Blu-ray Review: KILLER NUN

Anita Ekberg screws the scenery in this awesomely outrageous shocker

In the annals of the unsavory subgenre known as “nunsploitation’, director Giulio Berruti’s late-from-the-gate shocker KILLER NUN stands tall, a truly nasty piece of work that has so much fun reveling in bad behavior that it’s a grim joy to behold. And that can’t be said for many of the post-THE DEVILS “nunsploitation” ilk, as they’re often depressing, claustrophobic affairs. Now back on Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow Video, hardcore fans and newly minted habit-horror-hounds alike can go another round with this psycho-horror classic and marvel at its delightful tawdriness.

The movie stars Fellini favorite Anita Ekberg (LA DOLCE VITA) – here, well into middle-age but still a goddamned knockout – as the deranged Sister Gertrude, a woman whose religion-fueled madness has caught up with her. Respected by her peers (and, in the case of some of her fellow nuns, lusted over), Gertrude is deeply, profoundly mentally ill and after tormenting weaker souls around her, begins self-medicating her increasingly disturbed condition with heroin addiction, serial sex with both fellow sisters and male strangers and eventually, wholesale murder.

Apparently based on a real case of convent carnage, KILLER NUN is most assuredly trash, but what beautifully crass trash it is. Ekberg dives deep into the role, making Gertrude a manic marvel, veering between the most jaw-dropping atrocities and yet tempering the character with empathy, pathos and remorse. This woman is sick and sculpted by her surroundings and is seemingly unable to stop her free-fall from happening. She’s a pathetic creation. But one doesn’t really watch KILLER NUN for its wrenching drama. No, the true pleasures to be found here are gleefully grotesque and often hilariously cruel. My favorite is the unforgettable sequence where Gertrude screams at an elderly woman for taking out her dentures at the table then proceeds to grab the old lady’s teeth and stomp them to dust while laughing maniacally. As the woman recoils in shock, Gertrude snaps out of her derangement and apologizes. Hours later, the poor gummy granny dies of a heart attack! Nasty? Sure. Tasteless. You bet. But scenes like this (and there are plenty of them) are SO outrageous that Berruti is inviting us to laugh. And we do. Well, at least some of us will.

FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN/BLOOD FOR DRACULA legend Joe Dallesandro also shows up as a doctor but the dubbed actor has little to do but look square-jawed and concerned while Paola Mora threatens to steal scenes from Ekberg as a horny sister who is in love with Gertrude. But never mind the supporting cast, this is Ekberg’s show all the way, her wild, aging eyes popping from her face while cackling like a lunatic with every fresh transgression. She’s goosed by a lush, eerie score by the great Alessandro Alessandroni (THE DEVIL’S NIGHTMARE), who over-the-top sonics match Ekberg’s mania.

Arrow provides a crisp 2K transfer from the 35mm camera negative. There are the usual flurry of interesting extras packed into the rear end of the disc, most edifying being Kat Ellinger’s thorough video essay tour of the nunsploitation genre and a brand new interview with Berutti himself. A remarkable, macabre and truly mad movie and a marked improvement over the previous Blue Underground release.