Trust Uncle Joe D’Amato to be the dirty mind behind one of the nudest and rudest entries in that most salacious of sexploitation sub-genres: the nunsploitation movie. Come hither, let’s take peek beneath the wimple . . .
In true patriarchal chauvinist fashion the Count Di Lignate’s dying wish was that his darling daughter Isabella be protected from corruption. Cardinal Dell’Aio carries out the Count’s last request and imprisons the headstrong young woman in the convent of Santa Fiora. Now, if the Cardinal had any street smarts at all he would know that a convent is the last place on earth you should lock up your daughter if you don’t want her indulging in every sin under the sun.
You see, it’s a commonly ignored fact that nuns have more sex than anybody else. OK so I’ve come to this conclusion purely through watching Italian exploitation movies but hey, they’ve steered me well so far. Italian movies also taught me who would win in a fight between a zombie and a shark and that in the future only people with names like Spider and Trash will survive a nuclear war.
Isabella’s first act of defiance is to bare her breasts at the Mother Superior. And a divine pair they are too. That night the Countess dreams of running into the arms of her lover who happens to also be her uncle! Slow-mo canoodling ensues. Overhearing Isabella moaning her lover’s name novice nun Sister Lacinia creeps into her bedroom to wipe the sweat from the sleeping girl’s fevered brow. Except she doesn’t stop at the brow - she’s soon hitching up Isabella’s night-gown to nibble her thighs and nuzzle some fuzz.
While creeping back to her own room Lacinia runs into Sister Marta who orders her down into the cellar for a stripping and a whipping. When she’s done beating the poor girl Marta licks and kisses the bloody welts that her lashes have left on the younger nun’s nubile body before purchasing a one-way ticket to Muffsville. I noticed at this point that Lacinia appeared to have had a boob job and couldn’t help but wonder if there was some sort of Vatican subsidy that one could claim for such architectural preservation? Blasphemous, moi?
Oh yeah and then some stuff happens which almost results in the movie having a plot. A young man is found unconscious in the garden having apparently been beaten and robbed by bandits. Men are forbidden in the convent but the Mother superior offers him sanctuary while he recovers from his injuries. His name is Guido and he claims to be an artist who has travelled a long way just to see the statue of the Roman god of wine (and patron saint of general debauchery) Bacchus that stands outside the convent. Local legends claim that the convent was built on the site of a Pagan temple and several misfortunes have been attributed to the angry spirit that the nuns refer to as the ‘unknown god’.
Isabella contrives to persuade Guido to help her escape but with an escalating epidemic of masturbations and molestations working the nuns into a frenzy the Mother Superior sends Sister Marta off to fetch Padre Arnaldo ‘the exorcist’. Unfortunately Marta falls foul of the same bandits that clobbered Guido. When they discover that she’s carrying nothing worth stealing they decide to rape her instead. Here the film lurches uncomfortably from softcore silliness to hardcore assault. It's a shocking scene and one could argue that such explicit sexual violence should illicit discomfort from the audience however it feels somewhat inappropriate within the context of the camp titillation that has preceded it.
Padre Arnaldo stumbles across the almost naked Marta and carries her home before he sets about exorcising the entire convent. As he wanders the corridors splashing his holy water this way and that like some kind of sacrosanct semen the hysterical, sweaty nuns are all tickling, licking and dildo diddling themselves to an ecclesiastical climax. Are they possessed by the spirit of Bacchus or are these sisters doing it for themselves?
The success of Ken Russell’s The Devils and Walerian Borowczyk’s Behind Convent Walls can be held largely responsible for the nunsploitation movie genre and their influence is apparent throughout ‘Images In A Convent’. Director D’Amato (who also served as cinematographer under his real name Aristide Massaccesi) does not however allow the audience opportunity to ponder petty things like plot before ushering more bums, boobs and dirty habits on to the screen.
Nico Fidenco’s score regularly recalls Mike Oldfield’s famous Tubular Bells theme from ‘The Exorcist’. This was no doubt intentional and is surprisingly effective in adding a chill to certain scenes.
Donald O’Brien as the Padre will be a familiar face to fans of Italian exploitation cinema having chewed up some insane dialogue as the title character in ‘Doctor Butcher M.D’ (aka Zombie Holocaust). He also appeared in such spaghetti grindhouse treasures as Enzo Castellari’s ‘Keoma’ & Inglorious Bastards, Lucio Fulci’s ‘Four Of The Apocalypse’ and Joe D’Amato’s Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (aka ‘Trap Them And Kill Them’) plus many more.
While never achieving the aesthetic frisson of Borowczyk’s film fans of D’Amato’s particular brand of earthy eroticism, as well as your common or garden nun-fancier, will find plenty to enjoy in this particular house of the holy.
Reviewed by Narcan - 25 APRIL 2010