DirectorSergio Bergonzelli, Domenico Paolella, Joe D'Amato, Bruno Mattei
Release Date(s)1972/1973/1979/1980 (December 14, 2021)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: C+
- Overall Grade: B
Nuns doing sinful and unsavory things in books and cinema has been a mainstay for many decades. However, this exploitation milieu peaked in the 1970s and into the 1980s when a slew of titles of different varieties hit movie theaters and drive-ins. Severin Films, a company keen to cash in on some of the filthiest that overseas filmmakers have to offer, offer up a curated collection of four of those titles: Cristiana Devil Nun aka Our Lady of Lust, directed by Sergio Bergonzelli and released in 1972; Story of a Cloistered Nun aka Unholy Convent, directed by Domenico Paolella and released in 1973; Images in a Convent, directed by Joe D'Amato and released in 1979, and The True Story of the Nun of Monza, directed by Bruno Mattei and released in 1980. Collectively, these films make up Nasty Habits: The Nunsploitation Collection, a Blu-ray boxed set full of sadism, sexuality, and sin.
In Cristiana Devil Nun, Cristiana and her boyfriend are wild and free, declaring their love for each other to whomever will listen. After joining the Mile High Club, their plane is nearly taken down by turbulence. Fearing death, Cristiana swears herself to God with the help of a nun passenger if she is spared. She follows through on her promise, but giving up sin is more difficult than she thought. Her sexual desires and her confusion about what she feels is right, including the advances of her former boyfriend and a fellow nun who is questioning herself as well, drive her back to her debaucherous ways, and ultimately, tragedy.
Cristiana is easily the most psychedelic of the four films in this set. Outside of a couple of hardcore shots during the sex scenes, it’s a fairly mundane entry into the genre... that is if you’re looking for total excess. Scenes of Cristiana partying after falling out of religion and offering herself up to the highest paying bidder are surprisingly typical of the era. It seems that everyone is out to get her in some capacity, for one reason or another, including a cigar-chomping pimp of sorts who says in so many words that he’s the actual Devil. Cristiana’s struggles in and out of the convent are what you’re paying your money to see, of course, but it all winds up being a bit tame compared to other titles in this release. As such, the films in this boxed set are well curated in that each one sets you up for the next, Cristiana Devil Nun being a lighter entry point overall.
Cristiana Devil Nun was shot by director of photography Antonio Maccoppi on 35 mm film, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The source for this presentation is from the only known surviving 35 mm print of the X-rated US version of the film. It’s a compromised source as it features extensive fading and damage, including speckling and minor instability, but the majority of the presentation features excellent contrast and color.
Audio is presented in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles. It’s a clean track with good dialogue and score reproduction, and surprisingly decent sound effects.
CRISTIANA DEVIL NUN (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C/B-/B
In Story of a Cloistered Nun, the beautiful Carmela is cast out by her family for denying her betrothed’s hand in marriage. As punishment, she’s sent to a convent where she is to remain as a nun for the rest of her life. There she finds a strict moral code where the punishment is severe. Though she finds it difficult to adjust to her new surroundings at first, she’s given comfort by a fellow nun. However, things aren’t as they seem, and as she struggles with temptation, she must also avoid the sadist punishments of the mother superior—as well as potential murder.
Carmela’s plight in Story of a Cloistered Nun is a little bit more attuned to what many would think of when considering this genre. However, it’s the least exploitative and perhaps the most well made of the four films in this set. Stunning cinematography mixed with extremely heavy material that’s treated more seriously than most make it more compelling. Look no further than Carmela being locked in a cell with little to eat for many days upon her initial arrival at the convent. How the story plays out and where Carmela winds up at the end of the film also make it a redemption story of sorts, going in a more interesting direction than one might expect.
Story of a Cloistered Nun was shot by director of photography Armando Nannuzzi on 35 mm film using Arriflex 2C cameras, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The source for this presentation is a 2K scan of the original camera negative. It’s a remarkably strong presentation—clean with good detail and mild grain. Everything appears soft with slight diffusion, while the varied hues and flesh tones are often strong. Black levels appear natural with good contrast. Only occasional minor instability mars an otherwise nice presentation.
Audio is presented in English or Italian 2.0 mono LPCM with optional subtitles in English. The English track is clean with good fidelity, though minor sibilance is evident. The Italian track is similar, but with a bit more hiss, and dialogue that seems more canned by comparison.
STORY OF A CLOISTERED NUN (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B/B+/B
In Images in a Convent, a young woman named Isabella is sent to a convent, and upon her arrival, the nuns suddenly take part in overt sexual activities, much to the shock of the mother superior. While they can’t keep their hands off of themselves or each other, all is blamed initially on Isabella before the nuns see a vision of Satan upon the church altar. One day a young man arrives wounded from battle, which causes further problems. An approaching priest, unaware of what’s going on inside, will soon be arriving to find things out of control, forcing him to exorcise the convent of its supposed malevolent demons.
Easily the most exploitative of the four titles presented here, Images in a Convent is all over the place sexually, including many hardcore moments between the nuns. With a demon on the loose possessing each of them and bringing out their deepest sexual desires, the habits fly off as they tear into each other. That said, it’s never one hundred percent clear if this is the work of the Devil or if it’s just a bunch of pent-up, horny women looking for an excuse to blame something or someone. The exorcism scene alone, which involves all of the women with their breasts fully exposed as the priest tosses holy water repeatedly into the air, even as they attempt to undo his clothing, is proof positive that Images in a Convent is over-the-top blasphemous and completely out of control.
Images in a Convent was shot by director of photography Joe D'Amato (as Aristide Massaccesi) on 35 mm film, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Severin’s presentation of the film purports to be “scanned in 2K from the original negative of the uncut version.” Rough in terms of fine detail, it’s extremely grainy, even noisy in spots where there’s heavy diffusion. Detail tends to struggle and hues are relatively strong with good contrast. Scratches are occasionally seen running through the frame as well.
Audio is presented in Italian 2.0 mono LPCM with optional subtitles in English. It has a little more depth than most tracks of its ilk, sounding less boxy than usual. Dialogue exchanges are clear and the score has nice heft to it. A mild hiss is present throughout.
IMAGES IN A CONVENT (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C+/C+/B
In The True Story of the Nun of Monza, multiple plot threads follow a group of nuns under the newly-appointed mother superior, Sister Virginia. The object of one man’s desire, she is seduced and continues on with a passionate love affair as other nuns and a priest become sexually entangled with each other as well. Sister Virginia’s reign won’t be long though as others are plotting to expose her, but when she becomes pregnant and a murder occurs, more than just the local clergy will be interested in what’s going on at this depraved convent.
While The True Story of the Nun of Monza takes inspiration from real life (as well as the historical novel The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni), it’s far from a decent film. It’s the most scatterbrained of the four with multiple characters and scenes that have little to no connective tissue. One of several films released that year with Bruno Mattei at the helm, it barely functions as a plot, though if offers plenty that nunsploitation fans have shown up to enjoy. Real footage of horses having sex taken from Walerian Borowczyk’s The Beast opens the film as a drunken crowd looks on with glee. It lets you know right away that this isn’t a film for those interested in a tightly-knitted story about a nun falling from grace. It wants to be that, especially in the final minutes when a story actually develops, but it’s far off course.
The True Story of the Nun of Monza was shot by director of photography Giuseppe Bernardini on 35 mm film, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Severin says that this presentation has been “scanned uncut in HD from the original negative.” Unfortunately, it’s the worst-looking presentation of the bunch. It appears to have been pieced together from different elements, likely print-based, and it suffers from high levels of murky grain, even frozen in spots. Some of the footage appears to have had a heavy dose of DNR applied to it, sucking definition and detail out of the image altogether. Other footage is a bit sharper with more refined grain, but is less frequent. Colors are decent aside from black levels that aren’t all that deep. Leftover scratches and speckling are also present.
Audio is presented in Italian 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles. Aside from the score, it’s a flat track. Dialogue is discernible, but it’s incredibly narrow. It also has odd drifts and beeps along the way, but is otherwise clean.
THE TRUE STORY OF THE NUN OF MONZA (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): D/D+/C+
The contents of the Nasty Habits boxed set are presented on four separate discs. The following extras are included on each:
DISC ONE: CRISTIANA DEVIL NUN
- Extended Italian Version in Italian or with Partial English (101:42)
- Sisters of Vice and Virtue: The Marquis De Sade and Nunsploitation (12:49)
The Extended Italian Version of the film has been compiled from the main presentation and a rare 35 mm Italian release print containing 10 extra minutes of footage, but with obvious leftover damage and color loss. The footage includes more nudity from other potential nuns, an extra scene between Cristiana and Eleanora discussing their vows (giving Eleanora more motivation for what she eventually does), more of Cristiana remembering to keep her promise to God and her subsequent ceremony, Cristiana collapsing in the painter’s apartment, her mother arriving home after the orgy scene, the priest chasing Cristiana with a shotgun after she steels the crown, more with the prostitutes at the end, and opening and closing credits in Italian (depending on which language you choose). Some of this extra footage actually alters Cristiana’s motivations and makes her a more of an overtly regretful character. In Sisters of Vice and Virtue, Lindsay Hallam discusses the history of nunsploitation, leading up to Cristiana Devil Nun and how it figures into the genre as a whole. She also briefly discusses other films in the set as well.
DISC TWO: STORY OF A CLOISTERED NUN
- Down the Well (11:16)
- A Nun’s Story (23:28)
- Within a Cloister (16:01)
- English Theatrical Trailer (3:45)
Down the Well features an interview with actress Martine Brochard who discusses how she came to the project, aspects of her character, the difficulty of her death scene, her co-stars, working with the crew, the content of these kinds of films, her belief in God, and whether films like this could be made today. A Nun’s Story features an interview with actress Eleonora Giorgi, who discusses being an art student, being chosen for the film, the cast, working with the director and the producer, her experiences on the film, how she relates to her character, having to choose between acting and other careers, doing nude scenes, how she feels about the film today, the film’s appeal to fans, dubbing her films, and the film’s premiere. Within a Cloister features an interview with assistant cameraman Daniele Nannuzzi who discusses the film’s positive aspects, how impressed everybody was with Eleonora Giorgi, working with the director, his father the director of photography, the type of cameras used to shoot the film with, the cast, other films and sets that he’s worked on, shooting on a raised set for the well scene, and his thoughts on the film today.
DISC THREE: IMAGES IN A CONVENT
- Audio Commentary by Kat Ellinger
- Deleted Scenes with Audio Commentary by Kat Ellinger (25:21)
In her audio commentary, author and critic Kat Ellinger discusses her love for the work of Joe D’Amato, defending his films for their over-the-top sexual content and how it relates to other types of similar films. She also talks about the film’s source text, which ultimately has very little common with the final film. The Deleted Scenes are sourced from a 16 mm single-strand original negative with no sound. As such, Kat Ellinger returns to provide commentary for them. As she details, many scenes are mostly extensions of the same scenes in the final film, but provide different or additional context with further character development, as well as an alternate ending that she wishes had been in the final film.
DISC FOUR: THE TRUE STORY OF THE NUN OF MONZA
- The Cross and the Sin (26:32)
- Sister Zora (28:37)
In The Cross and the Sin, writer and frequent Bruno Mattei collaborator Claudio Fragasso discusses he and Mattei finding the location for the film, meeting Mattei for the first time, coming up with the film’s story, the sexual content of the film, working on The Other Hell simultaneously, the various actors and crew, an unpleasant encounter with the director of photography, the film’s commercial success, feeling uneasy about making erotic exploitation, guerrilla tactics employed to get his films seen, and intimate details of his frustrations over his art. In Sister Zora, actress Zora Kerova talks about her career at the time, the major scene in the film in which she’s abused and raped, working with Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso, working on location, the cast, being nude in films, the more blasphemous scenes, being baptized at an older age, feeling at ease with her character, her final scene, being applauded on the set, seeing the film for the first time, and her excitement for the film being restored for the US.
The discs sit inside separate black amaray cases with their original theatrical artwork. Everything is housed within a rigid slipcase in which the top can be removed to access what’s inside.
Severin’s Nasty Habits boxed set offers different scoops of flavors of the nunsploitation genre, including some of the best and some of the worst, but all of them interesting in one way or another. It’s an intriguing release that exploitation fans are definitely gonna want to have on their shelves.
- Tim Salmons