A Sex-Crazed Sister
Sister Gertrude (Anita Ekberg) is a sex-crazed sister with some seriously bad habits in the cult classic “Killer Nun”. Sister Gertrude is “a disturbed woman of the cloth who degenerates into a perverse mire of drug taking, sexual perversion, sadistic torture and murder.”
“Killer Nun” takes us on a hair-raising journey from the heights of religious ecstasy to the depths of total degeneracy. Director Giulio Berruti’s sleazy film has now been remastered into a stunning new 2K restoration with a many new extras and available on Blu ray.
“Killer Nun” (“Suor Omicidi”) was originally released in 1978 release and included on the British Director of Public Prosecutions’ list of banned video nasties in the 80s (making us want to see it even more). It’s now been released uncut, and as we watch it , we see the insanity of British censorship practices. It should not even qualify as a horror movie, “much less a video nasty.” Of course, there were those that thought that the idea of evil nuns was enough to threaten British civilization.
Unlike other nunsploitation movies this one does not have a historical setting and doesn’t take place within the confines of a nunnery. This one has a contemporary setting and set in a psychiatric hospital where Sister Gertrude is the head nurse. She had an operation earlier to remove a benign brain tumor and she has made a full recovery. However, she doesn’t believe it and is obsessed with the idea that she is dying. She has also developed a morphine habit, and this combined with her health obsessions has made her somewhat unstable. If that is not enough, she is also troubled by sexual thoughts. She shares a room with Sister Mathieu, who is obviously in lust with her and has a disconcerting habit of wandering about naked, and this doesn’t help the situation. But Sister Gertrude is not interested in Sister Mathieu. She wants a man and when you add these sexual cravings to her other problems it’s not entirely unexpected that she begins to crack up. She steals a ring from a dead patient, and buys herself lots of drugs and a slinky dress, and indulges in some steamy anonymous sex with a guy she picks up in a bar.
Then patients begin to die rather mysteriously, by falling out of windows, or with their heads smashed in. The hospital administrators and the Mother Superior are determined to stop a scandal before one starts. They’re not going to allow a few dead patients to damage the reputation of the hospital or of the nursing order. The patients on the other hand are starting to show signs of rebellion, and when more deaths occur it becomes more and more difficult to stop the police from being involved. When we consider Sister Gertrude’s increasingly erratic behavior, a police investigation would be very inconvenient. Sister Mathieu is doing her best to protect Sister Gertrude, while also doing her best to find a way of getting into Sister Gertrude’s bed.
This is more a psychological horror/murder mystery than a nunsploitation film, even though it does contain many of the essential features of the nunsploitation genre (lesbian nuns and a fairly modest amount of nudity). There is some gore, but not really enough to explain how it could ever have been considered as nasty and bloody.
Anita Ekberg is rather good, resisting the temptation to indulge in total emotive acting. Joe Dallesandro as the head doctor, Dr. Roland, gives one of his better performances (and with his clothes on).
Director Giulio Berruti probably have enjoyed greater success had the exploitation elements been more strongly emphasized but it is an interesting oddity, and it’s worth a look if you enjoy off-beat 1970s Italian cinema.
There was a time when a film about a naughty nun featuring Anita Ekberg would have been upsetting. Ekberg, in her late forties, vamps it up but the Gertrude succeeds in her scheming to remove the doctor who contradicted her diagnosis and he is replaced by the younger Dr. Roland who doesn’t know what to believe now that Gertrude’s negative x-rays have been destroyed by her young, adoring subordinate Sister Mathieu. As Gertrude’s delusions peak, matters turn murderous around the hospital, with the Sister staging one patient’s suicide by chucking him out a window after cracking his skull with a candelabra. It’s also at this point that Berruti begins employing some bizarre flashback sequences that appear to suggest some kind of experimental brain surgery, as well as a bit of necrophilia. It’s all very lurid and very senseless, though fascinating and the viewing public will undoubtedly thrill to the soft-core lesbian sequences between Ekberg and Morra.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
New 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Uncompressed mono 1.0 LPCM audio
Original English and Italian soundtracks, titles and credits
Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
New audio commentary by Italian genre film connoisseurs Adrian J. Smith and David Flint
Beyond Convent Walls, a new video essay on nunsploitation and Killer Nun by critic Kat Ellinger
Starry Eyes, a new interview with director Giulio Berruti
Cut and Noise, a new interview with editor Mario Giacco
Our Mother of Hell, a new interview with actress Ileana Fraia
Original Italian and international theatrical trailers
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Daryl Joyce
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Andreas Ehrenreich and Roberto Curti, original reviews