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No Shame Films presents
Story of a Cloistered Nun (Storia de una monaca di clausura) (1973)

"Here, far from the outside world, we live each day more intensely."
- Mother Superior (Suzy Kendall)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: August 29, 2006

Stars: Catherine Spaak, Suzy Kendall, Eleonora Georgi
Other Stars: Martine Brochard, Umberto Orsini, Antonio Falsi
Director: Domenico Paolella

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality, lesbianism, torture, suicide, violence, naughty nuns, infant nudity)
Run Time: 01h:36m:51s
Release Date: August 29, 2006
UPC: 882853003496
Genre: foreign


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BA-C- C+

DVD Review

Director Domenico Paolella made a big splash with the commercially successful nunsploitation picture The Nuns of St. Arcangelo (1972). Sensing the possibilities still present in the subject matter, and bowing to demand for a more extreme version, he followed that up with this picture the next year, ostensibly based upon a true story. It exceeds the original both in the production values and the added depth of sleaze, while Paolella manages to keep a straight face about telling a serious historical tale.

In 17th-century Italy (not the 18th century as the keepcase says), Carmela di Simoni (Eleonora Giorgi) has been betrothed since birth to a young aristocrat, but as a teenager she has fallen in love with a young peasant, Giuliano (Antonio Falsi) and rejects the arranged marriage. Her parents' response is to send her to a nunnery in hopes of concealing the shame she has brought upon the family. Once there, Carmela is humiliated and tortured by the nuns, though she does have a sympathetic ear in the Mother Superior (Suzy Kendall), who has unnatural affections for her young charge. Sister Elisabetta (Catherine Spaak) warns Carmela that the Mother Superior is not to be trusted, and initiates Carmela in her decadent midnight dressup parties with the other nuns and novices. Elisabetta also shows Carmela how she can secretly meet with Giuliano, but she demands a price that Carmela may not be ready to pay.

For nunsploitation, the film has significant production values, with elaborate costuming and sets that bring it high above others of its subgenre. While there is a good deal more nudity and a bit more torture than in the predecessor film, it's portrayed with a fierce gravity that makes it feel more like a historical document. Even the midnight parties of Sister Elisabetta, involving gender-bending and lesbianism, have an air of innocent play-acting to them. But there are the requisite floggings and a dominatrix-minded Mother Superior, who forces a prideful Sister Elisabetta to lick the floor of the chapel and kiss the Mother's shoes in penance. Nunsploitation buffs will not be disappointed.

A sizable chunk of the innocence and charm of the movie is attributable to Georgi herself, in her film debut. Bearing a wide-eyed doelike face, she makes the perfect counterpoint to the goings-on at the convent, Candide to the corrupting influence of the Mother Superior and Sister Elisabetta. She's quite good and natural. As she slowly goes mad in the isolation cell, she manages to be quite heart-wrenching. Veteran actresses Spaak and Kendall are excellent, with Spaak giving a multifaceted performance that jumps off the screen. Kendall's Mother Superior is not only dmoinating, but also in weaker moments quite pathetic in her loneliness and isolation. Also notable is Tino Carraro as Carmela's father, furious at her defiance of his expectations. Although he has little chance to be anything more than one-note, he delivers that note with an imperious authority that fits to a T.

Paolella does do a number of interesting things with the film, such as using mirrors as a thematic element: when in her sackcloth, Carmela sees her reflection in a piece of metal, horribly distorted, defining her unsuitability for her unwilling role. Later, at the party, she admires herself in a regular mirror, and there she is radiant, in her correct element as a young lady of quality. There's also an amusing Spartacus moment, though it's so naked in its emulation that it doesn't quite work, inspiring laughter instead. The film flows quite well, except for an overlong childbirth sequence that grinds things to a halt. But on the whole, this remains an admirable example of the nunsploitation subgenre.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The source material is virtually flawless, with almost no frame damage, dust or speckling visible. The keepcase indicates that it was taken from the original 35mm negative, and it is leaps and bounds above the usual bootleg versions of this picture or the German DVD. The picture is slightly soft, suggesting the application of noise reduction. On all but the biggest screens it should look fine. Although the color palette is limited, it's reproduced well. Detail is reasonably good. Textures are a bit lacking for the most part. There is severe aliasing on the titles, but I didn't notice it during the balance of the picture, which may indicate that these titles were video-generated (poorly) in the first place. No other artifacting was visible at all.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Italianyes


Audio Transfer Review: Both Italian and English 2.0 mono dubs are supplied; either constitutes an acceptable choice, since Spaak and Kendall are speaking their lines in English and most of the balance of the cast is speaking Italian. Both tracks are a bit on the noisy side, with prominent hiss and persistent noise and crackle. The dialogue is clear enough, however, and Piero Piecioni's score comes through well enough. The exception is the portions of the score that make use of the organ; these are lacking in the deep bass that one would want to hear, but that's probably a bit much to be asking from a 1973 Italian mono track.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
Packaging: clear plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:52m:27s

Extras Review: The most prominent extra is a new documentary, Sex Behind the Veil, which features interviews with Georgi and costar Umberto Orsini. They spill plenty of anecdotes and have a pretty good humor about the making of this picture. English and Italian trailers are also present, differing only in the language spoken and shown onscreen. Finally, the keepcase holds a folded poster of a Nouveau rendition of Georgi and nude nuns. On the flip side are extensive liner notes by Richard Harland Smith. Unfortunately, they're in a microscopic font that required a magnifying glass for me to read them. Really, NoShame, 6-point type is too small, especially on a brown background.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

Another fine transfer from NoShame of a classic nunsploitation picture. There are some valuable extras as well, if you can make them out.

 


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