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The Killer Nun


Mercy me!

Rod Lott April 9th, 2012

Forgive and forget — the one ability that Sister Gertrude (La Dolce Vita star Anita Ekberg) sorely lacks, in 1979's The Killer Nun, one of the more popular entries in the whacked-out subgenre known as “nunsploitation.” However, the Italian project may be the only one based on a true story.

killernun

After having a brain tumor removed, Sister Gertrude hasn't been the same. She thinks she still has cancer and cries out for a shot filled with sweet, sweet morphine. The doctors at the psych ward where she works assure her that her thoughts are simply stress-induced and psychosomatic, but Gertrude's much-younger roomie, Sister Mathieu (Paola Morra, an Italian Playboy centerfold from the year before), procures her the fixes she needs, out of her lesbian love.

There's more bad behavior: It begins with Gertrude becoming so revolted by a patient’s dentures, she crushes them under her foot. This escalates to stealing from patients, and going into town dressed all slutty to sell the fenced jewelry and then copulate with a complete stranger. Worst of all sins is — as the title promises — murdering a few patients, most notably in a cringing scene of extreme acupuncture; those with an aversion to ocular trauma, you have been warned.

Director/co-writer Giulio Berruti (a script contributor to Baba Yaga) weaves a wavering hallucinatory narrative of a nun on the run from her own demons. It's not an indictment of the Catholic Church, but rather an anti-drug tale, however bizarre a route it takes. There's nothing flashy to it, and it just kind of ends, but if you're going to dip your toe in the nunsploitation waters, you may as well start here ... unless it's graphic nudity and sexuality you're after; this one is rather tame compared to its sisters.

Blue Underground’s Blu-ray release doesn't offer a crystal-clear print, but The Killer Nun is the kind of movie that plays better with a little grain, all the better to replicate the grindhouse experience. That’s not to suggest this uncensored disc is anything but subpar, however, as Team Underground gives the film its usual expert job.  

An original trailer and image gallery dot the slim extras, the best of which is a frank talk with Berruti, who reminisces about having to keep the true subject matter from the real convent where they shot. He reveals holding utter respect for Ekberg and compares Andy Warhol fixture Joe Dallesandro to James Dean, but says Morra was “forced down my throat” by producers.

He saves the harshest criticism for his own work, which didn't turn out the way he wanted, calling it “a daughter abandoned by her father.” Really, he has nothing to be ashamed enough. While not high art, it never was meant to be; as a B-level thriller with blood on the brain, it works. —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:
Baba Yaga Blu-ray review

 
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