Domenico Paolella - Storia di una monaca di clausura aka Story Of A Cloistered Nuns
Internet Link http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070738
Director / Artist Domenico Paolella
18th Century Italy: Betrothed at birth to the heir of an aristocratic clan, Carmela (INFERNO’s Eleonora Giorgi) rebels against the loveless ambition of her family, who packs the headstrong girl off to a secluded convent to avoid the scandal. Victimized and
humiliated by the nuns, Carmela finds herself a pawn in a test of wills between the forbidding Mother Superior (THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE’s Suzy Kendall) and the manipulative Sister Elisabetta (CAT O’NINE TAILS’ Catherine Spaak), who strips off her habit after vespers to host decadent midnight parties. Her body ravaged and her soul crushed, Carmela finds joy in the arms of her former lover, Giuliano… whose clandestine nighttime visits to the convent drive the repressed sisterhood into a murderous frenzy.
Starring three of Dario Argento’s most celebrated scream queens at their most beguilingly beatific, Domenico Paolello’s STORY OF A CLOISTERED NUN and its sister film THE NUNS OF ST. ARCHANGEL sparked the notorious “nunsploitation” subgenre, resulting in such unabashedly blasphemous films as FLAVIA: THE HERETIC, THE SINFUL NUNS OF ST. VALENTINE and KILLER NUN. Blessed with a heavenly score by veteran composer Piero Piccioni, STORY OF A CLOISTERED NUN also features Euro-sleaze smoothie Umberto Orsini (EMMANUEL 2) and Italian exploitation queen Paola Senatore (EATEN ALIVE) in an early role.
Story of a Cloistered Nun is a classic Italian entry in the grand tradition of nunsploitation films, a close relative of hysterical horror films like Mexico’s Satanico Pandemonium and Japan’s School of the Holy Beast. Of course, nunsploitation itself is sort of a sub-genre, or companion genre, to WIP (women-in-prison) films, sharing many of the same traits – trapped women, a Sapphic focus, abusive authority figures – but with the added spice you only get from sacrilege. Story is neither one of the better nor one of the worse entries, either in terms of production values or sleaze, but the presence of the lovely Eleonora Giorgi elevates beyond its pedestrian plot.
Giorgi, perhaps most well known (in America at least) for her brief but extremely memorable role as an ill-fated conservatory student in Dario Argento’s Inferno, plays the lead here, the “new fish” unfairly condemned to a life in the cloisters. While she has had other interesting roles, like the reluctant girlfriend in the Eurotrash juvenile delinquent film Young, Violent, Dangerous, but this, her first leading role, was her chance to shine. Her flashing blue eyes, bee stung lips, cornsilk hair, and perfect (not to mention frequently unclothed) body dominate the film – she is like a vision from a Renaissance canvas. Backup is provided in the form of two other Argento alumnae, Suzy Kendall (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage) and Catherine Spaak (The Cat O’Nine Tails).
The film gets off to an excellent start as two crying infants, Carmela and Henry, are seated on a marital bed, symbolizing their betrothal, while greedy family members look on, evoking the famous medieval marriage symbolically consummated by having the absent husband’s representative in Venice slip his bare foot under the covers to touch that of the bride.
Flashing forward, and baby Carmela has grown up into a beautiful girl (Giorgi). She is condemned to a drab life in a cloister after she refuses to marry her fiancé, preferring her lover Julian. Once in the nunnery, she finds herself caught in a power struggle between decadent Elizabeth (Spaak), whose powerful relatives allow her to maintain a cushy lifestyle on the inside, and the Mother Superior (Kendall), a stern woman of religious conviction. Elizabeth regularly takes novices to her bed and slips outside the walls to meet her lover Diego (Umberto Orsini), while the Mother Superior enforces the rules of the cloister strictly, but both are quickly smitten by Carmela’s obvious charms. There are also an assortment of other “types” that will be familiar from WIP films, including the snitch, the mean girls, and the lunatic.
Story is an odd bird, perhaps because the tropes of the nunsploitation genre had not yet solidified. Sure, there is rampant lesbianism, a salacious priest, and a touch of topless torture, but it is all fairly tame by the standards of its successors. Instead, the filmmakers focused on production values, filling the screen with beautiful costumes and attractive monastery sets rather than non-stop depravity. Lounge favorite Piero Piccioni (The 10th Victim) even contributes an atypical chamber music-style score, instead of the leering horns one might expect.
Most disconcertingly, Story may be the only film of its type which is actually life-affirming and the film ends on a surprisingly positive note (a bloody massacre being the traditional closer in such movies). Story has the fairly unique distinction in its genre of not being entirely corrosive of the institution and faith in general. As such, it inhabits an odd middle ground between the out-and-out sleaze fests that would follow, and the more staid and innocent dramas of the past. Some scenes would not even be out of place in a Hollywood production!
Recommended? Fans of nunsploitation, and especially of Eleonora Giorgi, will not want to miss this film. She wins the film its extra half star all on her own. For those with less specific tastes, it may not be a must-view, but it is definitely a worthwhile timepasser.
If you like this, you might like: School of the Holy Beast, Alucarda, Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun, Satanico Pandemonium, Images in a Convent, and The Sound of Music, of course
NoShame Video lives up to its name (and then some) with its release of the little-known (on these shores, at least) Story Of A Cloistered Nun, a 1973 Italian variant on sexsploitation by way of nunsploitation and lesbiansploitation. This tarted-up treasure also manages some nifty Jesusploitation, Marysploitation and Godsploitation plus a bit of babysploitation and Spartacusploitation to wrap things up. (I think this is some kind of record.) But who cares: you'll laugh, cry (from laughing too hard) and then howl, as the end credits proclaim that, although the main character in this "true story" (full of sex, sin, bondage and floor-cleaning-via-tongue) dedicated her later life to the poor, she was never named a saint! (The Catholic Church at least got that one right.)
In exploitation films like this, cast and crew often do their best to attain narrative, drive, and a certain performance level. That they fail so utterly is most likely due to the producers' demand for the appearance of some sex & sin every few minutes. Story Of A Cloistered Nun is no exception, so it's best to give up all hope, ye who enter here. Just sit back and ogle the nun babes. There are other edifications, among them the especially succulent entryways into the DVD provided by No Shame with tongue firmly in cheek (when it's not licking the floor, of course).