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The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine(1974)
In order to be reunited with her true love, a young woman forced to live in a convent must resist seduction by her lesbian cellmate, endure the deranged tortures of the Inquisition, and escape from a madhouse within the convent walls.
For more about The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine and the The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine Blu-ray release, see the The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on May 22, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Paolo Malco, Jenny Tamburi, Bruna Beani, François Prevost
Director: Sergio Grieco
» See full cast & crew
The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine Blu-ray Review
Not quite as sinful as its title would suggest.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, May 22, 2013
What a title, right? Unfortunately, The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine doesn't quite live up to its kinky promise. Yes, there are a few naughty sisters—whose cloistered lives have led them to cravings for depravity—but all in all this is one of the tamer "nunsploitation" flicks of the 1970s, which took the simmering sensuality of Powell & Pressburger's 1947 convent drama Black Narcissus and brought it to a more-explicit boil, with gratuitous nudity and bald-faced blasphemy galore. For those of non-Catholic backgrounds, this defrocked sub-genre may not have the same fetish-y allure of the taboo, but everyone can understand the titillation of profaning the sacred and despoiling the supposedly pure. It's wrong. It's seamy. It's the stuff of catechism class daydreams. (Protestants have no direct equivalent, but imagine fantasizing about your Sunday School teacher.) In the better examples of the genre, there's also usually an element of social criticism involved, by way of satirical jabs at the capital-C-Church and its perceived tyrannies. It's no surprise, then, that the majority of these grindhouse movies were made in the Catholic strongholds of Italy, France, and Spain, by progressive low-budget filmmakers outside the mainstream. The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine is the work of Italian director and screenwriter Sergio Grieco, who is perhaps best known—if he's known at all—for helming a series of cheapo James Bond parody movies. Here, he's most clearly riffing on Ken Russell's controversial 1971 film The Devils, which may not have sparked the whole nunsploitation genre, but certainly fanned the flames.
In The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine, Grieco injects the usual sisters-amok business with a star-crossed lovers tale, a la Romeo & Juliet, set in 16th century Spain. Our hero, Esteban (Paolo Malco)—with a goofy pageboy haircut—is introduced fleeing from soldiers of the Inquisition, having been unjustly marked as a heretic and murderer, for reasons we'll eventually understand. After being shot in the shoulder, falling off his horse, and engaging his pursuers in a clumsily choreographed sword fight, Esteban manages to escape through the woods and holes up in the St. Valentine convent, where the handyman reluctantly takes him in and secrets him away in his quarters.
It's no coincidence that Esteban happened upon on the convent; his true love, Lucita (Jenni Tamburi), has been sent there by her parents as a way to keep the two apart. They come from rival families, Montague and Capulet-style, and their love is as forbidden as the debauchery and cruelty that's taking place inside St. Valentine's fortress-like walls. Lucita's roomate, Josefa (Bruna Beani), is an aggressive lesbian who strips naked and forcefully goes down on her—then again, Lucita doesn't seem to do much to stop it—and the Abbess, Sister Incarnacion (Françoise Prévost), is a man-hungry sadist who enjoys having her underlings whipped. Topless, of course.
Esteban intends to spring Lucita from her captivity, but the pesky issue of his bullet wound means he'll have to hide out in the convent until he heals, an injured cock in the proverbial henhouse. Lucita helps keep him safe, but she soon has seemingly unrelated troubles of her own. When she finds Josefa stabbed to death in a hallway during evening prayers, Lucita unwisely slips into her room and pretends to be asleep, leading the other sisters to accuse her of the crime. She's sent before Father Onorio (Corrado Gaipa), a ruthless inquisitor who intends to extract a confession by hanging her topless from her wrists, but we soon realize—and no surprise here—that Sister Incarnacion is actually behind the slaying, which was her answer to the Sound of Music-esque question, How do you solve a problem like Lucita? The Abbess' motive? In her lustful fever, she wants the strapping young Esteban for herself, to have and—more importantly—to hold.
The abbess gets her way and sleeps with him—he believes if he goes through with it, he'll have a better chance of saving his true love—but the tables are turned when Esteban tells Father Onorio about the perversity going on behind the convent's closed doors. In the film's most memorable sequence, Onorio barges into the Abbess' quarters, finds two nude nuns in her bed, and—pronouncing an unusually cruel judgement—orders all of the abbey's windows and entryways cemented up, trapping the sisters inside to die of thirst and/or starvation. In their hysteria, many of them end up writhing around naked on the floors and through the corridors, while others slap-fight to the death for a chance to lick at the trickle of rainwater running down one of the walls. The scene is also responsible for what has to be one of the goofiest choking kills ever put to film, with Sister Incarnacion strangling a subordinate who dies in about two seconds, keeling over backwards with her eyes open and tongue hanging out.
This stuff's great—the claustrophobia and the ridiculous deaths, the scrawled-in-cinder portrait of a hilariously well-endowed Satan on the wall, the fact that only the young, pretty sisters ever shed their habits—but The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine doesn't go far enough into camp territory to establish itself as a bonafide cult classic. Part of the problem is that, between the fits of gratuitous nudity and devil worship, the movie also endeavors to have a rather serious love story, with attempts at romance and suspense, ecclesiastical drama and a family feud. Consequently, it feels stretched too thin and does none of these things particularly well. The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine is for devoted nunsploitation fetishists only.
The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine conforms to Kino-Lorber and Redemption Films' usual "as-is" aesthetic, with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that hasn't been cleaned up or digitally restored in any significant way. White and black specks, small hairs stuck at the edge of the frame, light scratches, mild color fluctuations—all are present to varying degrees, though none are particularly distracting, especially if you watch a lot of this type of low-budget Euro-sleaze cinema. On the plus side, there are no signs of edge enhancement or other attempts to artificially boost the picture, and while the film's grain structure is very heavy—if often looks more like 16mm than 35mm—this is preferable to a picture that's been smeared with digital noise reduction. While the high definition presentation is certainly a step up from DVD, overall clarity here is unimpressive, with a look that's often mushy and soft, only tightening during the tightest closeups, where we start to see some fine detail. Color seems reasonably balanced, though, with consistent levels of saturation and contrast. The encode also appears free of any obvious compression issues.
The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The film's audio also has its age and budget-related issues—light hisses, crackles, splice pops, and dynamic thinness—but this Linear PCM 2.0 mono track is nonetheless listenable, with no major distractions, a la sudden drop-outs or harsh peaking. The dubbed-in Italian dialogue is relatively clear, and Coriolano Gori's flute and string-heavy score sounds as good as can be expected from this caliber of a film. No real issues here. The disc defaults to English subtitles—which appear in easy-to-read white lettering—but these can be turned off if your Italian is up to snuff.
The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The only extra on the disc is a collection of high definition trailers for other thematically similar Kino/Redemption releases, including Virgin Witch, Black Magic Rites, House of Whipcord, Marquis De Sade's Justine, and Killer's Moon.
The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine tries to combine a serious story with gratuitous nun-fetish titillation—in this way, it's like a sub-par version of Ken Russell's The Devils, its most obvious inspiration—but it doesn't really succeed on either account. The plot is your standard Romeo & Juliet ripoff, and the fleshy stuff is tame compared to some of the other nunsploitation films of the 1970s. Still, if Euro-sleaze cinema is your thing, The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine is probably worth watching at least once, and Kino/Redemption's Blu-ray is probably the best way to go about it. The "as-is" transfer may have its age-related print damage, but the picture quality is a solid step up from Redemption and Image Entertainment's old DVD.
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