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  Nun and the Devil, The Convent Capers
Year: 1973
Director: Dominico Paolella
Stars: Anne Heywood, Luc Merenda, Ornella Muti, Martine Brochard, Muriel Catalá, Claudia Gravy, Maria Cumani Quasimodo, Pier Paolo Capponi, Claudio Gora, Duilio Del Prete
Genre: Drama, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: There's upheaval on the way for a convent in sixteenth century Italy, and Mother Julia (Anne Heywood) could well be at the centre of the turmoil, which is all connected to noblemen's donations and land rights which they hope to secure and will make the Church a lot of money if all goes to plan. Part of that plan involves the current Mother Superior, who is gravely ill, dying, and Julia hopes it will be she who will take her position when she shuffles off this mortal coil. Meanwhile, Carmela (Claudia Gravy) is also intent on bettering her status in the religious heirarchy, but has secretly taken a lover who sneaks into her cell almost every night. Julia has feelings for fellow nun Chiara (Martine Brochard) but she will have to suppress them - yet is she too late?

The genre of nunsploitation seems a strange one to me, and the lesbian tendencies of nuns an unlikely basis for a feature length film. In truth, The Nun and the Devil, or Le Monache di Sant'Arcangelo as it was known originally, doesn't really belong to the genre, as although there is brief nudity and a spot of Spanish Inquisition style torture (which you might not expect) the story is more an examination of the hypocrisy of the relgious authorities of the time. British star Heywood is initially painted as the villain of the piece, but as the story draws on it's clear that there are elements higher up the power ladder than she who have darker motives.

No, this is more historical drama which in its English language version may remind you of those European dramas that were dubbed for consumption in English-speaking countries, you know, stuff like The Flashing Blade or Silas. As such a certain earnestness is imposed, so along with its condemnation of the Church there is also a preoccupation with depicting its ceremonies and conventions in detail: the ceremony for the novices to move up a step in holiness goes on for what feels like ages. The Devil does not make a literal appearance.

As well as hoping to take over the Mother Superior role, Julia is inducting her wholesome niece, Isabella (Ornella Muti) into convent life, but the girl is more determined to get together with her boyfriend on the outside, and Julia actually favours a young novice, Agnes (Muriel Catalá) over her own flesh and blood. As the plot undergoes various complications, and Julia schemes to poison her more elderly rival for the top job, the Archbishop and his men are dragged in, culminating with the sixteenth century equivalent of a courtroom scene where Julia is exposed, but also provides food for thought about the place of women in their society where she accuses the men of being the true dastards who have forced her into going to the lengths she does. As an exploitation movie, it may contain the odd racy moment, but probably won't satisfy trash fans, and will fall short for fans of historical drama, but it does have a brain in its head. Music by Piero Piccioni.

[Argent's Region 0 DVD has no special features at all. Not a sausage.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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