Saturday, 29 November 2008

Immagini di un convento / Images in a Convent

With the titles proclaiming Images in a Convent to be an adaptation of Denis Diderot's La Religeuse, Joe D'Amato/Aristide Massaccesi's 1979 naughty nun entry initially suggests that it may be offering something a touch classier than his usual fare; the novel having previously been adapted most notably by Jacques Rivette in 1965.

The Diderot reference, however, soon proves little more than pretext or justification for that familiar D'Amato melange of sex, sleaze and sadism, though proceedings remain comparatively tame, tasteful and softcore until a gratuitous hardcore porno-rape sequence relatively late on.

The action centres round a convent built upon pagan ruins, whose legacy remains in the form of a horned statue that some believe to exert a malefic influence, and the impact of two new arrivals upon its inhabitants.

The first of these, Isabella, played by D'Amato regular Paola Senatore, is a rebellious young noblewoman whose wealthy and influential uncle wants her safely out of the way for less than spiritually pure reasons.

The second is a mysterious young man, found wounded in the grounds one day, who may or may not be the devil himself.

Under the influence of this unholy trinity events quickly get out of hand until it is time to call in the exorcist, as incarnated by Eurotrash stalwart Donal(d) O'Brien.

While not quite reaching the high standards set by Walerian Borowczyk's Behind Convent Walls or Gilberto Martínez Solares's Satánico pandemonium, Images in a Convent emerges as a superior example of nunsploitation, benefitting in particular from an effective score by frequent D'Amato collaborator Nico Fidenco that merges quasi-religious chanting with eerie synthesiser drones, attractive cinematography by Massaccesi anduninhibited performances by a cast who just about manage to be convincing as nuns with their abundant pubic bushes and natural breasts.

Released by Shriek Show on R1 NTSC DVD a few years back, Images in a Convent looks and sounds pretty decent overall, although the company's quality control problems continued to haunt them somewhat in the form of a straight 1.85:1 presentation instead of the 16x9 indicated on the case.

Likewise, while the notion of an authentic version of a D'Amato film may be somewhat oxymoronic given his penchant for inserting or excising material in accord with audience and other requirements, it can be noted that a short sequence around quarter of an hour in, where the horned statue takes possession of Sister Lacinia before she visits and makes love to Isabelle appears to be missing, according to Midnight Video (

These minor flaws are almost compensated for by the presence of an edited version of Roger Fratter's 1999 documentary Joe D'Amato: Totally Uncut on the second disc of the set. Running just over an hour, it charts the progression of D'Amato's career from his early days as a stills photographer (his first credit was on Jean Renoir's Le Carrosse d'or) to camera operator (including work on Mario Bava's Hercules in the Haunted World) and in-demand cinematographer to director and producer, with the genial, forthright and self-deprecating D'Amato's direct-to-camera observations on his business - focus on the audience and the box office, not the critics his essential mantra - illustrated by numerous excerpts from his extensive filmography.

With the rough look of the documentary excusable on budgetary grounds my only criticism - speaking here as a Eurotrash more than a porn aficionado - is that it gives more attention to the latter and less to the former.

Completists will thus also want the other part of the documentary to give a fuller picture; thankfully it is included on the Anthropophagous DVD.

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