The following is the first of three reviews which I'll be posting for the "Shameless Slasher Nasties Box Set" - it's a 3-disc DVD comprised of Killer Nun, Torso, and Night-Train Murders.
Presented fully uncut for the first time in the United Kingdom, and including freshly re-introduced scenes previously excised by the producers, Shameless Screen Entertainment bring us a nicely spruced-up presentation of Giulio Berruti’s Killer Nun. Previously one of the entries on the Department of Public Prosecution’s list of video nasties here in the UK, the film is based on a true story.
Oftentimes you read the words “based on a true story” and it’s anything but, however Killer Nun is based on a case of a Belgian nun who underwent brain surgery and consequently became a morphine addict to assuage the torment of persistent headaches and mood swings. In order to feed her addiction she would ‘help along’ patients in her care who were near-to-death, only to steal their precious belongings and pawn them in the city for money to buy the drugs she craved.
So far that’s the majority of the plot of the movie right there – although nowhere in the true story were there actual murders, torture, or bisexual nuns played by heavy-chested Playboy models. Anita Ekberg (La Dolce Vita) plays Sister Gertrude – the morphine-addicted nun – while Paola Morra plays her sexually obsessed junior Sister Mathieu (the actress was the Italian Playmate of the Month of February 1978).
Today the film is much tamer than its reputation or title might suggest, however it’s a relatively high-minded film that dares to mix in a little social commentary about institutionalised cover-ups in religious organisations. It’s perhaps more akin to What Have They Done To Your Daughters (Massimo Dallamano, 1974) in the respect that it’s not quite as lurid as you might expect from the title – unlike Strip Nude For Your Killer (Andrea Bianchi, 1975), which is precisely as sleazy and violent as you would anticipate. That said, considering the juxtaposition of murder with religion, and sex with Sisters of the Cloth, I can picture how it would have historically been considered quite the controversial film in certain quarters – indeed to some, for those very reasons, it could remain offensive to this day.
Giulio Berruti and Alberto Tarallo’s script plays with thematic substance and a gradual pace, and while it may be comparatively light on sex and gore unlike some of its peers, the film is more then backed-up by a quality production. Tonino Maccoppi’s cinematography is – typically for Italian cinema – beautiful, and is nicely complimented by Mario Giacco’s editing, and Alessandro Alessandroni’s exceedingly memorable score.
Shameless Screen Entertainment’s DVD offers a lovely restored print, trailers, and a brief chat with star Anita Ekberg. The 3-disc 'Shameless Slasher Nasties Box Set' also comes with an essay insert from noted film writer Kim Newman (providing brief but informative context), and the set itself comes with impressive cover art that mimics a rental videotape (complete with "Be Kind and Rewind" sticker).
Fans of this kind of cinema should be pleasantly surprised by Killer Nun, and would do well to give it a spin.