ALICE, SWEET ALICE and the Great Deception (Blu-ray Review)

Starring Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula E. Sheppard, Niles McMaster, Jane Lowery, Rudolph Willrich, Michael Harstark, Alphonso DeNoble, Brooke Shields, Louisa Horton, (“Miss”) Lillian Roth. Directed by Alfred Sole. (107 min)


And now, another Great Moment in False Advertising…

Back in ‘81, a little film called Holy Terrorwas unleashed with a trailer touting none-other than Brooke Shields as a knife-wielding young psycho who was “too old to play with boys and too young to play with men, so Alice began to play with death!”At the time, adolescent sex comedies like Endless Loveand The Blue Lagoon(of coursethey're comedies) had made her a star. What teenage boy wouldn’twant to watch this soft-core siren add a little murder to the mix? So me and a few buddies packed into my car and headed to the drive-in, ready for a sexy slayfest. 

Soon, however, I felt like one of those Looney Tunes characters whose head turns into a sucker. Ms. Shields was not the star orthe killer. Hell, her name wasn’t even Alice. In fact, I didn’t immediately recognize her as the 10-year old-little girl who’s murdered in the first few minutes. Though the movie was still enjoyable, with several graphically-nasty death scenes that were part of every teenage diet, I felt duped.

Back then, we kids didn’t read reviews or jump online to research a movie’s background. We naively trusted trailers to be on-the-level. So I had no idea that Holy Terrorwas first-released in 1976 as Communion, then later Alice, Sweet Alice(which it’s commonly known as today). Now older and wiser, I get it. If mygrassroots opus was virtually ignored, then one of its actors blossomed into an object of juvenile lust, I’d have done the same thing. Nor would I have been the first one to engage in such questionable marketing tactics.


But unlike other horror films to later capitalize on an actor’s stardom (such as The BurningorHe Knows You’re Alone), Alice, Sweet Aliceis actually good enough without the ruse. Despite some questionable performances – including Shields’ - it’s stylishly filmed, well-plotted and atmospheric. More importantly, it has held up pretty well from an aesthetic stand-point. While the violence may not seem all that extreme today, it remains pretty potent and the killer's translucent mask is still really fucking creepy. 

In the essay included in this disc’s supplementary booklet, writer-director Alfred Sole claims he wasn'tinspired by Italian giallo films and that he’d never even seen one. Uh-huh. If that’s true, then the fact that Alice, Sweet Alicelooks, sounds and smells just like classic giallo is one hell of a coincidence. The editing style, overall tone and even the murder sequences obviously reflect considerable inspiration from overseas. Like the most notable examples from the genre, particularly Dario Argento’s early work, Alice, Sweet Aliceis not-so-much a horror movie as it is a horrific mystery. And that’s okay because Mr. Sole learned his lessons well. Not bad for a guy whose only other directing credit at the time was a porno.

Speaking of which, Sole’s backstory is as interesting as the film itself, both of which are explored in this Blu-ray’s generous selection of bonus features. For added nostalgia, also included is Holy Terror, the version I was tricked into seeing back in ‘81, as many horror fans of a certain age undoubtedly were.

All-in-all, this release from Arrow Videois a nicely-packaged trip down memory lane.

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