Director: Gilberto Martinez Solares
Mondo Macabro

One of the first releases from international madness label Mondo Macabro was ALUCARDA, the brilliant 1975 nunsploitation film from director Juan Lopez Moctezuma. This Mexican wonder packed in as much violence, nudity, outrageous performances and eye-popping visuals as possible! So when MM announced another Mexican nasty nun genre entry, SATANICO PANDEMONIUM, this looked like another prime slice of sleazy sin South-of-the-Border style. The film did influence Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's film FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, and probably also gave Moctezuma a few ideas for ALUCARDA, but it's a completely different beast than either of those films.

Good-natured Sister Maria resides in an isolated woodland convent, spending her time with local children and the animals she loves dearly. However, Maria begins to see visions of a sinister man, both nude and clothed, who offers her a shiny red apple: Satan offering her a taste of the forbidden as the snake did to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Before she realizes it, Maria is indulging in lesbian love-ins with her fellow nuns, making sexual passes at a young shepherd boy and losing her marbles one by one!

Where ALUCARDA was a horror film, plain and simple, SATANICO ANDEMONIUM mixes an arthouse sensibility with outrageous horror and exploitation elements to become something completely unique. It's not as garish and outrageous as Italian nunsploitation titles, but also not as overtly anti-religious as something by Pasolini or Ken Russell (mentioned on the box copy). Director Gilberto Martinez Solares has a great eye for visuals, and the dank shadowy convent is transformed into a sanctuary of evil quite easily through his accomplished cinematography. The pace is slow and deliberate, but there is plenty of atmosphere established to keep viewers interested. Lead actress Cecilia Pezet really does a good job with a complex character whose motivations are never explained, and is game to drop her nun habit for nude scenes and also to indulge in the violent murder scenes! One surprising element of the film is the blatant racism even within the house of God! A black nun cries to Sister Maria about how she left the outside world to escape prejudice against her dark skin, but the behavior of her fellow sisters is just as vicious and cruel as her experiences out of the habit. This plot development doesn't really go anywhere, but it's an interesting comment that religion isn't colorblind.

The violence in SATANICO PANDEMONIUM is relatively restrained, but it's interesting to note that it begins with small scenes like Sister Maria wrapping a belt of thorns around her stomach and beating herself and escalates to knife-wielding, blood-splattering murder scenes as the film progresses. The most disturbing scene of the film doesn't even involve bloodshed: Sister Maria watches as another nun hangs herself and does nothing to help her, instead cracking a slight smile as she watches the body swing from the rafters. Shudder... And then there is, of course, the really appalling sex-turned-murder scene which leaves Sister Maria covered in blood from head to toe! The similarly blood-drenched finale will definitely leave some bewildered, but it works as the film develops a fever dream narrative as it digs deeper and deeper into Sister Maria's dementia.

The letterboxed (1.85:1) anamorphic transfer of SATANICO PANDEMONIUM is simply stunning. The lush outdoor scenes burst forth with lovely greens and blue skies, blacks are deep and dark scenes don't suffer from too much grain. It appears the company had access to the original negative and this is another pretty much flawless restoration job to add to Mondo Macabro's impressive track record. The only time marks appear on the print is during the final reel and closing credits. The mono Spanish audio (with optional English subtitles) is acceptable enough; some of the dialogue sounds muffled, but it appears that the film was dubbed in post-production so this may be the cause. The musical score and sound effects, including much of the moaning and groaning of Sister Maria during her love scenes, come through quite clearly.

As with their other discs, Mondo Macabro includes two featurettes discussing the history of the film and the genre in general. "The Devil Went Down to Mexico" interviews Adolfo Martinez Solares, the screenwriter of the film and son of the director. Solares talks about his work with famous Mexican comedian Tin Tan and other more mainstream titles, the influence of the Franco Nero film THE MONK on the production of SATANICO PANDEMONIUM, how Luis Bunuel became involved with the production, casting Cecilia Pezet and Enrique Rocha, working with a group of prostitutes for the bacchanale sequence, and dealing with controversial themes in the 1970s. It's great to hear the behind-the-scenes stories of shooting a film like this in Mexico, and also Solares explains how he has distanced himself from the genre for religious reasons. "House of the Writhing Nun" interviews Redemption head honcho Nigel Wingrove about the nunsploitation subgenre, his favorite of the Eurocult genres. There are several great clips from THE SINFUL NUNS OF SAINT VALENTINE and ALUCARDA, as well as Wingrove's VISIONS OF ECTASY and SACRED FLESH, and Wingrove explains why the genre has become one of the most popular with male fans. It's hard to cut Wingrove some slack for those atrocious S&M-influenced covers for his Rollin and Eurocult titles, but he is the gent who brought a lot of these films out in respectable uncut editions and at least he's a genuine fan who knows what he's talking about. He also reveals his background as an art director! Capping off the extras are galleries of Mexican lobby cards and very rare Italian artwork for its limited release in that country, a written history of nunsploitation from Anthony Hartman of, a list of Mexican entries in the subgenre, and a biography of the director by Pete Tombs. Of course the ever-popular Mondo Macabro promo reel is here to tease newcomers and veterans of the label alike.

Enter the unpredictable world of SATANICO PANDEMONIUM with no preconceived notions of what it SHOULD be and viewers should definitely appreciate what it really is: a well-made exploitation vehicle which successfully collides class and sleaze for a satisfying viewing experience. It's no ALUCARDA (which really has no peers) but it's a fascinating glimpse into the warped mind of a sister of God. (Casey Scott)

Check out the Mondo Macabro website by clicking HERE.