An example of nunsploitation, the brief horror fad in the 1970s that depicted nuns as sexually pent-up lesbians capable of any number of meant-to-be-shocking atrocities, the wonderfully titled Killer Nun comes up considerably short of the better, more outrageous horror films being cranked out during the same era. Director Giulio Berruti no doubt thought he was working on a serious film about a nun who loses her mind after developing an addiction to morphine following a painful recovery from a cancer operation (seriously), and so he worked in a suggestive manner that left most of the sex and violence off screen. Instead, Killer Nun mostly follows the titular nun, Sister Gertrude (Anita Ekberg), as she twists her face into an expression or two in an effort to convey the struggle to distinguish illusion from reality.
But this isn’t a Martin Scorsese film, and I doubt there’s anyone who sees a movie that’s called Killer Nun in order to glean a greater understanding of the psychological pressures that come with life as a member of the cloth—though this film is obviously useless in that regard as well. No, one almost certainly goes to a film that purports to be ripped “straight from the secret files of the Vatican” in order to revel in a little healthy blasphemy—say, good-looking women in nun outfits killing men in between bouts of hungry lovemaking accompanied by music that wouldn’t be out of place in a 40-year-old porno.
There are a few moments of respectable titillation, particularly involving Paola Morra as a frequently naked nun in lust with Sister Gertrude, but most of the movie is a slog that requires Ekberg to go wildly over the top and stay there; she wears out her welcome long before the de rigueur—and predictable, if you’re aware of the 1970s horror film’s penchant for homosexual deranged maniacs who were sexually abused as children—twist ending. And Berruti, most ludicrously, would seem to be entirely unaware of the script’s biggest howler: that Sister Gertrude, despite being obviously and flamboyantly bonkers, isn’t immediately suspected of the strange doings transpiring in the asylum. Somehow absurd, rote, and humorless, Killer Nun is one of those genre pictures that’s bound to please virtually no one.
Blue Underground has frequently done a sterling job of transferring exploitation films from prints that are difficult to find, and Killer Nun isn't an exception. The warm fleshy colors that one associates with the classic giallo film have been rendered here with a bit of grain, but the image is clear and detailed and probably looks better than ever before. Better yet, an Italian-language track that wasn't included in the 2004 DVD has been added, which is particularly good news for those who can't stand English dubs (though the dubbing here is pretty good). The mono tracks are a little flat at times, but are generally well-mixed: The score and the various diegetic details come through clearly.
The Blu-ray features the same extras that were issued on the previous DVD. Director Giulio Berruti is surprisingly frank as he discusses a variety of frustrations, such as his disappointment with the producer's insistence on the casting of Paola Morra, who isn't any better or worse than anyone else in the movie, as well as the initial censoring of a number of key scenes, most notoriously the one that equates Gertrude's ritual of shooting morphine with the ritual of mass. Berruti appears to be generally disappointed with Killer Nun, primarily because he was interested in making a film more ambitious than the exploitation fodder the producers were after—conflicting sensibilities that would cancel each other out in the final product. Also included: a gallery of posters and stills and the original theatrical trailer.
The title is the only amusing thing about this dull work of nunsploitation cinema.