The Nunsploitation Convent Collection (DVD)

Available in on 2500 Limited Edition Copies, Cult Epics has released the ultimate in nunsploitation double features pairing two of the most iconic nunsploitation films of all time “School of the Holy Beast” and “Behind Convent Calls” together, and attaching a new restoration along with fantastic features for all collectors. “School of the Holy Beast” is the definition of the nunsploitation sub-genre. It’s a wonky, surreal, and demented piece of Asian drama with some of the most memorable moments I’ve ever seen in the Grindhouse motif. Most importantly it has an odd sense of humor that make it worthy of many laughs, but ones that will assuredly be of the uncomfortable sort.

From two men dressed as nuns raping a head nun in her sleep, resulting in bed rattling sex and the nun submitting to a massive orgasm, to the thirteen punishments involving a huge rope of thorns, a pregnant nun being tortured, and two nuns whipping one another in the buff at the behest of their superiors. Maya Takigawa is a young woman about to enter in to the investigation of her life. After her mother mysteriously died at a local convent, Maya makes it her business to enter in to the sisterhood and investigate while learning the scandalous and often treacherous goings on behind the doors. She gets more than she bargained for when she meets Matsuko, an older nun who seems oddly intent on protecting her while allowing her to engage in her shadowy investigation.

Norifumi Suzuki’s direction is marvelous with an artistic gloss covering an otherwise sleazy exploitative peek in to the chronicles of this convent, setting the audience up for some demented and beautiful scenes that will cling to the memory of audiences.  Take for example the thorn rope torture where he zooms in on blood trickling down the surface of a thorn rope, as well as one of the most symbolic moments where a scene of intense lesbian sex is interspersed with one of the characters miming cunnilingus with her two fingers and rapidly flinging tongue in the distance. The big surprise behind Maya’s mother’s mysterious death is quite the shocker and makes for a rather comedic moment of exposition where our antagonists entire motivation of perversion and sexual carnage is based around a historic event.

This leads “School of the Holy Beast” in to a whirlwind of a finale with a violent confrontation in a bell tower and a satisfying end to what is the best and most beautifully shot nunsploitation movie I’ve ever seen. Norifumi Suzuki’s direction is very reminiscent of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci where the convent and these twisted women of the cloth often feel like specter of evil channeling the atmosphere of “Suspiria” intentionally or not. It’s a shame most nunsploitation films after this really just wanted to exploit the sub genre sexually or use it as a plot device to get women having sex together, while director Suzuki uses the nun settings to really motivate his story and use it as a way of exploring the black void and hypocrisy of religion and the empty following of the sisterhood in convents.

The Special Uncut version comes in enhanced 16×9 widescreen, and features a seventeen minute interview with star Yumi Takigawa, and a twenty four minute interview with movie critic Risaku Kiridoushi who sheds some insight on the film and expresses his admiration for this incredible piece of cult cinema. There is of course the original film’s theatrical trailer. Walerian Borowczyk’s “Behind Convent Walls” is yet another absolutely surreal and insanely demented look behind the shadows of a convent and what happens when women are forced to suppress their sexuality and all urges. Borowczyk’s 1978 picture of life in a convent is often bordering on the insane with glimpses at statues painted in blood, the cutting of animals in the midst of worshipping and the like, all of which is glossed over with the extreme worship of these nuns in their church, all of whom are very quick to sin, and even quicker to point at one another and cast the first stone.

As with the prior film director Borowczyk dares to express the absolute madness of worship and the dangers of passion toward a deity, depicting his own scenes of pure idiocy in the face of a god. The first half of the film includes a celebration of nuns, all of whom look like a witches coven during a Sabbath, indulging in girl on girl, dancing, and exposing themselves to their statues in the heat of the moment. Borowczyk’s depiction of these scenes of bonding all the while cutting to haunting images of statues plastered along the halls and offices is rather over the top with subtle declarations of the madness these sisters are most intent on preserving. “Behind Convent Walls” is a let down and one based around depicting nuns in sexual positions as much as possible while presenting something of a faint commentary on the church and their willingness to cover up even murder just to protect their reputation and credibility from the public.

Director Borowczyk creates something of a nightmarish and absolutely odd bit of dramatic nunsploitation, but it’s not all too entertaining, even if it’s one of the stronger nunsploitation films to date. After these two films, the sub-sub-genre essentially lost its way to softcore porn pretending to be nunsploitation. The DVD features an enhance 16×9 Widescreen version, and an interview with Luciano Tovoli on her experiences in working with director Walerian Borowczyk. There’s also a featurette for the film, a lobby card gallery, and the original trailer. Cult Epics collects two rather notable and iconic nunsploitation films for what is a fantastic box set for film buffs and grindhouse/arthouse enthusiasts. Though basically a mixed bag, it’s hard not to purchase this set for both films. While “School of the Holy Beast” is a rather fantastic nunsploitation film with an excellent story, “Behind Convent Walls” gets points for being original and memorable even if it’s not too watchable. This is a set for any respective cineaste.