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Alice, Sweet Alice back to product details

An Unfairly Neglected Cult Classic
12345678910
written by EPetersen June 8, 2004 - 8:30 AM PDT
6 out of 6 members found this review helpful
This unfairly neglected cult classic made its DVD debut in 1999, then quickly went out of print. The DVD release was a revelation compared to the VHS releases - slow speed, garbage quality tapes that sold for $5 at K-Mart.

Alice, Sweet Alice was originally titled Communion, but due to unwarranted complaints of Catholic bashing, it was changed to Holy Terror. In 1979, after co-star Brooke Shields became world famous for her starring role in Louis Malle's controversial 1978 masterpiece Pretty Baby, this movie was re-released, retitled again as Alice, Sweet Alice and Brooke was given top billing.

No matter what the title, this film is still one of the true cult classics, combining Hitchcockian suspense with grotesque characters a la Roman Polanski. The low budget and bleak color cinematography actually enhance this grim story of murder, insanity, jealousy, grief, guilt, and Catholic zealotry in a New Jersey family, circa 1962.

Alice (superbly played by petit Paula Sheppard, who was actually 19 at the time) is a mentally disturbed 12-year-old girl from a dysfunctional family. Alice's parents are divorced, and her aunt hates her because she was conceived out of wedlock. Her 10-year-old sister Karen (Brooke Shields in her film debut) is clearly her mother's favorite daughter.

Karen gets all the attention, Alice gets the short end of the stick. So naturally, she hates her sister and takes great pleasure in tormenting her with cruel practical jokes. This results in constant scolding from her shrewish mother and aunt. On top of that, the family's landlord (cult favorite Alphonso DeNoble) is a cat-loving, monstrously obese pedophile who is attracted to Alice.

On the day of Karen's first communion, the little girl is brutally murdered in the Church by a small female assailant wearing a yellow raincoat and falseface mask similar to Alice's. Alice immediately becomes the prime suspect. When Alice's aunt is knifed by the same assailant, she survives and swears that Alice tried to kill her. Her mother refuses to believe it. Alice claims that Karen has come back from the dead.

With the police determined to put Alice away, her father, wracked with guilt over his abandonment of his wife and children, desperately tries to prove her innocence. Alice is an obviously disturbed young girl with a psychopathic personality - but is she capable of murder?

Unlike most horror films of this type, Alice, Sweet Alice reveals the killer's true identity halfway through the movie. The viewer is kept in suspense, emotionally drained in anticipation of the outcome. And what a chilling final scene!

This DVD features the full uncut version (10 minutes were cut from the 1979 re-release) in a great, restored 1:85:1 widescreen transfer with the original mono soundtrack. It's short on extras, but in this case, quality is better than quantity. We get the original "Communion" plus the "Holy Terror" title sequence. Best of all, we get a fantastic commentary by director Alfred Sole that's packed with details about the making and distribution of the movie.

I hope that Greecine can snag another copy of this cult classic someday. See it - if you can!

- Eric Petersen

12345678910

(Average 6.74)
47 Votes
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This title is currently unavailable on disc or is no longer in-print.

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