Friday, January 6, 2012

Castros Abbess, The Dir. Armando Crispino (1974)

AKA: La badessa di Castro

Early 70's Italian nunsploitation starring Barbara Bouchet. Vatican intrigue and a decent plot makes this a little more effective than the usual sex and debauchery seen in other films of this genre. English subtitles.

Another Italian example of "Nunsploitation", this one supposedly scores a few more points in prestige over its contemporaries for being 'inspired' by a Stendhal source…although, frankly, it seems to share some of its storyline with an earlier – and better-known – film, THE NUNS OF ST. ARCHANGEL aka THE NUN AND THE DEVIL (1973)! It is perhaps just as well that these kind of movies were mostly ignored upon original release because otherwise I fail to see how the Vatican can have permitted such squalid and potentially sacrilegious depictions of its members: in this film, Barbara Bouchet is driven to a convent by her ambitious mother in order to squash an affair she was having with an undesired adventurer; once enrolled, she quickly claims the top spot because her mother's wealth finances the convent's operations – thus incurring the hatred of her rival Evelyn Stewart, who loses no opportunity to inform on Bouchet to an influential Cardinal when the former catches the eye of the womanizing warrior-bishop who, eventually, impregnates her!! This is not to mention the fact that the bishop clearly feels only contempt and disgust for the famished beggars who hover outside the convent walls; moreover, the solution for the prevailing draught is sought in the throwing-snakes-in-the-fire rites of a traveling charlatan whose arrival somehow serves to erotically arouse the repressed nuns, leading to some barnyard shenanigans between a lowly priest and a novice who are subsequently hypocritically persecuted to their death by the all-but-innocent bishop himself!

Lead actress Bouchet looks great in and out of the cloth (who, for some reason, keeps asking her feeble-minded maid to strip her stark naked for bedtime!) but, at just 31 years of age, she is too young to be believable as a Mother Superior. The rest of the cast is not very well-known or even all that interesting, except for Stewart (amusingly misspelled as Eveline Sthewart!) as Bouchet's nemesis within the cloister and a red-headed Mara Venier as the ill-fated novice. As for the crew, cinematographer Gabor Pogany and composer Carlo Savina are, respectively, prolific Art-house and Euro-Cult exponents; on the other hand, obscure director Crispino only has a handful of intriguingly oddball genre flicks to his name.

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