By JAMES BURRELL
One of the most underrated horror gems of the 1970s, Alfred Sole’s 1976 slasher classic ALICE, SWEET ALICE is a masterful exercise in terror and suspense. The film tells of 9-year-old Karen Spages (Brooke Shields, in her first film role) who is doted on by her mother, Catherine (Linda Miller) and the local priest, Father Tom (Rudolph Willrich), but is strangled and set aflame in church on the day of her First Communion.
The main suspect is Karen’s neglected, emotionally troubled 12-year-old sister, Alice (Paula Sheppard), who is found in the aftermath of the murder with her younger sister’s veil. In the days to follow, other gruesome stabbings take place – with the knife-wielding perpetrator sporting the same translucent plastic mask and bright yellow raincoat that Alice wears. Could the killer be strange young Alice, or is someone else responsible for the bloody deeds?
Released in the U.K. under its original title, Communion, the film was retitled ALICE, SWEET ALICE in North America when released by Allied Artists. It was released again in 1981 and renamed Holy Terror to capitalize on Brooke Shields’ notoriety from appearing in the controversial dramas Pretty Baby (1978) and The Blue Lagoon (1980). Featuring first-rate performances and a top-notch script co-written by Sole and Rosemary Ritvo, the film is also admired for its atmospheric score by multiple Emmy Award-winning composer Stephen Lawrence.
Now, 45 years after the film’s original release, Lawrence’s memorable score has made its debut on both vinyl and CD, courtesy of horror and cult soundtrack specialists, Waxwork Records. Highlights include the Herrmann-esque tracks “At the Warehouse/Chase” and “Rolling Dom,” the creepily ethereal “Prelude,” and the film’s hauntingly beautiful “Main Title,” which appears several times throughout. Equally as impressive as the score is the fantastic presentation given to the release. Housed in a beautifully designed gatefold cover, the album has been released in yellow coloured vinyl with a red “blood splatter” design (a special subscription edition was also offered by Waxwork which featured a multicoloured splatter variant).
The cover artwork by Steven Reeves is wonderful; the killer’s mask and yellow hood adorn the front, while the gatefold opens to reveal Brooke Shield’s Karen running along the upper edge of the killer’s bloodied knife. The back of the album cover displays the raincoat-clad killer reflected in the terror-stricken eye of their next victim. Also included is an insert, complete with liner notes from Lawrence and recording session photographs. This release is highly recommended, and a must-have for fans of the film.
SRP is $30 USD for the “Yellow Raincoat with Blood Red Splatter” version LP; and $16 USD for the CD. The soundtrack can be purchased directly from the Waxwork website, and can also be found at your local record shop, and other online retailers.