Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 12th, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1976
Director: Alfred Sole
Writers: Rosemary Ritvo, Alfred Sole
Cast: Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula E. Sheppard, Niles McMaster, Jane Lowry, Rudolph Willrich, Michael Hardstark, Alphonso DeNoble, Gary Allen, Brooke Shields
DVD released: February 17th, 2014
Approximate running time: 102 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: 88 Films
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £10.85
Synopsis: On the day of her sisters’ communion, a disturbed twelve year old girl’s life is turned upside down when she is accused of killing her sister. Things take a turn for the worse when other family members start turning up dead. Is it possible that a twelve year old girl is a homicidal manic or is there something even more sinister behind these gruesome murders?
Alice Sweet Alice began its life under the tile Communion and Columbia Pictures picked it up for a wide release. Unfortunately somewhere along the way one of the film’s producers decided to ask for more money and Columbia Pictures then walked away from the project. From there the film would get re-titled Alice Sweet Alice via a subsequent theatrical and home video release from Allied Artists. The renaming would not end there and five years later in 1981 the film would be released under the title Holy Terror.
The whole gist of this film’s narrative relies on one key event a ten year old girl’s communion. And from there it is a devious game of misdirection as the bodies start piling up. Not only does this film owe a great debt to the Alfred Hitchcock’s thrillers, it also borrows a few things from Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. And one could easily put a case forth hat this film is a precursor to the Slasher film genre that Halloween is often cited as being ground zero too.
From a visual stand point this film looks almost too good for its own good. Considering that the director literally shot everything in one take. But then some of the credit for why the visuals leap off the scene as well they do should be given to the film’s editor who took the aforementioned limited amount of footage and help create a truly menacing film that is relentless from beginning to the unforgettable ending. Another area that this film often excels is its solid score that does a pitch perfect job of setting tone throughout the film.
Time and again the thing in horror films that most leaves me cold are the performances of the cast or the lack of performance. Thankfully in regards to Alice Sweet Alice this is not the cast as everyone delivers in the film. And without a doubt the most impressive of these performances comes from Paula Sheppard in the role of Alice, the twelve year old girl being accused of all the bad things that are happening. Unfortunately her career would be short as she would drift away into obscurity after one more film and what is even more jaw dropping about her portrayal of Alice, is the fact that she was nineteen when she made this film. Another performance of note is Brook Shields in her first screen appearance in the role of Alice’s younger sister Karen. Overall Alice Sweet Alice is a criminally underrated thriller that has neglected for far too long.
88 Films presents Alice Sweet Alice in an anamorphic widescreen that retains the film’s intended aspect ratio. Now here is a film that over the years has not been treated that well on home video. The laserdisc release for this film reportedly served as the source for the two North American DVD releases, Anchor Bay and Hen’s Tooth. The fact that this release is anamorphic is a positive that trumps all previous releases. The source used for this release is most likely the director’s own personal print since it appears that all other known materials are being held hostage by one of the major studios in Hollywood.
Trying to gauge the quality of this film is kind of tough when one factors in the limitations of the source materials that are available. With that being said the source used for this transfer ins in very good shape in regards to lack of print damage. Though colors and flesh tones for the most part look accurate, there are few instances were colors look muted. Black levels are best described as adequate and details on darker moments is often lacking. Also though details look crisp, there most definitely has been edge enhancement that varies in degree, applied to this transfer.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. Dialog is clear enough to follow and everything sounds balanced. And though there are no major issues in regards to distortion or background noise, it should be pointed out that range wise things are very limited on audio mix.
Extras for this release include reversible cover art, a booklet with liner notes written by Calum Waddell, alternate trailer for the film under the title ‘Holy Terror’ (1 minute 41 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), stills gallery, alternate title sequence for the film under the title ‘Communion’ (1 minute 1 second – anamorphic widescreen) and an audio commentary with co-writer / director Alfred Sole, editor Edward Salier and moderator William Lustig. This is a fantastic audio commentary that is always lively and it is filled a with wealth information about every area of this film production. Also included with this release are trailers for other film’s also available from 88 Films.
It is such a shame that Alice Sweet Alice has yet to get a definitive release that is worthy of this superb film. And though this latest incarnation of Alice sweet Alice is not much ‘better’ then what has come before, the unfortunate fact is that this might be the best that this film will ever look on home video.