Pros: Lots of nasty nuns getting naked and giving in to the pleasures of the flesh.
Cons: The story is pretty ludicrous.
As a bonafide lover of all things nasty nun related, I'm a little embarrassed that it's taken me so long to get around to writing about Joe D'Amato's 1979 nunsploitation classic, Images in a Convent. I first experienced the film years ago, but it was on a grainy multigenerational bootleg and I didn't think it was fair to tell everyone about a title most people would never be able to track down in the first place. However, Media Blasters gifted us all with a very nice two-disc special edition back in 2005-and I have no excuse for why it's taken me five years since then to finally get around to talking about this unforgettable piece of European sleaze. I get sidetracked easily, what can I say?
Images in a Convent is commonly referred to as the sleaziest of the nunsploitation films. If you're not up to speed on your European exploitation cinema subgenres, nunsploitation films were a breed of movie that focused on nasty nuns, women locked away in convents with wicked Mother Superiors--who had a penchant for torture--and loads of pent up sexual energy. Invariably, they're filled with lesbian sex, lots of whippings, and a healthy dose of sacrilege added in to spice things up. This formula would seem like a surefire hit-but as any serious connoisseur of naughty nun flicks will tell you, most of them never manage to live up to the potential inherent in their premises. Images in a Convent is one of the rare exceptions-but would you really expect anything less from Joe D'Amato? Don't answer that.
I'm not going to spend a lot of time on the plot, because to be honest, the film's narrative doesn't make a ton of sense. The movie claims to be based on Diderot's La Religieuse. I've never read Diderot's book, but if it's anything like this film, I'll eat my hat. Anyway, the gist of the story is that young Isabella (Paola Senatore) is sent-unwillingly--to a convent so her uncle can't kidnap her. Her presence amongst the brides of Christ awakens some carnal urges in the sisters-urges they must act on regularly and often. If that weren't enough, there's also a wounded man who's been taken in while he recuperates. This fellow definitely has a nun fetish, because he hits on everything in a habit. Toss in a freaky looking statue-which may be Satan or Pan-that keeps moving around of its own accord and you've got a movie.
Maybe you don't really have a movie-what you have is a set-up D'Amato can utilize to move us from one nun coupling scene to the next. Unlike so many of the other nunsploitation flicks, Images in a Convent eschews the torture elements in favor of sex. D'Amato made Images prior to his shift to full-on hardcore pornography, but one gets the impression this was a bit of a practice run. Things start out relatively benign, with lots of softcore sex scenes featuring full frontal females. D'Amato ramps things up as the film progresses-inching closer and closer to the line between "hard R" and x-rated, and then about an hour or so in, he totally crosses it. The scene in question involves one of the sisters being raped by two guys in the woods. The scene not only features a fully-erect penis, but some brief forced oral sex as well. In some ways, this felt like a warm up for the climax, which finds Donald O'Brien (the infamous Dr. Butcher, M.D. himself) attempting to exorcise the convent while the nuns go nuts sexually. This is the sequence where the infamous wooden d*ldo finally makes its big screen debut...
Joe D'Amato's work will rarely be remembered as "good" in a traditional sense-the man was a mercenary filmmaker who worked in any genre that would pay him. However, Images in a Convent stands as one of his more impressive creations from a technical standpoint. The scene compositions are crisp, the edits smooth, and D'Amato demonstrates a real talent for filming erotic scenes in a way guaranteed to make his audience hot and bothered. I'm not surprised by this, as I always thought D'Amato's hardcore pornography was not only well shot, but showed a genuine flair for the erotic arts (his porn versions of Carmen and Marquis de Sade remain two of my personal favorites). Images in a Convent looks a lot better than most of his earlier films.
Part of this is attributable to his cast. D'Amato's landed the lovely Paola Senatore for his lead, but the rest of the actresses are-mostly-easy on the eyes. There's one bad boob job on display but aside from that, the actresses are sure to please admirers of the female form. D'Amato takes full advantage of the religious iconography of the nun's habit as well-filming countless scenes where the women are naked save for the elaborate head-pieces. If you have a nun fetish, you're almost assuredly going to enjoy this film.
The Media Blasters disc is probably the most impressive version of Images in a Convent we'll ever see-and yet it's not perfect. Reports abound that it's missing at least one scene, precluding it from being truly "uncut". While that may bug the completionists-like me-it doesn't ruin the rest of the package. The second disc features a real treat for D'Amato fans, a copy of the documentary Joe D'Amato: Totally Uncut. This retrospective, filmed shortly before the filmmaker's death back in 1999, is an entertaining look back at some of his sleaziest efforts. I've long had a copy on VHS, but it's great to finally score a version with English subtitles...
Images in a Convent may not be the best of the nunsploitation films, but it certainly earns the title of the sleaziest. Joe D'Amato clearly knew what he was doing when he decided to drop the torture aspects of the films in favor of pure sex and the decision to edge into hardcore pornography later in the movie is inspired. That alone makes Images in a Convent worth checking out for fans of Euro-sleaze. If you also happen to have a predilection for nuns doing very bad things, then this is a must see.