It’s simultaneously blessing and a curse to come to a horror movie with a thirst to unearth the filmmakers’ artistry. Sometimes, it’s a little like rooting through a box of Froot Loops to find the prize hidden inside, only to come up with multicolored dust caked under your fingernails and nothing but a two-stage lenticular card showing an image of a clown shifting from side to side. Just like the treat DOES exist in the cereal box, there IS a vision in a movie, but it’s nothing to get terribly excited about.
The holiday season is once again upon us, and in addition to thoughts of Krampus* and konsumerism, we should all take a moment to put the Christ back in Christmas and append the word “nun” with “sploitation.” Perhaps that last bit sounds dubious to you, but I’ll have you know that in the Tenebrous Empire, the X-Mess Nunsploitation is a time-honored tradition. You have your fruitcake; I’ll have mine.
Who doesn’t love a little naughty nun action first thing on a Monday morning? Traipse on over to Nunsploitation.net and check out my review of “The Abbess of Castro.” Gorgeous Barbara Bouchet dons the habit to play the feisty leader of a convent in 18th Century Italy, only to fall in love with a man of the cloth. Trust me when I say it’s melodramagasmic. Here are a few stills from this notable entry into the canon of Sexy Sisters of Sinema to whet your appetite:
Pichard began his career in 1946 with illustrations in mainstream publications, eventually moving into comic strips and then producing his first erotic work, “Blanche Epiphanie,” in 1967, beginning what would be a 40-year career in naughty books. Late in his life, he taught at l’Ecole des Arts Appliques in Paris (where he had been a student). Pichard died in 2003, leaving the world with a tremendous legacy of erotic art.
If Nate Yapp of Classic-Horror.com wasn’t such a goddamn charming sonofabitch, I, much like Admiral Ackbar, would have been able to identify a trap when I saw one. I guess it’s a good thing for you folks that my life continues to be Gullible’s Travels, because I was lured into an exploration of the frequently-analyzed and thoroughly-awesome Mexican horror film “Alucarda.” Leave it to the glossy allure of New Media to lull me into a sense of geeky hyp-mo-tism!
- Boris Karloff’s awesome haircut
- Panty-moistening art deco architecture
- Incestuous necrophilia
- Subnormal is the NEW normal
- Blood-drenched lesbonic hottness
- Why “Alucarda” is not a nunsploitation film
- Psychic battles with gypsies
It is a TRUE FACT that I can’t turn down an invitation from the estimable Duke of DVD and the equally-estimable Vicar of VHS at Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies, so when they announced that they were preparing a tag-team review (not as dirty as it sounds, or exactly as dirty as it sounds, depending on what you read into that) of one of the finest entries into the nunsploitation subgenre and wanted me to lend my expertise to their discourse, the only answer I could offer was “But Of Course, Gentlemen.” Apparently this is a doozy of a review, so the boys have divided it up into three segments to be posted this week. Here are my thoughts on the film, and follow the link at the bottom of the page to be magically transported to a wonderland of filth.
Walerian Borowczyk’s 1978 film, “Behind Convent Walls,” walks a tightrope between earthy farce and tragedy that might seem more at home on a Sixteenth Century stage than captured on film. Unlike other titles in the nunsploitation canon, Borowczyk’s take on the Women In God’s Prison theme is a bawdy romp that is free from the depictions of Satanism and torture that texture other similar flicks. This is still a scathing indictment of the Catholic Church, but Borowczyk’s approach is to strip out the dark fantasy elements and force the viewer to confront the potential tragedy that results from the suppression of natural human sexual impulses. This vision is in contrast to the densely symbolic and dream-like world of a director like Jean Rollin, or the compulsive camera-eye of a Jess Franco.
Borowczyk’s literality infuses every aspect of the film. The cinematography by Luciano Tovoli (veteran of Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” and “Tenebre”) combines a hand-held camera with sensual soft-focus that creates haloes of light around the faces of the nuns. A restrained color palette provides a sense of visual unity—as the title suggests, the film takes place entirely in one nunnery, and the colors are almost entirely limited to white, black, red and a woody neutral. It’s a stunning film to look at that emphasizes the beauty of its main players—the experience of watching this film is like seeing a fabulously naughty image painted by Vermeer and then brought to life.
But back to those “natural human sexual impulses” that are the focus of this tale. This movie brims with sex and all natures of couplings are explored, sometimes in graphic detail. Softcore hetero and lesbian scenes abound, from furtive girl-on-girl breast-groping in a confessional (bonus points for the fourth-wall-busting “oh no we’re too shy” response of the ladies to the voyeuristic camera’s gaze) to a passionate outdoor deflowering to a rough-and-tumble quickie over a crate of chickens. A surprisingly explicit close-up scene of a nun masturbating with a homemade wooden dildo rounds out the “something for everyone” on-screen sex report. There’s an effort to make the sex in this film look real and erotic without verging onto the territory of plastickey pornography or a fetish fulfillment checklist. Elements like the hand-painted erotica that one nun uses to trade for forbidden food or the very sexual crush that another nun has developed on Jesus himself add a innocence and even sweetness to the proceedings.
This isn’t so much a work of the fantastique as it is one of magical realism. The story takes place in the real world, but there are inexplicable quirks throughout that one must accept rather than struggle to explain. It serves to reflect conditions and issues that exist in reality rather than to represent them directly.
In keeping with the bawdy nature of this film, I think it’s best if I get out from behind the lectern and turn this over to two gentlemen who can guide you through some of the weird and wonderful details of what goes on “Behind Convent Walls.” Duke and Vicar—have at!
Click here to read Part One of the Duke and the Vicar’s take on “Behind Convent Walls.” These dudes love the Meat Man (I am refraining from inserting any If You Know What I Mean content here–you’re welcome).
And the GRAND FINALE – Part Three of the Duke and the Vicar on “Behind Convent Walls” (wherein they lament the lack of Paul Naschy–yeah, I know, you lay a feast in front of these guys and all they want is beefy pectorals).
Pal of the Tenebrous Empire and all-around super-blogger Darius Whiteplume of Adventures in Nerdliness recently mentioned that he found blogging to be the best form of social networking he’s found, and I’ve got to agree. In the past year (February 15 was my one-year blogiversary!) that I’ve been updating here, I’ve encountered some marvelous writers who also happen to be great, supportive human beings. It’s about time that I took a minute out to say THANK YOU to everyone who’s reading my blather and supporting me (or enabling me, depending on your perspective). I’m honestly kind of astonished to have gained any visibility at all, and I owe particular debts of gratitude to Arbogast on Film, Frankensteinia, and the members of the League of Tana Tea Drinkers for their early and enthusiastic shout-outs in my direction. I’m risking an all-out LOVE IN over here, but suffice to say my readers rule. Thanks for making this a truly rewarding diversion for me!