Paterson, New Jersey, 1961: Catherine Spages (Linda Miller) is mother to two children; the hell-raisin’, mask wearin’, black sheep Alice (Paula E. Sheppard) and the favored child, the pampered Karen (a young Brooke Shields) who both attend St. Michael’s Parish Girls’ School. Naturally Alice spends her days fucking with the innocent Karen (usually adorned in a mask and a yellow raincoat) six ways to Sunday.
On the day of her first communion, Karen is strangled, dumped in a bench, and lit on fire by someone decked out in the coat and mask favored by Alice…but is she the culprit? It sure appears so, especially after her mega-bitch aunt, Anne (Jane Lowry), is attacked by our familiar foe…though Alice attests that it is her dead sister causing the mayhem!
As the body count rises, will Alice be revealed to be not guilty or will the truth be even more sinister?
Filled with a surreal vibe, plenty of religious iconography, a sense of unease and suspense; Alice, Sweet Alice is a fright flick masterpiece. While Co-Writer (along with Rosemary Ritvo)/Director Alfred Sole borrowed here and there from Hitchcock and Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, the closest thing I could compare it to would be a giallo flick from down Italy way, but it has it’s own American sensibilities at play as well.
Of note are the allegories present between consuming blood during communion and shedding it through violence or menstruation which become near poetic (not to mention other touches such as Alice’s, who was denied a first communion due to her parents divorce, makeshift altar comprised of creepy dolls and other ch0tskies)…and not things one would expect in a proto-slasher pic, that’s for sure, as well as the keen artistic sensibilities Sole (who was an architect and porn auteur at the time) brought to the fore…in short Alice is it’s own wonderful, demented beast!
Add to that fantastic performances from an unconventional cast (star Sheppard has an insanely unique presence, as does Alphonso DeNoble as local landlord cum pedophile, and cat fancier, Alphonso), and a moving score courtesy of composer Stephen Lawrence and you have the makings of a legend, which this flick truly is, even if it’s a slightly obscure one for those not b.d. in our beloved horror biz.
As per norm, Arrow Video have packed this Blu-ray release with a shit-ton of bonus material! First up comes interviews with Sole, Lawrence, and actor Niles McMaster. Following that we take a modern-day tour of the film’s locations courtesy of author Michael Gingold, a conversation with Sole’s cousin filmmaker Dante Tomaselli (an incredible Director and musician in his own right), two deleted scenes (unfortunately the audio was lost for these), an alternate opening title sequence, the film’s re-release trailer, a UK TV spot, image gallery, and an alternate cut of the film (under it’s Holy Terror title).
After all of that, there are two audio commentaries present as well, including an archival conversation with Sole (along with editor Edward Salier as well as make-up assistant/fright flick director/Blue Underground head-honcho Bill Lustig), as well as a brand new track from author Richard Harland Smith. The former is a breezy anecdote packed listen, while the later is a detailed analysis of the film’s production…and both are well worth a listen!
Bizarre, rich with symbolism and artistic flourishes, and completely engrossing; Alice, Sweet Alice is one hell of a fright flick, and one every lover of giallo aesthetics and stalk n’ slay pics owes it to themselves to include in their creepy collections!