Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

‘If you survive this night… nothing will ever scare you again.’

Communion is a 1976 American slasher film directed by Alfred Sole (Tanya’s IslandPandemonium) from a screenplay co-written with Rosemary Ritvo. It stars Linda Miller, Paula Sheppard, Brooke Shields and Mildred Clinton.

For the film’s special effects, which included multiple murder sequences by bludgeoning and stabbing, Sole hired friend William Lustig, who would later direct Maniac (1980) and Maniac Cop.

The film was released theatrically under different titles: first as Communion in November 1976; as The Mask Murders in 1977; as Alice, Sweet Alice in 1978; and as Holy Terror in 1981.

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88 Films DVD: All Region Codes, Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1 Transfer, Original Mono soundtrack, Audio Commentary by Director Alfred Sole and Film Editor Edward Salier, Alternative Communion Title Sequence, Stills Gallery, Trailer, Booklet Notes, Reversible Sleeve incorporating original art.

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A remake is apparently being developed, directed by Dante Tomaselli and co-scripted by Fangoria magazine managing editor Michael Gingold.

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Plot:

Paterson, New Jersey: the early 1960s. Catherine Spages (Linda Miller) is visiting Father Tom (Rudolph Willrich) with her two daughters, who both attend St. Michael’s Parish Girls’ School: nine-year-old Karen (Brooke Shields) and twelve-year-old Alice (Paula Sheppard).

Karen is preparing for her First Communion and Father Tom gives her his mother’s crucifix as a gift. A jealous Alice puts on a creepy, translucent grinning mask, frightening Mrs. Tredoni (Mildred Clinton), Father Tom’s housekeeper.

Later, Alice steals Karen’s porcelain doll and lures her into an abandoned building with it. She jumps out and scares Karen with the grinning mask and locks her in a room. When she lets her out she tells her that if anyone finds out, she’ll never see the doll again.

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On the day of the First Communion, Karen is attacked and strangled to death, by a person in a translucent mask and yellow. Her body is dragged away by her right arm and dumped into a bench compartment, which is set on fire with a candle, but not before ripping the crucifix from her neck. Smoke begins to fill the church.

Meanwhile, Alice enters the church, carrying her shiny yellow raincoat. She kneels in Karen’s place to receive communion when a scream is heard. A curious nun had entered the back room where the confessionals are located, and found Karen’s body. People run in, horrified…

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Reviews:

… doesn’t shy away from depicting tremendous violence towards a child (one of the major taboos). Karen’s murder is a tremendously upsetting scene made all the more disturbing by the religious imagery. Her crucifix is ripped from her neck in her final moments and her dead body is stuffed into a pew and then lit on fire. As horrifyingly brutal as the action is, it’s shot beautifully.’ Miss Sardonicus

“Crammed with surprises and offbeat touches, this can be a disorientating experience on first viewing but yields countless rewards along the way. Even minor characters are memorably sketched, particularly Alice’s ridiculously obese neighbour, Mr. Alphonso…” Nathaniel Thompson, DVD Delirium Volume 1

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” …a very loud, crude slash-and-stab horror thriller. Gross and unpleasant.” Donald C. Wills, Horror and Science Fiction Films II

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“Like Schizo, Alice, Sweet, Alice distinguishes itself mostly in the sheer breadth and graphic nature of its bloody violence. There are some sudden and surprise attacks, as well as the obligatory “revelations” sequence at the end but today the film looks hackneyed despite the moments of horror…” John Kenneth Muir, Horror Films of the 1970s

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“Director Alfred Soles’ use of middle-class New Jersey locations recalls the better work of George Romero, and he fills the screen with realistic grotesques […] Despite a modest budget it has aged better than many more expensive productions of the same era. The ending’s terrific.” Mike Mayo, The Horror Show Guide

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” … I was satisfied with it’s twist ending and some over the top Joan Crawford level acting from Alice’s aunt Annie. It’s a bit deeper than your usual slasher fare with the addition of strange sexual undertones between Alice and the overweight eyebrow challenged neighbor Mr. Alphonso, Alice’s disturbing shrine to her sister, and the housekeepers obsession with Father Tom.” I Love Hot Dogs

“With superbly insolent skill, Sole plays the Hitchcock game to the hilt as the diminutive figure of the killer in a hooded yellow oilskin and flesh-pink mask pursues its path of vengeance, while red herrings multiply…” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

During the changes in distributors and due to a myriad of legal problems, the film was not properly registered with the United States Copyright Office in 1975 during its production. As a result, the film became widely bootlegged in the following years.

In the US, it was released officially by Anchor Bay Entertainment on VHS in 1997, and on laserdisc by the Roan Group, in a remastered and uncut print supervised by director Alfred Sole. It was later released on DVD in 1999 by Anchor Bay Entertainment; after this edition of the film became out of print, it was re-released on DVD by Hen’s Tooth Video in 2007.

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Cast and characters:

  • Linda Miller as Catherine Spages
  • Mildred Clinton as Mrs. Tredoni
  • Paula E. Sheppard as Alice Spages (credited as Paula Sheppard)
  • Niles McMaster as Dominick ‘Dom’ Spages
  • Jane Lowry as Aunt Annie DeLorenze
  • Rudolph Willrich as Father Tom
  • Michael Hardstark as Detective Spina
  • Alphonso DeNoble as Alphonso
  • Gary Allen as Jim DeLorenze
  • Brooke Shields as Karen Spages
  • Louisa Horton as Dr. Whitman
  • Tom Signorelli as Detective Brennan
  • Antonino Rocca as Funeral Director
  • Lillian Roth as Pathologist (as Miss Lillian Roth)
  • Kathy Rich as Angela DeLorenze
  • Patrick Gorman as Father Pat

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The Dutch VHS sleeve above uses artwork from Raging Fury (1986).

Image courtesy of VHS Wasteland

Image courtesy of Video Wasteland

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Wikipedia | IMDb | slasher | We are grateful to Cult Forever for the VHS sleeve that re-uses artwork from Raging Fury (1986), Westgate Gallery for the Italian locandina poster image and Temple of Schlock for the ad mats.

 

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Categories: 1970s, giallo, slasher

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