Director: Joe D'Amato (Aristide Massacessi)
Exploitation Digital/Media Blasters

Media Blasters' Exploitation Digital line has become the home of some of the trashiest, most controversial European sleaze pics imaginable! SS HELL CAMP, SS GIRLS, PORNO HOLOCAUST, YELLOW EMANUELLE, and plenty more unexpected surprises will keep fans of Eurocult obscurities happy. The latest in this highly recommended label's release slate is Joe D'Amato's IMAGES IN A CONVENT, which is labeled on the jacket as "the most explicit nunsploitation film ever made." With D'Amato behind the camera and a cast of frequently nude and randy performers, this claim may
be hard to dispute.

In an isolated convent in 19th-century Italy, the Mother Superior welcomes a ward of the church, a young orphan girl named Isabella whose father asked that she be taken in by the sisters so she would not be abducted and corrupted by her cruel uncle. Isabella isn't as innocent as she is meant to be, however, as the Mother Superior learns when the girl greets her in a nun habit with her bare breasts heaving out for the world to see! The sexually adventurous Isabella is overjoyed when a handsome wounded man is found outside the convent and nursed back to health. She schemes to have the stranger help her escape, using the more impressionable nuns as accomplices, but soon discovers he isn't the dashing hero she envisioned. Is he the Devil incarnate and is he driving the nuns to quench their desires with each other?

IMAGES IN A CONVENT is a more somber affair from D'Amato, who in the years previously had revolutionized the sex film with his Laura Gemser epics. Almost all of the sex in this film is of the lesbian variety, with whipping, licking and actual hardcore fingering and dildo play thrown in. One hetero scene is a vile rape scene, with a very erect penis (!) and some brief hardcore oral. So with this film D'Amato once again straddles the softcore/hardcore line. Being a cinematographer first and a director later, D'Amato shoots these scenes (in particular, a scene between two women in their habits) with poetry and style, and in an interesting move, keeps the women in their habits during the intercourse, but the film's problem is its pacing. The very slim plot is made hard to follow by frequent breaks to show unrelated sex scenes between the lesbian nuns. One unique plot element is the Mother Superior's visions of a statue of Satan appearing to haunt her, including a scene near a flight of stairs which is reminiscent of Ewa Aulin stalking Angela Bo in D'Amato's DEATH SMILES AT A MURDERER. Regular D'Amato composer Nico Fidenco's musical score is surprisingly restrained from his usual romping good time BLACK EMANUELLE works, but is quite beautiful, filled with classical orchestral compositions, and fits the film perfectly. Future hardcore actress Marina Hedman plays Sister Marta, who indulges in two lesbian scenes (including the aforementioned beautifully shot nun-habit scene). Donald O'Brien (EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS, DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D.) plays a preacher who rescues the poor raped nun in the woods and exorcises the "possessed" convent, but seems thrown in at the last minute. The last 10-15 minutes, where all Hell breaks loose in the convent and every nun begins diddling herself with wild abandon, is quite memorable, but it's questionable whether the previous events will stay with viewers or entice them enough to keep watching to the finish. Fans of nasty nuns will find a lot to love in this film, what with all the donut-bumping and incredibly heavy doses of nudity, but as a film it self-destructs before the halfway mark due to a shoddy script.

Paola Senatore, who plays Isabella, was a familiar face in Italian exploitation cinema from the early 70s and is best-remembered as the sister of Janet Agren in Lenzi's EATEN ALIVE. Her hair color would change frequently, from blonde (SALON KITTY), to red (EMANUELLE IN AMERICA), to black (EATEN ALIVE and this film), her body was frequently disrobed to send the tongues of moviegoers wagging. Senatore's career took a turn for the worse when drug addiction resulted in her stopping to hardcore films in the late 80s. The ultimate tragedy was yet to come: if you frequent the red light district of Rome, you may see Senatore propositioning you from a street corner. She was a beautiful woman who definitely did not deserve her fate. This is one of her best performances, and a rare leading role! The image of Senatore's heaving breasts peeking out of her nun habit is maybe the ultimate snapshot of nunsploitation cinema.

As with many of D'Amato's films, the cheap film stock resulted in hazy, grainy photography which sometimes aided a film's atmosphere. This is the case with IMAGES IN A CONVENT, which is presented here in its original aspect of 1.85:1. A sheet of grain is pretty much permanent during the film, but the image is clear and bright. There are white lines during some scenes, usually those of an erotic nature. The film appears to be uncut, with all the graphic sex, hard and soft, and nastiness present and accounted for. The original Italian language track is included with optional English subtitles, and is for the best as all dialogue was spoken on-set in Italian (except for Donald O'Brien). The track is a tad muffled and dialogue is sometimes hard to hear so crank this baby up for dialogue scenes; Fidenco's score is very strong throughout.

The first disc in this 2-DVD special edition features only four trailers (YELLOW EMANUELLE, PORNO HOLOCAUST, SS GIRLS and SS HELL CAMP), but the second disc features the meat of the extras, the documentary JOE D'AMATO: TOTALLY UNCUT! However, I'm not sure if this is the full uncut version. The original running time is 101 minutes, but this version runs 65...if it has been cut, the majority of discussion of his horrors (DEATH SMILES AT A MURDERER, BUIO OMEGA, ANTROPOPHOGOUS) have been cut because they are not mentioned that often. This doc was extremely popular on the grey market collector's circuit, and is the last in-depth interview D'Amato gave before his untimely death. Excerpts were included on Blue Underground's EMANUELLE IN AMERICA disc, but Media Blasters has licensed the entire production for inclusion here. Extremely well-edited and liberally sprinkled with clips of all of D'Amato's most important films, the star is D'Amato himself, who allows the viewer to follow his career from his meager beginnings as a production assistant through his first films as a cinematographer into his directorial debut. Just about every major cult favorite is touched upon, either through clips or discussion: DEATH SMILES AT A MURDERER, EMANUELLE'S REVENGE, the BLACK EMANUELLE series, LADIES' DOCTOR, MONDO EROTICO, PORNO EXOTIC LOVE, MONDO EROTICO 2, CRAZY NIGHTS, IMAGES IN A CONVENT, BUIO OMEGA, CALIGULA: THE UNTOLD STORY, ANTROPOPHOGOUS, ORGASMO NERO, EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD, PORNO HOLOCAUST, SESSO NERO, PORNO ESOTIC LOVE, PAPAYA, CONVENT OF SINNERS. The film also delves into his hardcore features shot from the mid-80s through the 90s, but D'Amato is very clear that he dislikes this phase of his career. Rare clips are shown from DIARY OF A ROMAN VIRGIN, TALES OF CANTERBURY and GO AWAY! TRINITY HAS ARRIVED IN EL DORADO, some of his first films; memories are shared of Bruno Mattei, George Eastman, Laura Gemser, Ajita Wilson, Sirpa Lane, Anna Maria Napolitano, and Anna Bergman; and very rare on-set photos showing D'Amato at work also appear! There are also interviews with producer Diego Spataro, actress Malisa Longo but are so brief they offer very little information. Vintage interviews with Renzo Montagnani, Paola Senatore, and Fulci fave Daniela Doria (!!) on the set of LADIES' DOCTOR are far more interesting and a valuable addition to the piece!

In addition to the documentary, the disc includes a photo gallery which is dedicated to glamour shots, posters, and lobby cards of the films of sexpots Marina Hedman and Paola Senatore, and a real treat, a Joe D'Amato trailer reel. Most have been released by Media Blasters on DVD (EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS, BUIO OMEGA, EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD, PORNO HOLOCAUST, KILLING BIRDS, HITCHER IN THE DARK) but surprisingly, there are trailers for other non-MB titles: DEATH SMILES AT A MURDERER, ORGASMO NERO (in German, probably from the X-Rated Kult disc), ANTROPOPHOGOUS, and CALIGULA: THE UNTOLD STORY (in German again, probably from that X-Rated Kult disc). If MB is indeed releasing MURDERER, then they simply must get Ewa Aulin for an interview or commentary as she is still around and definitely willing to talk! (Casey Scott)

NOTE: Midnight Video has just posted this information about this release: "At 14:31 the DVD is missing an entire 3 minute scene where the Devil statue possesses Sister Lacinia who then pleasures herself while writhing on the bed. As reference, this scene is supposed to take place exactly before the scene where Sister Lacinia walks down the hallway and into the sleeping Isabella's (Paola Senatore's) room where Lacinia is kissing the pubic area of the sleeping, nightmare-dreaming Isabella. The missing scene is important in that it sets up why this action takes place."