Cult Epics brings us this new collection on of nunsploitation films. Nunsploitation is a subgenre of the overall exploitation genre. Nunsploitation is one of those subgenres that is really the most cult of this sort of cult cinema. It’s not that it’s just so edgy or racy; it’s just a little lesser known. Nunsploitation didn’t take hold in the United States like it did in Europe and Asia in the 60’s and 70’s. The fan base in the states is rabid but there are few films of the genre, quality films anyway, that were actually made in this country.
Nunsploitation could be called “nuns behaving badly”. There’s something visually creepy about all of these women dressed in these black robes and the religion itself even has a cultish vibe. Those two elements alone set a great stage for all sorts of debauchery. Add to that the sexual elements of “what could they be wearing under those long dark robes” and the fact that the setting features a bunch of women living together and a complete genre of film is born. All of these films feature some sort of sexual element with some simply focusing on the erotica while others find nuns going even further and becoming completely evil.
Behind Convent Walls Interno di un convento (1978)
Directed by: Walerian Borowczyk
Starring: Ligia Branice, Howard Ross, Marina Pierro, Gabriella Giacobbe
In this film a Priest convinces a Mother Superior to become stricter on the nuns in her convent and when she does she uncovers some dark truths about the nuns such as the lengths they go to satiate their carnal desires. The tropes of exploitation and nunsploitation are all in play here including lesbianism and general sacrilegious behavior. The tougher the Mother Superior tries to get the more rebellious the nuns become until one of them takes drastic action committing the worst of sins.
The film is well acted and directed but it’s the gorgeous visual style that makes this thread bare story stand out above most other similar films. The film was shot by Luciano Tovoli the same man that made Dario Argento’s Suspiria a visual feast. This film has a distinctly art house look and the sexual elements have a sort of innocent playful feeling outside of one particular almost out of place shot. This film is standard erotic nunsploitation focusing on pent up sexuality but the execution of the film from the acting to the cinematography and editing make it one of the better installments in the genre.
School of the Holy Beast (1974)
Director: Norifumi Suzuki
Starring: Yumi Takigawa, Emiko Yamauchi, Yayoi Watanabe, Ryouko Ima
This Toho film is a lot less art house and more extreme exploitation than the previous film. All of the tropes of erotica are here but there’s another layer of violence and torture sending this film way over the top. After the mysterious death of her mother a young woman decides to join the convent where her mother resided to try and find the truth about what happened. The setting is modern day, well for 1974 anyway, until she enters the convent then it becomes what I like to call Toho time. Whether they are exploitation pinky films or martial arts actioners these Toho films from the early 70’s all have the same heavily lit vibrant colored costumes and shallow sets.
This film from exploitation maven Norifumi Suzuki has become known as one of Japan’s most notorious nunsploitation films, a crown not attained easily, mostly due to an over the top torture scene involving whipping with rose thorns. This one’s campy and weird, all the things you hope for from Asian exploitation and it’s beautifully shot in with the Toho machine behind the scenes.
Both films show their age coming from rough source material leading to some grain and unbalanced contrast but with age as a consideration both films come off quite well on their DVD’s. Black levels could definitely stand to look a little more solid rather than the murky gray that is often the case but that’s a minor complaint. Even though it’s the older of the two films School of the Holy Beast features the best presentation with the vibrant reds and whites surviving the age of the source material and the transfer to DVD really nicely.
The audio on both films is very basic in presentation and again the presentation show some age with a few balance issues and slightly muffled dialogue in places but overall as basic as the presentations are they sound fine.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
Both films come packaged in standard amaray cases with fantastic retro exploitation artwork. The art on both cases is eye catching and it perfectly sells the films. The two amaray cases are presented in a cardboard box with hilariously suggestive image taken from Behind Covenant Walls.
Each film surprisingly features some bonus materials including interviews with cast, trailers, and still galleries. None of the interviews are particularly in depth but they are fun additions to the collection. Some sort of nunsploitation documentary or featurette would have been interesting to go with these films.
Overall my biggest complaint is the title of “Nunsploitation Collection”. The word collection infers many titles not just two. Outside of that minor quibble these are great examples of the genre and a must for fans. One film features cinematography by one of the world’s best cinematographers and another by one of Japan’s most controversial directors.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
Behind Convent Walls 8/10
School of the Holy Beast 8/10
The Video 7.5/10
The Audio 6.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an average) 8/10