After hearing about this rare 'Art House' nunsploitation film from director Walerian Borowzcyk ('The Beast') for years, and having seen almost all similar films in this genre, I had to admit my expectations were somewhat elevated when Cult Epics finally released the 'uncut widescreen version for the first time' this year (2010). I have seen three Borowzcyk films prior to this one, and have to admit I wasn't impressed with his 'highly regarded' directorial skills in the least. But you never know, so I gave this one a shot.
The lack of budget is apparent moments into the film - almost every scene is shot in a hallway, doorway or small bedroom rather than a Grand Room or film set. The limitations of using natural light are a strain occasionally, but add a strange illumination at other times. The use of hand-held cameras for most of the filming is another example of budgetary constraints, but when shooting in such close confines was probably mandatory. There are also too many choppy, sloppy edits for a seasoned director of legendary stature, IMHO. But what do I know? I do know this - this film is not the great art house cinema it's touted as, unless you're also adding Joe D'Amato's 'Images In A Convent' to the list (which is as close to art house cinema as D'Amato ever got, and I consider it to be a superior film all around).
All nunsploitation film plots come from one of two sources: 'The Nun Of Monza' or 'The Devils Of Loudon', and both are true accounts historically speaking, and this film, like most nun flicks, comes from the former chronicle. The product itself states it's sourced from Stendhal's writings, but they too were based on 'The Nun Of Monza', but it has little to do with either. As a result of this lack of imagination within the genre, the rational, logical side of my brain keeps telling me, "If you've seen one `naughty nun' flick, you've seen them all", which is basically true (the same goes for 'women in prison' flicks, and most forms of exploitation in general), but the 'been-watching-this-kind-of-trash-since-I-was-a-teen-and-will-never-learn-or-grow-up' side of my psyche insists "There might be something new in this one" always prevails, so I'm basically the fool hearted target market for these releases. Mea culpa.
There is no real plot, not in a traditional sense; it's just a series of random scenes set in a convent (where else?) spliced to the next scene without a significant beginning, middle or end. It involves a Mother Superior trying to micromanage and maintain order among young nuns and trying to prevent temptation, and we all know how well this works in these films. Shockingly enough, things somehow get out of control when two of the nuns begin adding opium to the good Mother's daily tea to chill her out so they can sneak in lovers on the sly. The best scene involves a nun who carves a phallic object out of a piece of wood, draws the picture of a man on the flat end, inserts it into herself for gratification and watches the imaginary lover's face with a mirror while servicing herself. (This is the restored scene in this flick that gained it notoriety among sleaze buffs). Much ado about nothing, as the scene is less than 15 seconds long. But it is memorable...
At some point in all nunsploitation flicks, pandemonium erupts from out of nowhere and suddenly previously pious penguins are immediately transformed into raving lunatics, now prancing around naked, screaming hysterically, thrust into lust and abandon, like a demented scene in a Bosch painting. And, of course, it isn't long before the Inquisition arrives ("No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!"- 'Sorry, I couldn't help myself; sometimes these things just write themselves) and there's a lock down, a round up of the guilty suspects, and the trial begins as sanity is restored in our good lord's name. That's pretty much it. As a film, it's a bit of a joke, and not even a well-told joke. There is ample, eloquent nudity, about as much as any entry in this category, nothing to write home about. Not much sleaze, not much art, not much to get too excited about.
The Cult Epics print is a good one, but still has its share of blemishes. There's a featurette with the cinematographer, Luciano Tovoli (who did the same in Dario Argento's 'Suspiria') and another on Borowzcyk, as well as a lobbycard gallery and trailer. If you're a fan of nunsploitation, it's a worth-see, otherwise you might want to pass over (no pun intended) this one. Amen.