The Nun and the Devil (1973) Twilight Time Blu-ray Review
I’m not an expert on the “nunsploitation” subgenre that haunts the outskirts of the horror genre, but I’ve seen a few, and the Italian made The Nun and the Devil is a fairly straightforward drama with some exploitation elements, which are really the selling point for the movie, at least to me.
An ambitious nun in the 16th century finds herself at the mercy of church for her sins.
In the 16th century, a beautiful nun – Mother Giula (Anne Heywood) – is on track to become the Mother Abbess of the convent where she’s stationed, and with an influx of vulnerable young nuns coming in, the younger nuns look to her for guidance and authority rather than the elder Abbess, whom Giula begins to poison to be rid of her. A particularly beautiful young nun named Isabella (Ornella Muti, later in Flash Gordon) finds that she’s not suited for the life of a nunnery, and her beauty becomes a distraction for some of the men – some of them under the guise of holiness and servitude – and their lust for her obviously goes against the guidelines of the strict rules and guidelines the church is known for. This is a dangerous time in history to be caught lusting or indulging in the flesh: If caught, the torture and humiliations, and even executions of the “guilty,” are meted out with the utmost severity. When Giula is forced to admit her ambitions and sins in front of a tribunal, she is tortured alongside of another of her abbesses who is stripped naked, degraded, and tortured in full view of their male accusers. Giula’s greatest sins are exposed, and the church closes the chapter on her life and all her works.
I’m not an expert on the “nunsploitation” subgenre that haunts the outskirts of the horror genre, but I’ve seen a few, and the Italian made The Nun and the Devil is a fairly straightforward drama with some exploitation elements, which are really the selling point for the movie, at least to me. The plot was apparently lifted from a story by Stendhal, and for the most part the film is low key with some salacious bits involving lusty nuns who get naked and jump in the sack with their sexual partners (one scene has a young nun having an orgasm when she’s being examined for her virginity, for example), and the film’s climax has some uncomfortable torture scenes that might raise a few eyebrows, but overall the movie plays it pretty safe with the material. Filmmaker Dominico Paolella’s approach is not really committed to the exploitation aspect and yet he allows the movie’s gaze to shift here and there in a half-staff manner at the elements that clearly define the genre it’s set in. So why the hesitation? Perhaps he wanted to simply tell a story, even as it wilts on the vine for the sake of bearing a certain kind of fruit not meant to be lustily devoured but admired and appreciated for its beauty instead.
Twilight Time’s Blu-ray edition of The Nun and the Devil looks and sounds stellar in its restored high definition state. It’s a limited edition and comes with an insert booklet about the film.