Review Date: November 6, 2004
Released by: Blue Underground
Release date: 10/26/2004
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
The nunsploitation genre, although relatively obscure, is one that spans several films and decades. Everyone from Franco to Fulci have thrown their hat in the genre, from Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun
. Popular for defaming one of the world’s most sacred images of purity, the nunsploitation genre uses the typical exploitation genres of horror and pornography to scathe notions of religious purity. While it is more commonplace now for religious degradation to be represented by child molesting priests, in the 70s the central figure was very much the nun. Playing upon the newly liberated 70s woman, nunsploitation films showed a woman of sin, but more importantly, a woman with power. One such film is Killer Nun
, which has been given a new release by Blue Underground in their recent batch of Eurohorror nasties. Come with me to confession and I’ll tell you whether this is a sin worth taking.
The film begins with an anonymous nun in confession. She expresses her hatred for an unknown man who has “snuffed out her happiness”, and expresses her intent to payback all other men as penance. Although it is never clear who she is or who she is referring to, it is assumed that it is Sister Gertrude (Anita Ekberg
) and that she is speaking of a doctor who performed on her a previous operation. Gertrude had had a tumor, and although it was removed successfully, it through off the chemical balances of her brain, causing her to suffer intense mental suffering. In order to stop the pains she has become addicted to morphine, using the drug as a cleansing ritual to replace the prayer. While the morphine may calm her…it also gives her the inclination to kill!
Gertrude works at a religious clinic that treats both the sick and the old. When asked to pick up a scalpel for a doctor, the sight of the utensil triggers a number of morbid and violent thoughts in her mind. These thoughts continue to build when she must treat a patient connected to an I.V., and temptations lead her to pull the plug. Her action is intervened by the doctor, and she blames the trauma of the operation. Getrude’s roommate, Sister Mathieu (Playboy playmate Paola Morra
), tries to console Gertrude, but her overbearing kindness quickly leads Gertrude to suspect she is a lesbian. Prancing around the room entirely naked certainly doesn’t help dodge such conceptions either.
Gertrude decides to leave the convent, masquerading around as a free woman. She tries on wedding rings, drinks alcohol and even seduces a man, going against all the sacrifices of nunnery. Upon her return bodies begin to pile up, and Gertrude’s behaviour becomes increasingly rash. Mathieu tries to cover for her, but the confusion in Gertrude’s own mind renders her unable to notice. The film ends on a prayer, but it may be the most devilish of all.
is a stylish, albeit somewhat conventional nunsploitation picture. Instead of using the genre to comment upon church corruption like Prom Night IV
would, the film instead relies on the church setting as a mere setup for sex, drugs and violence. Director Giulio Berruti makes sure to place the nun in every form of vile temptation possible, involving Gertrude in needle use, promiscuous sex, lesbian flirtation, marriage games, murder and even a bit of necrophilia. Anything goes in this film when it comes to blaspheming the church, and Berruti has fun at breaking all moral conduct. The film is exploitation in every way, taking extreme subject matter and milking it of every sort of visceral pleasure it has to offer. In exploiting the high concept of a “killer nun”, the film undoubtedly succeeds in entertaining, yet the film lacks a depth that would make it any more than a one view affair.
The nun’s motives offer no broad commentary on religious malpractice or social injustice, and instead are only stock problems. An operation gone wrong is one of the most clichéd excuses in the book, Frankenstein stories have been doing it for a hundred years. Berruti, being an experienced altar boy, no doubt had enough immersive understanding of the church to be able to mount some scathing commentary, but instead he is content with exploiting boobs and blood. That is nothing to complain about, but just nothing particularly challenging. The one segment of the film that has any sort of subversive element to it is the finale. The ending makes what seemed obvious at the start now questionable, as it may in fact be Sister Mathieu who was committing the murders. Or, more likely, given that the film takes place almost entirely from Sister Gertrude’s perspective, it is Gertrude’s mind consoling her with a lie that Mathieu was at fault. Regardless, the film moves into a challenging surreal ambiguity before the credits, and it gives the film a psychological layer that is otherwise missing throughout.
Still, despite the intentions of the ending, the film is undoubtedly sleaze, and often times does not take itself entirely seriously. It is impossible to accept a line like “One of my ancestor’s went to be with Napoleon!” without a degree of humor. Berruti has Paola Morra disrobe not for the story, but instead to serve audience expectations from her Playboy spreads. Similarly, he casts Anita Ekberg as the killer nun (well, I might add), in order to play against her symbol of female purity. The only thing more shocking than seeing a nun murder is to see the famous Fellini fountain girl (from La Dolce Vita
) sexing it up in a sleazy horror film. Berruti has fun delivering perversity for perversity’s sake, but again, the substance isn’t really there.
is undoubtedly a fun ride though, executed with some real style, especially during some of the murderous montages. The string driven score by Alessandro Alessandroni is extremely catchy, mixing the best of church choir and Goblin into a rocking mix. Ekberg gives to her role an elegance that escapes the rest of the characters, with her final shots in particular rendering very emotional. Despite such credentials though, the allure of this film for most people will be the perverse subject matter of seeing nuns defamed, not to mention wheelchair bound men having sex with young females. It may not cut deep, but what is there is a heavenly helping of bad taste.
Blue Underground presents the film in a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer, and it isn’t perfect. Noticable right at the start during the credit sequence is some frame dropout, suggesting the print the Blue had to work with was less than pristine. The print becomes much more consistent after the credits, but throughout it is sheathed in a fairly thick layer of grain. There are few blemishes to be found in the print, but the grain is nonetheless distracting. Despite grain, images are pretty sharp, made especially noticeable during the various extreme close-ups on Ekberg’s piercing eyes. The print at times lacks depth, and blacks could be more solid. It is an acceptable transfer on the whole, although one can’t help but expect a little more from Lustig and Co.
A dubbed English mono mix is included, and seems less out of place this time than it was in Night Train Murders
. In ways dubbing seems to help bring out the sleaze of those shameless 70s-era Italian exploitation films. The tracks sounds a little flat, and could have definitely used more base. The score music Blue Underground used in the menus sounds much deeper than anything in the film, puzzlingly enough. No noticeable audio defects were discernable, but hey, it’s mono.
Like Night Train Murders
, an interview with the director accompanies some promotional material to complete this disc. “From the Secret Files of the Vatican” is a nice 15 minute interview with Giulio Berruti. In the interview, he explains his background as an altar boy, and how that influenced his writing of the script. He talks of the various stages of censorship the film was subject to, mostly due to the fact that the ads purported it to be “from the secret files of the Vatican”, upsetting the religious elite. The funniest story involves Berruti furiously writing fake scenes on the spot to give to the convent leaders who had given him the rights to film. The whole time, they had no idea the film was about a killer nun. It’s a solid interview, presented in Italian with English subtitles.
The film is rounded out with a pretty basic theatrical trailer that runs a minute too long, as well as a still gallery. Seeing the nice video and poster art the film went by brings further light on the poor packaging by Blue Underground. As of late they really seem to be abusing red Photoshop filters on their DVDs, making them look much cheaper than they really are. It would be much appreciated if they returned to using original poster art like they initially did with their early releases.
delivers everything its title promises: nuns doing dirty deeds and lots of bloodshed. Drugs and sex are thrown in to make it all more shocking, although it could have benefited from a little more substance. The image quality is acceptable, but not quite up to BU’s high standards, and the audio is an understandably subdued mono mix. The interview with the director is a nice inclusion and something that Blue Underground should keep doing, as it gives the film some solid context. Fans of Jess Franco horror sleaze will be right at home with this, and nunsploitation fans will no doubt find more to be offended by than even Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit
Movie – B
Image Quality – B-
Sound – C+
Supplements – B
- Running Time - 1 hour 27 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English mono
- Interview with director Giulio Berruti
- Theatrical trailer
- Poster and still gallery