Child’s Play – Rediscovering ‘Alice, Sweet Alice’ (US – 1976 – 108 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - October 21, 2013
Child’s Play – Rediscovering ‘Alice, Sweet Alice’  (US – 1976 – 108 mins)

The brilliant 1976 shocker ‘Alice, Sweet Alice’ is not nearly as well known as it should be. Released on home video under various titles such as ‘Holy Terror’ and ‘Communion’, this Anti-Catholic horror movie was known primarily as the debut movie of Brooke Shields, and due to poor distribution, did badly at the box office.

It’s New Jersey in 1963. Just before taking her first communion, young Karen Spages is strangled in church by a masked figure in a yellow raincoat. Her jealous, older sister is the logical suspect. But her parents, along with the local priest try and find out who is really responsible.

Expertly directed by 23 year old ‘Hitchcock’ enthusiast Alfred Sole, Sole brought his own creative style to the screen. From the impressive opening credits, to the unsettling final frame, there are definite nods to both ‘Psycho’ and ‘Don’t Look Now’ (use of yellow raincoats) scattered here and there. The movie is also filled with wonderfully realised characters, such as suspicious cleaners, creepy neighbours, and overbearing relatives.

Tense throughout and with some ingenious moments, there are two superbly staged stairway attacks. One such attack has the killer struggling with a victim who then causes the knife to be dropped, only for it to land directly on the handrail below, and the immediate scene that follows which has the victim fall to their death, almost in POV.

Linda Miller (wife of ‘The Exorcist’ star Jason), acts with great emotion as Karen’s grieving mother. Paula Sheppard was also remarkable as Karen’s troubled 12 year old sister Alice. Actually 19 years old at the time of filming, it’s a shame that Sheppard never went on to greater things.

The supporting cast is also great, with Mildred Clinton as Mrs Tredoni the prying cleaner, particularly good. Tragic 1940’s actress/singer Lillian Roth also appears briefly as a pathologist and the morbidly obese Alphonso DeNoble memorable as the creepy neighbour.

The manic ending, along with its haunting use of freeze-frame, suggested a sequel. I’m glad it never happened, as this movie really does stand on it’s own as one of the best shockers of the late 70’s cinema.

Oh, and there’s a LOT of rain which only adds a sense of eeriness to the whole proceedings.

Thankfully ‘Alice ,Sweet Alice’ has had a resurgence over the years, with various re-titled VHS releases back during the home video invasion, and again a few years ago, with a great Region 1 DVD. This is another of those highly entertaining films from the late 70’s which deserves its cult status, along with a much wider audience.

As the Ads warned us to remember…..”If You Survive This Night… Nothing Will Scare You Again”

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