[La monaca nel peccato / KLOSTER DER 1000 TODSUNDEN]
Reviewed By-Kit Gavin Directed by Dario Donati [Aristide Masseccesi] Starring Eva Grimaldi, Karin Well, Gilda Germano, Martin Philips, and Gabriele Tinti Source: X-Rated Kult [Germany] DVD Region 2 PAL
Susanna Simona [Grimaldi], a young woman, is forced to enter into a convent after she raped by her stepfather and the two are discovered by her stepmother. Having been forced to take the veil, she soon attracts the attentions of the Mother Superior who clearly has somewhat unwholesome desires upon the young girl. The Mother Superiorís interest however sparks off intense jealousy in Sister Theresa [Well], who has up until that point been the Motherís favourite, and who clearly has ambitions to head the convent herself one day. The Mother Superior is ill, having problems with her lungs, as she is continually coughing. Meanwhile Susanna befriends another young nun, Sister Ursula [Germano].
The Mother Superior introduces the new initiate to the Father Confessor, a handsome young priest by the name of Don Morell [Philipps]. Later Simona confesses to the priest that she has no vocation and wishes to leave the sisterhood. Meanwhile however, the Mother is making somewhat unwelcome advances on Susanna, Sister Agatha is frequently masturbating over a statue imagining that it is the muscular handyman yet mute [Gori], all of which is noticed by spiteful Sister Theresa. Susanna further angers Theresa by playing the harpsichord (although the sound of an organ is heard instead) for the Mother and her other sisters. After the nuns depart, leaving just the Mother Superior and Susanna, the older nun makes further advances, fondling Susanna through her habit.
Two nuns, including Sister Agatha are later caught washing the mute handyman and giggling which incurs the anger of the Mother Superior and both girls are whipped, topless in plain view of the other sisters. Later on Susanna is visited in her cell, having already been touched up by the Mother Superior whilst she washes, she is caressed whilst alone in her cell too. The Mother confesses her love too, which is rebuffed by Susanna, who in turn tries to keep clear of her. The spurning in noticed and upsets the Mother Superior, and Susanna continues to keep her distance. Sister Theresa starts to plot with Sister Agatha, having once again discovered the girl whipping herself after having yearnings. Later Sister Agatha masturbates outside the handymanís room whilst sniffing his cloak, and eventually ends up with the two of them screwing on the table in his quarters.
Feeling spurned and increasingly unhappy, the Mother Superior bursts in on the nunsí communal wash area and shouts at the girls in anger. That evening Susanna, having been poisoned, falls on her bed in agony and starts vomiting and convulsing. Sister Teresa and the other nuns break into her cell, and start to whip the girls exposed thighs to beat the Devil out of her. The Mother, upset by her actions, beats herself in her cell.
Soon enough Susanna returns to health, only to commence an affair with young priest. The Mother Superior is taken very ill and Sister Theresa takes on the leadership of the nunnery. Susanna asks Sister Ursula for her help, as Ursula has influential friends and relatives, asking her to send a letter detailing the goings on within the convent walls. Overheard by the omnipresent Sister Theresa, Sister Susanna denies anything is going on. Theresa starts to slap Susanna demanding she tell her everything, but to no avail. She is further angered by Susanna comparing her to the Jews who crucified Christ. Later at dinner she tells the other nuns not to speak to Susanna as she has been possessed by the Prince of Darkness.
Theresa manages to get the letter which was sent to the Monseigneur from Sister Ursula, and reads it. Frightened for her own position she plots with Sister Agatha the best way to deal with Susanna. The two decide that murder would be too risky so they hatch a plot to suggest the young nun is possessed. Dragged to a rat infested cell, after supposedly attacking two nuns, Susanna is visited by Don Morell who engages in a brief fling with her under the auspices of confessing her. Also one of the nuns reacts in horror to Susanna as she passes her on a stairwell saying she is the Devil. Later that evening Susanna is taken in her cell, stripped and whipped before being summoned for a trial. Prior to being called for trial, Susanna is purified by being ritually cleaned by having a large brass syringe of holy water (in the shape of an enormous enema) being inserted into her.
The Monseigneur [Tinti] arrives at the convent and visits the now extremely delirious Mother Superior, following a report by Sister Theresa about events within the convent. Before the trial Don Morell speaks to the Bishop saying Susanna is innocent and her only sin being that she has no vocation for the cloth. The bishop however turns things around and tells Don Morell that he should not jeopardise his future because of her. When Susanna is brought before the Monseigneur he finds her innocent yet the other nuns turn against her, renouncing her. Only Sister Ursula speaks out saying that she is innocent. Susanna brings up her relationship with Don Morell, yet when Don Morell is called to testify he denounces her. The trial is then fixed and when presented with the cross (which has previously been heated up over candle, Susanna refuses to touch it. Screaming and in a frenzy she tears her dress of, spasming on the ground, claiming that she has been possessed by Satan.
The film (bearing the English language export title Convent of Sinners) opens amusingly with a (mis)quote from Denis Diderot, upon whoís source novel La Religieuse the film is supposedly based, complete with the misspelling "vergins" and the quote incomplete. Once the credits end the tone for upcoming events shows Susanna being raped in quite a nasty fashion before being sent off to a convent. Clearly set in the sixteenth or seventeenth century, the film has good production values (despite quite obviously being shot quickly yet competently) and possesses an interesting cast, and a good ambience and mood. At times situations seem terribly contrived and nuns retire to bed for the evening when in their cells sunshine can be seen streaming trough the windows. None the less, despite these faults the film is entertaining in a none too challenging way. CONVENT OF SINNERS is simply an expansion upon a theme which hadnít been touched by DíAmato as director since the late seventies when he made the delirious IMAGES IN A CONVENT starring the voluptuous Paola Senatore and porno diva Marina Hedmann. Since the early 80ís DíAmato had been mostly involved with making hardcore porno films, occasionally sidestepping and making lurid horror films (ANTROPOPHAGUS and ABSURD) or dreadful adventure films (the ATOR movies). By the mid 1980ís he embarked on a number of potent erotic films such as THE ALCOVE, which showcased the declining star that was Lilli Carati in the lead role. Following on from the Lilli Carati films (having sacked Carati from an unmade project) and just prior to his highly regarded slices of erotica in the 11 DAYS, 11 NIGHTS series, DíAmato made this which falls nicely into the exploitation bracket which DíAmato fans can really enjoy and relish.
Acting here is pretty good too. Eva Grimaldi, in her first leading role, plays the doomed Sister Susanna. The pouty Grimaldi seems to have no problems with shedding her clothes proving that her muff is as bushy as her rather pronounced bushy eyebrows. Some might find Grimaldiís unusual looks attractive and alluring but she simply did nothing for me, too dark, over made-up and too Southern Italian for my liking. Cast opposite Grimaldi is Karin Well, who seems to have come back from her holidays just prior to shooting this film as she sports a golden brown suntan throughout the film (yet never seems to get naked, other than in a brief almost throwaway scene) where all the other nuns appear pale. Here Well plays Sister Theresa, one time favourite and second in command to the mother superior, who harbors a deep resentment against the new young novice when her affections start to be spurned by the mother superior. Well performs well, always being in the right place at the right time, spying on the other nuns and in fact turns in the best performance in the whole film. Fans of exploitation may recognise Well from some of her other performances, most notably as the doomed Janet in THE NIGHTS OF TERROR, a handful of Mario Siciliano directed films and the Dick Randall produced SYMPHONY OF LOVE where she played a nude cellist. Amongst the nuns is Gilda Germano, best known under her artistic pseudonym of Jessica Moore, who went on to appear in the two 11 DAYS, 11 NIGHTS MOVIES, and with Lucio Fulci on the wretched GHOSTS OF SODOM. She also would appear in a couple of the "Lucio Fulci Presents" films presented by Cineduck. Germano, real name Luciana Ottaviani, again was a good looking actress, possessing a good figure and an attractive wholesome face, started her career as a glamour model and appearing on the variety show "Gin Fizz" before she started working for Joe DíAmato.
Male roles are minimal, not unsurprisingly in this film. Martin Philips, a frequent face from Filmirage projects around this time (including Michele Soaviís debut feature STAGEFRIGHT) plays the handsome young Father Confessor who embarks on a relationship with Sister Susanna, delivers a reasonable, if somewhat acting by numbers performance here. Gabriele Gori (who recently appeared in Bruno Matteiís SNUFF TRAP) plays a mute handyman who walks around the convent bare-torsoed and becomes an object of lust and desire by some of the nuns, most especially by Sister Agatha. Rounding off the male cast is Gabriele Tinti, husband of Laura Gemser (conspicuously absent from this production), as a bishop and Inquisitor.
As is par for the course in films such as this, the convent is made up of a mixture of either very good looking attractive women, even the Mother Superior being good-looking, and the more chaste scenes are punctuated with the odd and ugly elderly character actress playing one of the elder, non-speaking parts, of the nuns. Not unsurprisingly, when the nuns frolic naked in their baths, it is only the younger, prettier buxom nuns who appear in thee scenes, none of the older nuns are anywhere to be seen in these supposedly communal washroom areas. Equally so there are some interesting images, such as when sister Agatha fantasises that the statue is the handyman and it becomes flesh. Also there is good lighting by candlelight which is quite atmospheric and moody. Predominantly the film is tits and ass, no denying that, but none the less it is lusciously and intelligently shot and directed with a keen eye proving DíAmato still capable of making films that are interesting visually if not always reaching the levels of some of his contemporaries.
CONVENT OF SINNERS certainly is not a film for everyone as it opens with quite a nasty rape and ends with an unhappy (if abrupt) finale. There is plentiful female flesh, as well as numerous sleazy moments, on display here including some interesting torture scenes and quite a fetid atmosphere throughout the convent. Throw in a fair amount of lesbian fondlings, masturbation and whipping too Ė as well as a bizarre exorcism using a sinister looking enema. There are some moments which are truly bizarre, such as seeing the sexual fantasies of the tormented Sister Agatha as she gropes a statue whilst she masturbates vigorously in view of Karin Well. Production values and cinematography is good, as is the lighting of the dark convent proving that DíAmato (a one time cameraman) is certainly capable of directing well made films Ė as he did with films such as the Black Emanuelle series, BEYOND THE DARKNESS and even the two ANTROPOPHAGUS films Ė when he could be bothered and not just making another porno quickie.
The film is presented in a non anamorphic letterboxed format. To be honest, I am not sure of what aspect ratio the original film was shot in but it does not appeared to be panned and scanned nor cropped around the edges for this presentation. The picture quality is generally pretty good, crisp and clear with natural colors and contrast seems to set at the right level. However the print, an English language version, has a certain amount of speckling and grain from time to time, but this doesnít really detract in anyway from the (guilty) viewing pleasure this film affords. Purists will no doubt object as the film is just shy of 20 years old but for the fan of these sort of movies, and seeing it on the shiny format, it is much more than serviceable or adequate. The only unfortunate thing is that non-removable German subtitles are throughout the film, but these are small and barely noticeable, so are hardly intrusive.
Audio, in English language only, is good crisp and clean, with the possibility of enjoying the slightly pompous soundtrack in itís full glory (made up of chanting, wailing and booming organ music). Voices are crisp and clear and there is no hissing nor pops which often punctuate these low budget releases to be found. The English dub is generally okay (familiar voice artists dub the principal characters) although at times the voices seem somewhat inappropriate for the characters, and the dialogue is somewhat contrived and too modern for the setting, but otherwise it serves its purpose well throughout, and it is unlikely that the enjoyment of the film would be more so had an Italian language dub of the film been provided as an alternative to the English one.
Extras are where this DVD release really fails as the only extra connected with the film is an English language trailer for the movie which is in the same good condition of the film under review. A welcome if now readily accepted as par for the course extra for DVD releases [shame on those companies who continue to promote interactive menus as an extra]. Also included are trailers for other DVDs from Kult X-Rated, viz:- THE CASE OF THE SCORPIONS TAIL.
In conclusion an entertaining little DVD of a trashy little movie, although made in the mid 80ís harks back to the glory days of Italian exploitation in 1970ís. Probably best enjoyed on a rainy afternoon. The DVD is presented in one of X-Rated Kultís glorious hard boxes (love that format!), as part of both the X-Rated Nunsploitation Series (#6) and the Joe DíAmato Series (#8), this title is a fun addition for most admirers of the work of DíAmato, nunsploitation fans as well as those of trashy exploitation.
Story/ Film: 2.5 BITCH SLAPS Picture: 2.5 BITCH SLAPS Audio: 3 BITCH SLAPS Extras: 1 BITCH SLAP Overall: 2.5 BITCH SLAPS
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