For Alice Spages (Paula Sheppard), being the the older sister is awful. She can’t do anything right and her single mother Catherine (Linda Miller), pays little attention to her. Instead, Catherine showers her younger sister Karen (Brooke Shields, Wanda Nevada), with praise and attention. Alice, a decidedly odd girl, stalks the neighborhood in a strange mask and plays cruel jokes on family. In contrast, Karen is compliant, strikingly beautiful and the apple of her mother’s eye.
As the film begins, Alice and her mother are excitedly preparing for the young girls first communion. The local Catholic church is obviously a big part of their lives. When Alice is murdered on the day of the big event, suspicion quickly turns toward Alice. Her Aunt Annie (Jane Lowry) even tells police that Alice stabbed her. Could the answer be that simple? Alice’s devastated mother and her estranged father Dom (Niles McMaster) who has returned for the funeral, are the only ones who don’t seem to suspect her. While the police focus on Alice, Dom conducts his own investigation with the help of his former brother-in-law Father Tom (Rudolph Willrich) and zeroes in on another prime suspect. When another murder occurs while Alice is under psychiatric evaluation, she is released, but returns to her strange ways even as a killer continues to stalk her family.
Alfred Sole does an excellent job of increasing the tension, even after viewers have assumed the obvious. Viewers might even find themselves questioning what they did or didn’t see. On its face, everything in the story points to Alice as the killer, but their final identity is a real shock. So, to are many of the death scenes. Several characters you would expect to be the hero, end up meeting the sharp end of a butcher knife. It’s to Alfred Sole’s credit that all his killing scenes look and feel realistic; no suspension of belief required.
If Alice, Sweet Alice has a significant weakness, it’s the script. Some details just don’t make sense. Written by Sole with Rosemary Ritvo is heavy on caricature. Annie hates her sister because she was pregnant out of wedlock. While there’s the connection to religion, blaming it on the child seems farfetched. The overweight, grotesque landlord (Alphonso DeNoble) is almost too much to take seriously, but neither of these complaints is enough to derail what is really a fine slasher.
A sleeper at the time of its initial release, Alice, Sweet Alice has since become a cult classic–due in part to the presence of a then-unknown Brooke Shields and the film’s years in the public domain after Allied Artists changed the title to Communion without copyrighting it. After several home video releases of varying quality, Arrow Video has finally provided U.S. viewers with the high definition release this cult classic deserves.
Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Arrow’s 1080p transfer was sourced from a new 2K of the original negative elements. Everything about this transfer pops, when compared to others. The fall colors that dominant the films palette is rich and full, while the large quantities of red blood really pop. Grain textures are appealing, while the image clarify is superb.
The LPCM 1.0 mono track is surprisingly dynamic, offering a solid sense of atmosphere. Stabbing, running, screaming, are given a nice sense of dimension. Stephen Lawrence’s appropriately foreboding score is given the prominence it deserves. Dialogue is clean, clear and concise throughout.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary with Director/Co-writer Alfred Sole and Edward Sailer: Moderated by Blue Underground’s Bill Lustig, who worked on the film’s makeup and effects.
- Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith: Newly recorded for this release.
- First Communion: Alfred Sole Remembers Alice, Sweet Alice (HD, 18:42) In this new interview, director Alfred Sole focuses on the origins of the film.
- In the Name of the Father (HD, 16:02) A brand new interview with actor Niles McMaster about how he ended up working on the film.
- Sweet Memories: Dante Tomaselli on Alice, Sweet Alice (11:18) Filmmaker Dante Tomaselli, cousin of Alfred Sole discusses his longtime connection to the film.
- Lost Childhood: The Locations of Alice, Sweet Alice (HD, 16:02) A tour with guide Michael Gingold.
- Holy Terror (HD, 147:13) An alternate version of the film released in 1981.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 2:45) Two brief scenes.
- Alternate Opening Titles (HD, 1:13)
- Image Gallery (HD, 6:40)
- UK TV Spot (HD, 0:016)
- Original Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:44)
- Original Screenplay via BD-ROM content
Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)
Movie title: Alice, Sweet Alice
Director(s): Alfred Sole
Actor(s): Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula E. Sheppard, Niles McMaster , Jane Lowry , Rudolph Willrich
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller