films that has become more notorious for its cast than it’s plot. In this case it for a very early performance from Brooke Shields as a precocious tween whose death kicks of a swathe of murders – all connected to the church in which she was due to take communion (hence the films alternate title(s) of Communion AND Holy Terror). It’s also one of the few pre-Halloween/Friday the 13th “slashers” I had never seen until it made it’s debut a few years ago on DVD here in the UK.

However now comes a bells-and-whistles Blu-ray release from Arrow Video which goes back to the drawing board in terms of print and extras, proving to be something of a major step-up from the UK Blu-ray put out as part of the Slasher Classics collection from 88 Films.

Like many proto-slashers that came before the straight to video craze of the 80s, Alice Sweet Alice is not merely a generic “killer-on-a-rampage” flick, instead it features a plot that Hitchcock and Argento would be proud of, leaving you guessing even to the very last frame as to just who is the killer – even after the “killer” is eventually revealed! Its also tied heavily to faith, religion and religious imagery, something that was prevalent in 70s horror cinema; and it’s these little additions which give the film a greater depth than others that would follow.

It’s hard to pinpoint it, but there’s just something so sleazy about 70s cinema – maybe it was the low-budget nature of a lot of the independent movies released in that era or maybe it was an all-pervasive sleaze that was emanating from the likes of 42nd Street and the rise of hardcore films in cinemas across the US, whatever it was it certainly works for Alice Sweet Alice. From the cat-loving, eyebrow-less fat man who lives downstairs; or the creepy detective who swears young Alice wanted him to cop (pardon the pun) a feel as he strapped her into the lie detector. Or even Alice herself, who walks the fine line between bratty teen and cat-strangling psycho, the film is literally packed with completely unlikeable characters… Yet thanks to it’s sleazy “morals” you can’t help but keep watching.

Like the UK Blu-ray, Arrow Video’s new disc presents the film in its uncut form. However it differs from the aforementioned disc in many other ways – firstly, this is a all-new transfer from the original negative rather than the 35mm print 88 Films used and… and this is the biggest difference, this release includes TWO cuts of the film: the original theatrical version, with the Communion title card; and a new longer re-release print (from 1981) under the title Holy Terror, of which only the trailer was present on 88 Films’ Blu-ray.

In terms of extras the Arrow disc also features the same audio commentary with director Alfred Sole and editor Edward Salier, moderated by Bill Lustig. But Arrow Video have also put together a myriad of extra special features, making this the definitive edition of the film (so far):

  • Audio Commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith (on the “Communion” version)
  • “First Communion” interview with director Alfred Sole
  • “Alice on My Mind” interview with composer Stephen Lawrence
  • “In the Name of the Father” interview with actor Niles McMaster
  • “Lost Childhood: The Locations of Alice, Sweet Alice” tour of the original shooting locations by author Michael Gingold
  • “Sweet Memories” interview with filmmaker Dante Tomaselli, cousin of Alfred Sole
  • Deleted Scene
  • Alternate “Alice, Sweet Alice” Opening Titles (whereas 88 FIlms used the Alice print and had the Communion titles as extras)
  • “Holy Terror” Re-release Theatrical Trailer
  • U.K. “Communion” TV Spot
  • Image Gallery

Sinister, sleazy and often disturbing, Alice Sweet Alice is out on Blu-ray now from Arrow Video US.

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