Bruno Mattei is probably best known in North America for his horror films like the atrocious Hell Of The Living Dead and the equally awful (but somehow far more enjoyable) Rats, both of which have been staples on home video for some time now and both of which have actually received special edition DVD releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment some years back. His nunsploitation efforts (well, all two of them at least) haven't been as easy to come by, with only The Other Hell having been readily available on DVD, a film which most of us would rather forget than celebrate. Media Blasters, through their Exploitation Digital line, have dug up another nasty nun film from Mattei, the much more obscure 1981 effort The True Story Of The Nun Of Monza (not to be confused with Eriprando Visconti's Nun Of Monza from 1969, widely considered the granddaddy of the sub-genre.
The storyline will seem a little familiar to those who have seen a few nunsploitation films before, as it follows Sister Virginia de Leyva (Zora Kerova of Joe D'Amato's famous Anthropophagus) who toils away in a convent along with her fellow Brides of Christ. After the death of her father (Giovanni Attanasio of Mattei's earlier nasty Nazi movie, S.S. Girls), things start to get strange, particularly when the current Mother Superior (Franca Stoppi of The Other Hell and who Mattei would also cast in Violence In A Women's Prison the next year) starts to look a little worse for wear.
When the Mother Superior dies, Sister Virginia is brought in to take her place but will she have the faith and the courage to handle the job? Things have changed in the convent recently and not everyone is happy that Virginia has landed the position. To make matters worse, there's a maniac running around with his eyes on her and a priest who is up to no good. When she starts to have impure thoughts and the kinds of dreams that nuns are not supposed to have, it looks like her armor might be starting to crack which, it would seem, is just what the other nuns are after.
It's a little difficult to take the film seriously when you know Mattei is behind the camera but the movie does have its moments. It's actually a very well shot film with the cinematography doing a fine job of capturing the locations used for the film. The convent makes for an eerie and sometimes almost desolate setting and the shadows and age that fill the building don't help that matter much. As such, it's got some atmosphere and some mood that it wouldn't have otherwise. Zora Kerova definitely looks good in the part, and somehow the habit works for her. Those who enjoy a little sin with their skin will be happy to find out that the film has definitely got its share of naughtiness and that Mattei doesn't shy away from the seedier side of the narrative.
The movie plays around with the theme of Catholic guilt in spots though much of this simply seems to be here as an excuse for penance. The exploitative qualities of the film are stronger than whatever artistic merits that may have bubbled up underneath the surface elements. This isn't a bad thing for most of us, after all it's rare that fans of nunsploitation movies really expect much more than some softcore high-jinks and the odd torture scene but it is definitely a nice surprise when there's more to it than that. Those exceptions to the rule do make for better movie making, though that's something that Mattei still doesn't seem to have learned given the quality of his current output. In the end, The True Story Of The Nun Of Monza is enjoyable enough for what it is – a European trash film intent on waving some taboos in the face of the viewer. If you keep that in mind going in and expect nothing more than some cheap thrills and nice camerawork you'll be okay with the results. It's not a classic of the genre but it delivers on the expected staples and it's entertaining enough in its own trashy way.
Media Blasters gives the film a decent 1.85.1 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 Italian language Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack is acceptable if unremarkable and the optional English subtitles are clean, clear and free of any typos. 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 or closed captioning options included on this release to speak of.
Extras are limited to a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Exploitation Digital titles, a small still gallery, menus, and chapter selection for the feature film.
Nunsploitation fans will want to check this one out as it's been a fairly elusive title never before officially released with an English-friendly way to see the film. It's definitely a Bruno Mattei film in that it's goofy and trashy and pretty nonsensical but it's enjoyable enough for what it is. Media Blasters' disc looks and sounds pretty good though more extras would have been welcome. Recommended for fans of the genre, a decent rental for the curious.
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.