• Alice, Sweet Alice

    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: July 9th, 2018.
    Director: Alfred Sole
    Cast: Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula Sheppard, Niles McMaster, Tom Signorelli, Brooke Shields
    Year: 1976
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    The Movie:

    Alfred Sole’s 1976 picture begins when a ten-year-old girl named Karen Spages (Brooke Shields) is murdered in a church on the day of her first communion. Her older sister Alice (Paula Sheppard) exhibits some strange behavior, skulking about the apartment building where the family lives sporting a strange, semi-translucent mask – naturally, people start to wonder if maybe she didn’t have something to do with Karen’s death. In fact, most of the other people in the building seem to think she’s more than just a little strange. Her mother and father - Catherine (Linda Miller) and Dom (Niles McMaster) – who are no longer together, don’t seem suspicious of Alice at all, however.

    When Alice’s aunt Annie (Jane Lowry) accuses the girl of attacking her with a knife, the police become involved but Dom and his former brother-in-law, a kindly priest named Father Tom (Rudolph Willrich), decide to do some investigating of their own, wondering if Annie’s equally troubled daughter Angela (Kathy Rich) might not have had something to do with all of this. Soon enough, Alice is sent to a psychiatric hospital… but while she’s interned there, another murder occurs. This leads to Alice’s release, but it seems someone has it in for the Spages family…

    More of a psychological thriller than a traditional slasher picture, the film (originally to be named Communion and also known as Holy Terror) is a bit of a slow burn but an effective one. Occasionally a bit on the melodramatic side, the film tells an interesting story with some unexpected twists and turns keeping audiences engaged from start to finish. Shot on location in and around Paterson, New Jersey the picture does an interesting job of working Catholic imagery and iconography into the production to nice effect – particularly in the last scene. The film is well-shot and makes good use of some solid location work, the apartment building in particular has a strange vibe to it that really suits the story quite nicely. The film also does a good job of building up the family dynamic that exists between the different characters. This is where the melodrama inherent in the story comes into play, but it suits the characters well enough and never feels too overdone.

    Performance-wise, Brooke Shields is the biggest name in the film (something various releases of the movie have done their best to capitalize on) but her part is really pretty minor and she’s not in the film for more than a few minutes. Paula Sheppard, who would show up in Liquid Sky a few years later, is very good in her role. She plays Alice well, bringing a mischievous sense of playfulness to the part when called for but also able to convey both sadness and confusion believably. Linda Miller (who went on to do Night Of The Juggler) and Niles McMaster (who had a part in Bloodsucking Freaks!) are pretty strong in their respective parts, while Jane Lowry chews a bit of the scenery as Alice’s hysterical aunt.

    It's worth noting that the print used for this release uses the Holy Terror title card and as such, the opening and closing titles are a bit different than they were on the US DVD. Still, the film would appear to be completely uncut, running just under one hundred and seven minutes in length.


    So Alice, Sweet Alice arrives on Blu-ray from 88 Films framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in a transfer touted as a ‘New (2018) 2K Scan and Restoration from Positive Elements’ which means that the negative was not available. The elements have undergone a restoration, however, and while this is far from a flawless transfer, the results are pretty decent. There’s still some print damage and color fluctuations now and then and detail is never reference quality but this is a big step up from what DVD has provided us in the past. The image is stable and film-like, showing no issues with obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement. It’s fairly grainy but for most, that shouldn’t be an issue. Contrast is a bit hot in some scenes, causing whites to bloom a bit, but skin tones look nice and natural and black levels, if not reference quality, are more than good.

    For those interested, check out the restoration demo video – it does a good job of putting into perspective what 88 Films had to work with on this project:

    Audio is handled by a “Restored LPCM Original Mono Audio” in the film’s native English. Optional English subtitles are also provided. The quality is on par with the video presentation – imperfect but fine. Some minor hiss is there and occasionally there are lines of dialogue that sound a bit muffled (around the three-minute mark, one line is pretty unintelligible), but overall it’s clear enough not to be of major concern.

    The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary by Director Alfred Sole and Editor Edward Salier that has appeared on earlier DVD editions of the movie. Moderated by Bill Lustig, it’s an interesting, well-paced track that has Sole talking about how and why this movie came to exist, the locations, the cast and more. Salier talks about putting the film together and working with Sole on it. Some good stories here about shooting in the New Jersey of the 1970’s, working on the film with only a modest budget, the costumes used in the film, and quite a bit more.

    Additionally, the disc includes the film’s original theatrical trailer (which does an amazing job of overselling Shields’ involvement and that uses the Holy Terror title), a TV spot for the film under the Communion title, the restoration demo posted above, a pretty large gallery of poster and home video release artwork, menus and chapter selection. Additionally, the Blu-ray, which comes in a red case like the other titles in 88 Films’ Slasher Classics line, features some cool reversible sleeve art. It would have been nice to have the alternate credits sequence for the Alice, Sweet Alice or Communion versions included here but that didn’t happen.

    The Final Word:

    Alice, Sweet Alice is an interesting and effective thriller with some decent performances, solid twists and an unusual but intriguing vibe to it. 88 Films’ Blu-ray is taken from elements that are less than perfect but as of right now, this is by far the best edition of the film available.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!