In Joe D'Amato's second nunsploitation offering, the lovely Eva Grimaldi plays a young woman named Susanna who has the unfortunate luck of being raped at the hands of her own step-father. Rather than deal with the controversy that would inevitably fall upon the family for such an act, they opt to whisk poor Susanna off to a convent in the French countryside where she'll spend the rest of her days as a bride of Christ in service of the Catholic Church despite the fact that although she holds Christian beliefs, she'd much rather just live out her life as any other young woman would.
It doesn't take Susanna long at all to find out that there's a lot more going on behind the stone walls of the convent than simply praying the Rosary and doing charitable work for those in need. In fact, much of what these nuns occupy their spare time with completely defies the very gospel that they preach and suppose to abide by – in short, they're a pretty randy lot, getting it on with one another or with the mute handyman who shows up to take care of those special problems. The unusually attractive Mother Superior (Karin Well) takes an instant liking to Susanna and soon she's doing everything she can to seduce her, something that the Monsignor of the convent seems to have no problem with seeing as he assigned her to her case in the first place. Unfortunately, Sister Theresa (Gilda Germano), who until now had been Mother Superior's romantic number one, does take issue with these new developments. When Theresa's veiled attempts for affection get her nowhere, she soon decides to make Susanna look like the bad seed in hopes of convincing the rest of the sisters that she's not fit to serve with them.
Meanwhile, to complicate matters further, a young priest (Gabriele Gori) who takes confession soon finds himself having impure thoughts about Susanna himself. When she explains to him how she wants free of her ties, he tells her that he'll get her a one on one with the Monsignor in hopes of letter her out of her solemn oath. Things look like they're turning around for Susanna until Mother Superior gets sick and Theresa is put in charge at which point she ramps up her plan to get rid of Susanna by convincing her fellow nuns that she is in fact possessed by the devil.
Sleazy and full of frequent nudity, Convent Of Sinners could be easily dismissed as a trash film and nothing more than that, however D'Amato (working under the alias of Dario Donati here), who also did the cinematography for the film, paces the movie in such a way that the story comes before the more exploitative elements of the film. While it's true that no more than a few minutes ever pass without a love scene or a nude scene or a whipping or what have you, in the context of the tale being told it fits. There are a few over the top scenes here including a simultaneous self whipping/masturbation scene that really drives home the impact of Catholic guilt as well as the infamous exorcism scene that you know is going to happen towards the end of the film, but there certainly are other nunsploitation films out there that go much further into trash territory than Convent Of Sinners does.
Performance wise, things aren't in bad shape here. Eva Grimaldi (of Ratman!) is sexy enough in the lead that you can understand how she'd soon become the object of everyone's desire but she brings enough pathos to her performance that we feel for her – she's the one who has been wronged, after all. Gilda Germano, also known as Jessica Moore, is sufficiently diabolical as the scheming Theresa and she's better here than she would be in other efforts like Lucio Fulci's The Ghost's Of Sodom or D'Amato's first two softcore Eleven Days, Eleven Nights films. Gabriele Gori, who fans might recognize from Bronx Executioner doesn't bring much to his part but Karin Well, who most of us know as Janet from Andrea Bianchi's Burial Ground, is quite possibly the hottest Mother Superior of all time. Where as more often than not the Mother Superior character is a haggard old woman, here she's a very attractive and woman in her late thirties or early forties with plenty of life left in her and plenty of lust as well.
The locations give the movie some class and D'Amato takes the time to photograph them nicely. While Convent Of Sinners isn't going to appeal to those with staunch Catholic sensibilities, it is an entertaining film with some interesting comments to make about the repression of lust and the ways in which the church can steal one's right to choose. D'Amato makes his views painfully clear, pulling no punches and not exactly making his point in a subtle way. Not for everyone, but a well made entry in the nunsploitation sub-genre none-the-less.
Media Blasters gives the film a decent 1.66.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Color reproduction is strong, and print damage is minimal. Some scenes are a little grainy but otherwise the picture is quite clear throughout despite some minor fluctuations with the black levels here and there. Mpeg compression artifacts are a non-issue though there is some moderate aliasing present in spots. The framing on the image looks fine and the nicely photographed sets look quite nice on this DVD. Flesh tones are lifelike and natural and there's a solid level of fine detail present in both the foreground and the background of the image.
The English language Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack is acceptable if unremarkable. Dialogue is clean and clear and while there are a couple of notable instances where some background hiss makes its way into the scene, it's not too distracting. The score sounds nice and lively and there aren't any serious issues with the sound on this release. There are no alternate language subtitles or closed captioning options included on this release to speak of.
The main supplement on this release is a twelve minute documentary entitled Sex, Truth And Videotape which is a collection of behind the scenes footage from a D'Amato directed hardcore film entitled The Monk. While it doesn't have anything to do with Convent Of Sinners it is never the less an interesting little segment for D'Amato fans as it gives us a chance to see the late director at work.
Rounding out the extra features are trailers for other Joe D'Amato films currently available from Media Blasters such as Porno Holocaust and Anthropophagous. A few trailers for non-D'Amato DVD releases are also included, as are menus and of course a chapter selection option.
While the extras aren't mind blowing, Media Blasters gives Convent Of Sinners a perfectly respectable domestic release that benefits from a nice transfer and decent audio. The movie itself is sure to offend a few, but that's the point and those with an interesting in nasty nun cinema will want to give this one some thought. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.