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Default Alice Sweet Alice




Reviewer: Styx
Review Date: May 17, 2000

Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: 8/24/1999
MSRP: $24.98 (OOP)
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: No



Alfred Sole's horror mystery has gone by many names including Holy Terror, Communion and Alice Sweet Alice. The film has a surprising Italian giallo feel to it and definitely has production value you don't find in most low budget films. This DVD version released by Anchor Bay is a direct port of the laserdisc released by Roan Group in 1997. Let's take a look at Alice Sweet Alice.

The Story

inline Image Young Karen Spages (Brooke Shields) is about to receive her first communion when someone wearing a mask and a yellow raincoat murders her in church. Karen, who had a jealous sister Alice (Paula E. Sheppard), resented the attention her mother Catherine (Linda Miller), and the local priest Father Tom (Rudolph Willrich) lavished on her. As a result Alice constantly bothered Karen and played terrible tricks on her much to the frustration of her mother. So after the funeral for Karen a lot of suspicion is placed on Alice for the possible death of her sister and the fact that Karen's communion veil is found on Alice doesn't exactly help clear her name. Nonetheless Alice insists she didn't do it and her loving mother believes her.

inline Image Two detectives, detective Spina (Michael Hardstark) and Brennan (Tom Signorelli) begin an investigation into Karen's murder, but immediately suspect Alice of the crime since the suspects are sparse at best. Alice's father Dom (Niles McMaster) arrives in town for the funeral of his daughter and to help his ex-wife through a difficult period. Eventually Alice's Aunt Annie (Jane Lowry) is attacked by the raincoat killer, but she survives and tells the detectives it was Alice even though the killer's visage was hidden behind a mask. Alice is put in a child shelter under psychological care. Meanwhile Dom is determined to help his daughter, whom he believes is being wrongly accused and with the help of Father Tom searches for clues as to who the true killer may be. But did Alice indeed kill her sister? Or is she just terribly misunderstood?

inline Image Alice Sweet Alice is good fun and definitely better than the average slasher fare, although this really isn't a typical slasher. There are a lot of aspects about Alice Sweet Alice that remind me of Italian giallos, chief of all is the mystery of who the killer is. Alice Sweet Alice accomplishes that very nicely and had me wondering if Alice really was the killer and that alone kept my interest for the majority of the film. In the audio commentary Alfred Sole discusses his inspirations, which consisted of Alfred Hitchcock and memories of seeing Clouzot's Diabolique in theaters. Great inspirations that undoubtedly played a big role in the way Sole's film turned out. The killings in the film are also pretty good and are most welcome. Some of them are a bit realistic and unsettling too especially the last one.

inline Image Alice Sweet Alice's score is another plus and adds an errie and cerebral feel to the film while building some great suspense. The scene where Dom is searching for Alice in the basement after the Aunt Annie attack is a good example of how the score adds to the suspense. The characters in the film are also realistic and portrayed very nicely by the actors. Alfred Sole explains in the commentary that he got many of his actors from the stage which attributes to the better than average acting in the film. Like I've said before the characters are well written and believable, haven't we've all had someone in our family like Aunt Annie? You know the grumpy Aunt (or other family member) who does nothing but complain and don't we feel sympathetic to Alice when she says her Aunt makes her nervous and she can't do anything right around her? These aspects really make this film more realistic and raise it above other low budget horror films. I strongly recommend Alice Sweet Alice as a better than average genre film.

Image Quality

inline Image Anchor Bay Entertainment presents Alice Sweet Alice widescreen at 1.85:1 in a non-anamorphic transfer. This DVD release came after Anchor Bay's first entries in their Argento Collection but before they started doing 16x9 transfers. So what we have here is a pretty good transfer lacking the 16x9 enhancement we've come to expect from them as of late. The transfer is nicely detailed with a very sharp appearance, but there were some shots that had a slight softer appearance. The transfer is relatively clear with only a few shots exhibiting some moderate grain, but the majority of the film is very clean. The print used for this transfer was in very good shape, but not perfect some occasional specks and blips show up from time to time, but nothing I'd classify as distracting.

The colors, while pretty good for their age, look slightly pale in some scenes and flesh tones looked unnaturally yellowish at times. Overall not bad and I'm sure this film has looked a lot worse in previous home video versions.

Sound

Alice Sweet Alice is presented in Dolby Digital mono and though a 5.1 remix is always welcome the sound on the DVD is pretty good. The score sounded limited, but the sound effects and dialogue were clear without any distortion.

Supplemental Material

inline Image When Anchor Bay released the DVD version of Alice Sweet Alice they ported over the supplements contained on the LD including the Alfred Sole William Lustig commentary, the original title sequence and a still gallery. The alternate opening credits contain the films original credit sequence, which uses the films original title Communion. The still gallery on the disc is basically a collection of stills of production photographs and press articles.

inline Image The disc also contains an audio dommentary with Director Alfred Sole, Editor Edward Salier and William Lustig. Alfred Sole begins by talking about the films original title and how he hates the current title Alice Sweet Alice; he also explains why the studio changed it. The three also talk about Brooke Shields and how she became involved in the film and what she was like at that age. Alfred Sole also discusses the films and directors that influenced him including Alfred Hitchcock and the film Diabolique directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. Alfred Sole also reveals the fact that actress Paula Sheppard who played Alice was actually 19 years old at the time! It's clear William Lustig has a lot of respect for Alfred Sole and he praises the film a lot and also puts it down in some spots, but the two have a good time discussing the film in general. This commentary was pretty good and had hardly any gaps at all which will please Alice Sweet Alice fans.

Final Thoughts

Alice Sweet Alice may surprise you if you go in expecting a slasher. The film turns out to an extremely well photographed and stylistic film. This DVD presents this film in a quality that has probably been untapped until now and although I haven't seen the LD version I'm sure this DVD is its equal. Definitely give this film a rental if possible you may be pleasantly surprised and want to add it to your DVD collection.

Rating

Image Quality - B-
Sound - B
Supplements - B

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • 25 Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital Mono

Supplements
  • Audio Commentary with Director Alfred Sole, Editor Edward Salier and William Lustig
  • Original Opening Title Sequence
  • Still Gallery

Other Pictures

 

 

Extras
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