UKHS Does the Nasty! KILLER NUN (1978)

KN1UKHS Does the Nasty!
KILLER NUN (1978)

It’s day four of our Video Nasty week and, clad in nothing but a holy water soaked wet t-shirt, UKHS’ resident audio nut Mark Pidgeon gets all sacrilegious with KILLER NUN…

Also known as: Suor Omicidi

As well as changing the face of the whole home video industry, the Video Nasty saga’s burst of moral panic and outrage also helped a few lesser known horror titles escape from the realms of obscurity; pushing them out into the stratosphere of cult movie fandom for decades to come.

The majority of titles were notably banned for violence and assorted misogynistic acts, such as graphic depictions of rape, torture and general sexual deviancy. Giulio Berruti’s Killer Nun meanwhile adds another to its cap, one which is still a very controversial topic to this day: blasphemy.

Much like its Nazisploitation counterpart, Nunsploitation was central to the rise of nasty fame, both sub-genres flourishing in a richly populated market that supposedly would exploit and corrupt the working class folk of eighties Great Britain. In typical class segregation and political elitism, some of the early Nunsploitation films condemned for home viewing within a Nasty-type bracket actually received acclaim from the upper-class, art-house scene – Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971) and Walerian Borowczyk’s Behind Convent Walls (1978) most notably.

KN2Many Nunsploitation films would be set in a medieval/cathedral setting, usually including a sadistic mother superior with a penchant for flaying nubile Catholic nuns as she attempts to purify the flesh – a novel way for the seventies softcore audience to witness a little more masochism than they were used to. It was a similar set up to the women in prison mantra: young women exploited and helpless, all the while giving in to sin, with varying degrees of pleasure after initial reluctance.

Killer Nun thrust aging Swedish sex siren and La Dolce Vita starlet Anita Ekberg – the main reason film fans flocked to screenings to see more of the beautiful actress in more ways than one- into a world of degradation and desperation. The sexual antics are a tool for her to achieve what she wants and is in full swing throughout. Couple this with her need for drugs, a slope of insanity makes Killer Nun a beautifully filmed Nunsploitaion picture; yet the film hasn’t aged well and suffers like much of ilk to a now modern-day tameness.

Based upon a true story about a Nun working in a geriatric hospital, Sister Gertrude suffered with an addiction to morphine (due to cancer) and relentlessly killed patients, robbing them in the process to fund her morphine addiction. Taking out her own frustrations on her patients she becomes the antithesis of the veil and her religious duties, seen by Baba Yaga director Berruti whom then crafted and exploited the story as the basis for this film after seeing potential in the brutality of the crime.

KN3An excellent,delirious score supplements the carnage and is a highlight of the film offering an almost dreamlike status to the murder sequences which fits in well with the morphine thematic. During a scene where a patient is thrown from a window the repetitive pulsing sound-scape makes the sequence far more effective than it deserved adding surrealism and panic with a minimal yet aggressive sound structure; Kubrick would be proud.

Ekberg herself is noted in an interview from 2006 as taking the role as “the psyche of the nun appealed to her and was a deviation from the Dolce Vita clones that [she] was only getting offered at the time”. Her descent into addiction, madness and lust is well played throughout. She is convincing in the seductress part of the role as well as the addictive junkie personality, merging the two persona’s well and garnering both viewer sympathy and repulsion in the process. At heart this is a tale of a woman screaming out for help in a world which has unfair preconceptions about her and the life she chose to lead, both religiously and as a drug abuser/sexual deviant. It’s weirdly deep for a film of this ilk.

The supporting cast will be familiar to many a die hard Italian horror fanatic; roles from Suspiria’s (1977) Alida Valli and Nunsploitation mainstay Paola Morra help proceedings along nicely. Killer Nun is by no means a great film but it offers enough charm, flair and scope to merit a viewing. The lesbian love interest, Sister Mathieu, plays well against Gertrude as she rebukes her advances while being meticulous and cruel and she is deftly handled by Morra.

KN4Upon release Killer Nun was banned in Italy and later in 1983 was banned in the United Kingdom and, to this day, the film remains banned in Iceland. The original poster art also came under scrutiny as the suggestion depiction of a nun performing a sex act was deemed unsuitable and was amended into a subtler affair with a silhouette of Morra looking into Ekbergs seductive gaze.

The religious iconography is also another moot point, this could have essentially been the same film with Gertrude being in any position of uniform and not a nun; would it have still attracted the intended audience? For the most part yes, but Killer Nun rides the coattails of Catholicism focusing on the purity of religion using it as a tool for dissection and deviation sure to ruffle a few feathers and excite a few others in the process.

Its also undoubtedly on this list because of the connotation of the title alone; if it would have been given a release under its original language title, Suor Omicidim would the DPP have clocked it? The widespread panic and attacks by name association alone helped fuel the Video Nasty fire. Nunsploitation fans are grateful to her for rescuing this title from video.

Nunsploitation expert Nigel Wingrove submitted the film to the BBFC again in 1993 as part of his aptly titled side label Salvation, an offshoot of Redemption films. Redemption were oft victims of the heavy handed clout of Mary Whitehouse and her fear mongering lynch mob; Wingrove was granted a VHS release with 13 seconds of footage omitted.

KN6Removing two notable scenes of violence; the first a Needle in an eye sequence , the latter a depiction of Surgery on a skull which looks terribly dated upon viewing now. It is interesting to note than there are actually very few cuts compared to some of the more notorious titles on this list and that both cuts, although excessive were used to enhance the story not done for extra shocks.

The film is now available uncut in the UK from Shameless Screen Entertainment which resubmitted the film in 2006. Shameless have re-instated the cut footage from an Italian print – one which has never been dubbed into English – and this is an excellent way for people to witness the cut footage for the first time, although it does become a little distracting to have a tiny section of the film in Italian instead of using the whole Italian source. Presumably a full Italian print was unavailable or the print not of sufficient standard. Germany and USA also have fully uncut versions from Koch Media and Blue Underground respectively.

Killer Nun: perfect Saturday night viewing, before church on Sunday!

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Follow Mark on twitter @Gpressonline

#UKHSNasty

Contraband (1980) DVD Review

 

CONTRABAND 001CONTRABAND aka LUCA IL CONTRABBANDIERE aka THE SMUGGLER (1980) DVD

Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: Fabio Testi, Ivana Monti, Marcel Bozuffi

Written by: Gianni De Chiara, Lucio Fulci, Giorgio Mariuzzo, Ettore Sanzo

UK Certification: 18

UK RRP: £14.99

DVD Region: 0

Runtime: 93 minutes (uncut)

Directed by: Lucio Fulci

UK Release Date: 2nd June 2014

Distributor: Shameless Screen Entertainment

The reason you begin to write about the world of cult movies is that one day you might be able to wax lyrical about those artists that you’re most passionate about, and in turn perhaps even convince some folk to check them out. Lucio Fulci is one of those artists. For me, discovering his films was a watershed moment in shaping my taste as a teenager and beyond (no pun intended). Up until I was 18 or 19 I was pretty much confined to the standard mainstream fare of Hollywood. At the time Scream (1996) had just come out and American horror was about to set off on a notable resurgence with the likes of I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), The Faculty (1998) and Urban Legend (1998). For me though, when someone passed me a Vipco VHS of Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979) I knew my path would be taking a different direction to humdrum box-office fodder.

Fulci was an Italian master who never really quite received the acclaim that here deserved during his life. He himself felt his work was always in the shadow of someone like Dario Argento, a man who Fulci occasionally aimed the odd side-swipe at. As far as I was concerned though he easily matched Argento and I was soon sinking my teeth into classics such as The Beyond (1981), The House by the Cemetery (1981) and The New York Ripper (1981). The more Fulci I got though, the more I delved into his career and discovered that he had the ability to cross genres, for example the excellent Spaghetti Western – Four of the Apocalypse (1975), and Contraband which fell under the Poliziotteschi banner.

CONTRABAND 002The Poliziotteschi genre (crime-thriller) ran almost concurrently with the Giallo genre, emerging in the late 60s and eventually fizzling out during the early 80s with Contraband being one of the last. The feted directors of the genre were undoubtedly Fernando Di Leo who made my favourite Poliziotteschi film – Milano Calibro 9 (1972) which is soon to take its first bow in the UK thanks to Arrow Video, and also people like Damiano Damiani and the great Umberto Lenzi. It’s a superb genre, and one which demands more attention from cult film lovers. With a documentary on the way entitled Eurocrime!: The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the 70s, then hopefully that will soon be rectified.

Contraband follows the well-worn template of many of the Poliziotteschi movies. Luca (Testi) has recently moved to Naples with his wife (Monti) and his son to help his brother Mickey (Farnese) in his Mafia orientated work smuggling cigarettes into the port. However, during one delivery the police intercept the drop off which leads Luca and Mickey to suspect that one of the rival families may have given the police a tip off and Mafioso orientated carnage ensues.

The first third of Fulci’s movie may well lull you into a false sense of security that this is just a pedestrian crime movie – it really isn’t. As Contraband whips along we’re treated to levels of violence and gore that you may well find shocking and lurid. From a woman’s face being slowly burned off with a lighter as the camera fixes upon her, to double-barrelled shotgun blowing stomachs to smithereens – it really descends into carnage of the bloodiest order. Of course if you’re a Fulci fanatic you’ll be well versed in Lucio’s gore filled approach, but what struck me with Contraband is that even 34 years later just how raw some of the brutality is. It’s gorgeous!

Fabio Testi in the lead role is sublime and he’ll be well known to fans of Italian cinema with roles in such films as Enzo G. Castellari’s The Big Racket (1976) and The Heroin Busters (1977), while the supporting cast perform ably across the board – including Fulci himself in a hilarious cameo. The film’s score by Fulci veteran Fabio Frizzi is a real highlight, while Sergio Salvati’s cinematography proves just why Lucio worked with him in so many of his films.

CONTRABAND 003This edition from Shameless can best be described as solid with one notable stand out being the gorgeously lurid artwork by Richard Wells which is in stark contrast to the rather staid original poster which is available on the reverse sleeve. The Shameless release has no major picture quality enhancement since the 2004 Blue Underground edition, and no notable extras other than the option to have the English dub or Italian language with English subtitles. However, this to me is more than satisfactory as I know Shameless operate on a meagre budget and I’m just glad to see this picture by an icon of cult cinema finally appear in the UK market in its original form.

Film: 8 out of 10

Extras: 2 out of 10

 

The 10th Victim (1965) DVD Review

10TH VICTIM 001THE 10th VICTIM (1965) DVD

Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: Ursula Andress, Marcello Mastroianni, Elsa Martinelli, Salvo Randone

Written by: Robert Sheckley (story), Tonino Guerra, Giorgio Salvioni, Ennio Flaiano, Elio Petri

UK Certification: 18

UK RRP: £17.99

UK DVD Region: 2

Runtime: 88 minutes

Directed by: Elio Petri

UK Release Date: 10th March 2014

The gladiatorial death show – it’s a story that currently dominates Hollywood’s biggest franchise right now, The Hunger Games. This plot though has been around for quite some time, and has resulted in some iconic films from Battle Royale (2000) to The Running Man (1987) to Rollerball (1975). Some say that the existence of these movies are purely down to the story ‘The Seventh Victim’ from author Robert Sheckley, a Hugo nominated American author known for his quick-witted, absurdist stories. What is certain is that The 10th Victim, the film based on his story, is without doubt the first movie to involve a reality-style TV game show that selects the participants.

10TH VICTIM 002The rules of the big hunt are quite easy, though they are of vital importance” is what greets us at the start of Petri’s movie. Following a detailed breakdown of said rules – including the statement that the 21st century shall be the first for legalised violence, we’re taken to a sterile white room where an audience of people witness the end of a hunt where Caroline Meredith (Ursula Andress) murders her hunter in cold blood to a ripple of enthusiastic applause from the watching masses. We’re left in no doubt as to the impressive nature of the kill due to Caroline being serenaded straight after by a pair of dark glasses clad executives who want to capitalise on her fame by using her to sponsor their product.

Next up, we get to bear witness to the conclusion of another hunt, albeit this time the hunter – Marcello Poletti (Mastroianni) is the victor. He too finds his growing reputation in the spotlight, but struggles with the fame and infamy that his ability brings with it. This killer however is about to be drawn as a victim, and it’s no surprise to discover that the hunter is none other than Caroline Meredith. With Meredith only one victory away from the immunity of ten kills, surely she won’t let the snarling charm of Poletti stand in her way?

Once you’ve seen The 10th Victim, the most striking thing is that there’s just so much to talk about and fawn over. The eclectic soundtrack that was one of Andy Warhol’s favourites, the prediction of a reality based TV culture or the drool-worthy production design – it’s all quite an experience to take in on a first viewing. Meanwhile Mastroianni is the epitome of cool, dressed in black whilst donning dark glasses more often than not. Andress is similarly beguiling, and the two manage to create a memorable onscreen pairing.

10TH VICTIM 003It’s a difficult film to pigeonhole and is therefore best left to transcend traditional stereotyping to one specific genre as it manages to blend socio-political commentary alongside thriller, comedy and of course science-fiction. This edition from Shameless comes as a dual-format DVD and blu-ray, and it must be said the blu-ray looks very impressive indeed – which of course was vital to highlight the artistic nature of such a movie along with the dynamic colouring of many of the scenes. The 10th Victim won’t please everybody, indeed for some it may just be the source from where Austin Powers drew inspiration for the Fembots. For others though, it’s an iconic work of art and a frighteningly prophetic glimpse into our television future.

8out of 10

Extras:

Interview with Kim Newman & Paola Petri

Photo gallery

Trailer

Choice of English audio or Italian audio with English subtitles

Formula For A Murder (1985) DVD Review

formula1FORMULA FOR A MURDER (1985) DVD

Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: David Warbeck, Christina Nagy, Carroll Blumenberg, Rossano Brazzi

Written by: Alberto De Martino, Vincenzo Mannino

UK Certification: 18

UK RRP: £12.99

UK DVD Region: 2

Runtime: 84 minutes

Directed by: Alberto De Martino

UK Release Date: 24th February 2014

Can you believe Shameless Screen Entertainment are seven years old this year? Indeed, back in late 2007 they entered the unsuspecting UK market with Lucio Fulci’s New York Ripper and followed it up with such classics as Torso and Strip Nude for Your Killer. Indeed, it could be argued that they were trailblazers at that time – ahead of Arrow Video, 88 Films and Second Sight, companies that now follow a similar model. This last 18 months though things have been a little quiet for the yellow sleeved ones, but now that the UK genre market seems to be strengthening here’s hoping that Shameless find their 2nd wind.

Formula for a Murder was the final directorial project for Alberto De Martino who had a go at almost every Italian sub-genre that happened to be in vogue, from Spaghetti Westerns to Eurocrime to Eurospy to post-apocalyptic. In 1985 though, this Gialli entry seemed to arrive a late onto the scene, but nevertheless it makes for a damned enjoyable watch. Our main character in the movie is Joanna (Christina Nagy), who is wheelchair-bound after a horrific childhood attack. Despite her disability though, she maintains a very active lifestyle by engaging in fencing and archery, all aided by her trainer Craig (David Warbeck).

FORMULA 002She lives in a luxurious villa with her friend Ruth (Blumenberg) who is a confidante to her and helps her with day to day tasks such as spending time in the sauna and giving her a massage – something that Ruth seems to thoroughly enjoy! When Joanna announces to Ruth that Craig has asked her to marry him, Ruth takes it to heart, although for Joanna this all seems like too much of a rush. For Craig meanwhile, this pending announcement comes with words of warning from her psychiatrist (Rossano Brazzi) who tells him she has completely blocked out the accident that paralyzed her as a child, and if she were to remember it could well trigger a fatal heart attack. With this childhood incident involving a Priest as well as a blood-stained doll, it’s not long before memories from the past become visions of the present – but are they visions, or is somebody attempting to cause harm to Joanna to take control of her sizeable inheritance?

The scheming in Formula for a Murder is revealed quite early on into the movie, with a fairly early revelation of the perpetrator(s) identity, but that’s not to say there aren’t a few more surprises further down the line, all of which make for an entertaining – and sinister giallo. Some of the murder sequences are very violent indeed and at times this movie is certainly deserving of its ‘18’ certificate. The casting is just perfect with Warbeck as always outstanding, and the two female leads – Nagy and Blumenberg, while not possessing the siren-esque qualities of Edwige Fenech for example, still bring an alluring charm and with Nagy in particular, a certain level of innocence and naivety.

FORMULA 003The print that Shameless have exhumed looks very pleasing indeed considering the movies relative obscurity, while De Martino who has at times been unfairly castigated in some circles as something of a hack, turns in an excellent directorial performance. While it’s fair to say the Giallo genre was on the decline in the second half of the 1980s, it would be remiss to overlook the strength of some of the films made during this period. Obviously Opera (1988), Delirium (1987), Stage Fright (1987) and Phantom of Death (1987) stand out – but with this excellent re-release of such an overlooked title, I have no doubt that Formula for a Murder can go on to sit comfortably in such company.

7.5 out of 10