Blu-ray Review: KILLER NUN (Blue Underground)

Charlie Hobbs, Contributing Writer
Nunsploitation is one of those subgenres of film that exploded in the '70s and '80s and has entirely died out in the years since. The confined quarters of the convent provided a hothouse in which every variety of perversion, mania, dementia, and sadism could occur in quiet isolation from the outside world. Obviously, this made the convent perfect fodder for the exploitation filmmakers of the day. Hordes of sexually frustrated women with no men to ease their aching loins meant horny lesbian nuns ran rampant throughout the better part of exploitation's heyday. Giulio Berlutti's Killer Nun is a prime example of the remarkable breadth these stories took, and just how popular the genre was.

Very few actresses cut a stronger profile than Killer Nun star Anita Ekberg. A great beauty who rocketed to international stardom with Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita, Ekberg spent most of her career playing various and sundry iterations of the starlet who splashed her way to fame in the fabled Trevi Fountain. Killer Nun marked a major departure from type for Ekberg, as it presumably would for most any actress, and both she and the film are better for it. Berlutti cast her in Killer Nun, with some coaxing, and she manages to spread her dramatic wings fairly well, considering the subject matter.

Ekberg's performance is one of the finest examples of scenery chewing the world has ever seen. I couldn't help thinking of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, an actress, past her prime but still game to take some chances, glares into the camera and tells the world that she's ready for her closeup, that is Anita Ekberg in a nutshell here. She is made-up to the hilt with at least three inches of foundation attempting to hide the growing laugh lines and crow's feet on her face. Ekberg does what she does best, she hams, but oh what a hammy performance it is. This one is right up there with Faye Dunaway's performance in Mommie Dearest, and I fucking LOVE that film.

Giulio Berlutti wasn't just there for the prestige though, obviously, and he takes Killer Nun to the extremes required to sell the film. Of course, I'm talking about tits. Not just any tits, but Paola Morra's exquisite form is on display at several points as she attempts to seduce the elder Sister Gertrude (Ekberg) behind closed doors. Shockingly, this is the only character who drops her habit in this film, even though nun orgies are staples of the nunsploitation genre. Even the artiest of the eastern European new wave, Walerian Borowczyk (The Beast, Immoral Tales), took a stab at nunsploitation with Behind Convent Walls, ironically featuring Ms. Morra, which is far more sexually depraved than Killer Nun.

But enough about the film's artistic merits, I'm sure that the question on everyone's minds is, "does the film live up to its title?" The answer is yes, Killer Nun delivers killings performed by a nun in spades. The majority of the murder sequences are rather tame when compared to other '70s Italian genre fare, but there is one scene of torture and murder that rivals the razor blade torture in New York Ripper and left me with chills, and I'm a pretty hearty soul. Killer Nun is big, campy fun, and Anita Ekberg's performance is absolutely riveting in its excess. Definitely check this one out!

The Disc:

Blue Underground have been a somewhat hard company to pin down when it comes to video quality on their Blu-ray releases. There have been several outright successes, like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, and there have been a number of less definitive upgrades, like Deep Red, The 10th Victim, and a few others. I'd have to say that Killer Nun fits somewhere in the middle. It isn't the revelatory image transfer that Plumage was, but it isn't nearly as affected by strange video noise as House by the Cemetery, and there are none of the glitches that I noticed with Strip Nude for Your Killer. Colors are good, the film has a very high key look, and so there isn't much to compare when it comes to shadow detail, but the brighter outdoor sequences look very good. Detail is solid, but unremarkable. Overall, it is surely an improvement over the capabilities of DVD, but not exactly a knockout blow. On the audio front, Blue Underground have provided both the Italian and English dubs. Italian was the language spoken on set, as as such that is the preferred audio track and it sounds good, but not great, though the excellently spooky/goofy score sounds quite good.

The only notable extra on the disc is a fifteen minute interview with director/co-writer Giulio Berlutti. Berlutti talks about his experience on the film, the process of casting Anita Ekberg, and various other bits and bobs concerning the production. Honestly, he's not a very interesting guy, but I appreciate the fact that Blue Underground and Severin (who produced many of Blue Underground's bonus features) took the trouble to get this stuff on tape.

I really enjoyed the film, even if I was somewhat underwhelmed by the visual presentation. It's a gory, goofy, screwball erotic slasher, and how many of those are there, really?
Special Features:
· From the Secret Files of the Vatican – Interview with Co-Writer/Director Giulio Berruti
· Theatrical Trailer
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