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Story of a Cloistered Nun

NoShame Films // R // August 29, 2006
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted August 30, 2006 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Considered by many to be the film that kick-started the 'nunsploitation' sub-genre of exploitation movies that were popular in the seventies, Domenico Paolella's 1973 art-trash hybrid The Story Of A Cloistered Nun isn't nearly as trashy or base as the films that would follow it but still has the power to disturb thanks to a few powerful scenes – especially if you've had a Catholic upbringing.

When the movie begins, we see the parents of Carmela (the gorgeous Eleonora Giorgi of Inferno) arrange for her to marry the son of another wealthy family so that when they are of age they'll join the two families together resulting in considerable wealth and power for both side. Of course, when Carmela grows up she's not interested in her arranged marriage and instead falls in love with a peasant boy named Julian. When she refuses to deal with the marriage, rather than deal with the shame that would befall both sides her family decides to force her to join a strict convent of nuns out in the countryside.

Carmela isn't sure what to think of things when she arrives. She's placed in solitary for a while and fed only occasionally until the powers that be feel her sense of self has been sufficiently demolished. It's then that she's let out into the general population of the convent. As she begins to mingle with her fellow Brides of Christ she befriends the sultry Sister Elizabeth (Catherine Spaak of Dario Argento's The Cat O' Nine Tails) who at first seems to be quite sincere in her friendly intentions but who soon shows her true colors. The Mother Superior (Suzy Kendall of Spasmo and The Bird With The Crystal Plumage) takes a bit of a liking to Carmela but is soon forced to punish her for her inappropriate behavior.

Eventually, Julian shows up in Carmela's life again and Sister Elizabeth helps her to escape the convent so that she can spend some time with her beloved under cover of the night. When Carmela returns, Elizabeth professes her love to her in hopes of taking her as her lesbian lover but Carmela has eyes only for Julian. Angered by the rejection, Elizabeth sets into motion a plan to get her revenge on Carmela, but it doesn't necessarily end the way that you think it will.

Also known as The Diary Of A Cloistered Nun, this early entry in the annals of nasty nun cinema really set the stage for a lot of the imitations that would soon follow (Joe D'Amato's Images In A Convent being a prime example as it follows a very similar formula). Interestingly enough it features three of the ladies who would either go on to become or had already become some of Dario Argento's best known female leads but the movie has a lot more to offer besides some interesting Euro-cult casting.

Director Domenico Paolella cut his teeth directing sword and sandal epics during the sixties and that experience with lavish sets and costumes shines through nicely in this film. The movie is a bit slow in spots but it builds nicely to a surprisingly sweet finale that, although it borrows very heavily from Spartacus, is surprisingly upbeat for a movie of this kind. Rather than end on a down note, Paolella's film offers hope and redemption for all parties involved. While along the way the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church of the time takes a few shots, ultimately the film is a testament to those of strong faith and of the human spirit – you won't see that in very many nunsploitation films!

While the movie offers a few of the expected sleaze set pieces – highlighted by a naked whipping and scene where one of the sisters is forced to lick the floor from the back of the church up to the alter – the production values are slick enough and the performances and story are played straight enough that this is as much an art-house film as it is an exploitation movie. This might not work for those hoping for serious titillation and likewise the harsher scenes might irk those who want a serious drama but Paolella's film is unique (and therefore worth seeing) as much for the restraint it shows and for its message. The fact that it is supposedly based on a true story makes it all the more interesting.



The Story Of A Cloistered Nun comes to Region 1 in a pretty killer progressive scan 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The colors look nice and bold throughout, the black levels stay strong and deep from start to finish, and the flesh tones look lifelike and natural. There is some mild edge enhancement present in a few scenes and some line shimmering in the usual places along diagonal lines or along the sides of a building but there aren't any mpeg compression artifacts worth noting nor is there much in the way of print damage aside from the odd speck or two. Some mild grain is present, but that's to be expected. Overall, the film really does look great on this DVD.


You've got your choice of watching the film in either a Dolby Digital Italian language mono mix or a Dolby Digital English language mix, with optional subtitles provided in English. Quality of either mix should please most fan although there are a few spots where, on the English track, you'll definitely notice some background hiss. Anyone familiar with Euro-cult films of this era knows that sometimes the dubs are a little wonky and that the lips don't always match the performers but that's sometimes half the fun of these films – the major oddity with the English dub this time around being that all of the voice actors have English accents! Dialogue is clean and clear, there aren't any problems with hiss or distortion and the levels are balanced properly.


The main supplement on this release is Sex Behind The Veil which is a twenty-minute documentary on the film that's made up primarily of interview segments with Eleonora Giorgi and Umberto Orsini. These two have some interesting stories about location shooting, working with director Domenico Paolella, and how they feel about the film now that a few decades have past since it was made.

Rounding out the extra features are the Italian theatrical trailer, the English language export trailer, animated menus and chapter stops for the feature. Inside the keepcase you'll find a reproduction of some poster art with liner notes from the ever reliable Richard Harland Smith on the opposite side that do a nice job of detailing the historical significance of the film in addition to providing some interesting background on the cast and crew.

Final Thoughts:

No Shame's release of The Story Of A Cloistered Nun is up to their usual standards of excellence. The film hits DVD with an excellent transfer, nice audio, and some solid supplements as well. The movie won't be to all tastes as it's probably too trashy for the art-house crowd and not trashy enough for the exploitation crowd but it is well made and beautifully shot which earns it a heartfelt recommendation.

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.

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