The 'nasty nun' subgenre of exploitation cinema has become well-documented and beloved by sleaze fans worldwide. The thought of sisters of God masturbating frantically under their habits, beating each other's naked bodies and indulging in sapphic delights has enticed imaginative perverts for years, and directors like Jess Franco, Walerian Borowczyk, Joe D'Amato and Bruno Mattei delivered the goods throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. In a departure from the usual lesbian donut-bumping and unholy breast fondling found in films such as LOVE LETTERS FROM A PORTUGUESE NUN and BEHIND CONVENT WALLS, Giulio Berruti's KILLER NUN should have been called PSYCHO NUN, with faded sex symbol Anita Ekberg biting into the meaty title role based on an actual person!
Sister Gertrude (Ms. Ekberg) is not quite right in the head...as the film opens, she is spouting hateful dialogue towards the bastard who raped her years ago, hoping his soul burns in hell rather than forgive him as the Bible says. Gertrude works in a small town insane asylum, and is the favorite of many of the unhappy patients, overworked nurses, and inexperienced nuns. But something has snapped inside her fragile mind, provoking her to commit acts of violence such as smashing an elderly woman's dentures under her shoes and dislocating a dying woman's IV. To make matters worse, Gerty has found bliss by becoming addicted to morphine and using her young apprentice Sister Mathieu as an accomplice and lover. She becomes a maniacal control freak, banishing the asylum's head doctor from the establishment and turning into Ilsa the Second Coming, torturing the patients with lengthy exercise sessions and destroying their self-esteem. When a bizarre series of murders plagues the asylum, naturally fingers point at the sadistic Sister Gertrude. But is she really the bloodthirsty culprit?
Despite the enticing subject matter and a choice Italian exploitation cast (including Warhol refugee Joe Dallesandro, BEHIND CONVENT WALLS star Paola Morra, Alida Valli, who needs no introduction and Franco Caracciolo, whom trashfiends will recognize as the gay inmate Leander in Mattei's VIOLENCE IN A WOMENS' PRISON), KILLER NUN is not the bizarre mix of violence, sex and Godliness the title alludes to. Berruti would rather present an intriguing look at the melting of a sister of God. The driving force behind the film, who keeps it from becoming your standard exploitation fare, is former Fellini sexpot Anita Ekberg. Twenty years past her prime and with a few pounds packed on, Ekberg is still an alluring woman with expressive eyes and tackles the multi-dimensional role of Gertrude with gusto. Dallesandro, on the other hand, phones in his performance in another bland Eurocult appearance. Featuring one of the only truly erotic fully-clothed sex scenes ever filmed, a nasty candlestick bludgeoning, an old man in a wheelchair screwing a hot brunette from behind in the pouring rain (a memorable scene) and spastic editing during the violent murder sequences, KILLER NUN is a filthy curio from the days of Italian exploitation cinema and nothing more. It doesn't warrant a strong recommendation, but has enough sick moments which would be worth a rental.
Blue Underground's new blu-ray disc presentation of KILLER NUN is a definite improvement over their standard DVD release of a few years ago. Newly remastered from the original uncut negative, the 1080p high definition transfer boasts sharp contrasts and bold colors, with some minor picture grain attributed to the original elements. The single layer disc is presented anamorphic in its intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The English mono audio track is a bit stronger than the one presented on the DVD, with several brief deleted dialogue scenes presented in Italian with English subtitles. An Italian language track is also provided (neither contains voice talent of the main actors in the post dub) with optional English subtitles. Subtitles are also available in Spanish, French and English SDH.
The extras from the previous Blue Underground DVD have been carried over here, including the 14-minuted video interview with co-writer/director Giulio Berruti. Berruti discusses the influence of an actual case of a Belgian nun on the screenplay, working with Anita Ekberg and the rest of the cast, trouble with shooting in an actual convent, the incredible make-up effects shot on the cheap and their creator who ended up in a mental hospital (!) and trouble with the censors. Rounding out the extras is the very good theatrical trailer and a lengthy poster and stills gallery including behind-the-scenes photos, poster art from around the world and the full Italian pressbook. (Casey Scott)
BACK TO REVIEWS