It sounds like a grand old time, all right. First, there’s that title. Killer Nun. Adjective noun, conveying irony and promising subversion. Then there’s the cast. How can you not want to see Anita Ekberg star with Joe Dallesandro in a killer-nun movie? And the premise (dope-addled sister at a convent hospital starts abusing patients) does not disappoint–imagine a season of “Nurse Jackie” under showrunners Dario Argento and Abel Ferrara. Yet somehow, director Giulio Berruti blows it: A derivative slasher pic and an only mildly lascivious sex film, Killer Nun is the sort of sleepy-eyed misfire that could give nunsploitation a bad name.
I wanted to look at the new Blu-ray Disc release of Story of O (out this week from the Canadian company Somerville House) for two reasons. First, I’m interested in what happens to obscure and cult films as they make their way to the new high-definition formats, and this French sexploitation drama from the mid-1970s certainly qualifies. Second, I know that while Story of O has some kind of literary pedigree (a sort of de Sade pastiche written under the pen name Pauline Réage, the novel broke significant ground for erotic fiction as well as bondage fetishists), the film version in particular has long been a pervy grail of softcore cinema — knowledgable viewers of a certain sexual inclination find this mix of epic skin flick, softcore potboiler, and S&M psychodrama to be in a class of its own.
Enzo G. Castellari’s 1978 World War II adventure is probably most notable for
inspiring a new Quentin Tarantino screenplay. Its three-disc DVD release, from Severin Cinema, is a
surprisingly deluxe affair tied to the Tarantino remake, with Q.T.
himself showing up to interview Castellari and put the
film in some perspective (it was never released theatrically in the
U.S., so Tarantino discovered it on a TV screening). Some
extensive making-of features and a CD of soundtrack music (the third disc) round
out the package.
Vengeance of the Zombies is reviewed as part of a Blu-ray double feature:
If there’s a better music cue in Euro-horror history than the syncopated percussion that plays in weird accompaniment as the first beautiful, pale zombie rises from her grave in slo-mo in the pre-credits sequence, I have yet to hear it.
Image nicked from Tim Lucas’s excellent Video Watchblog entry on Night of the Werewolf.
It’s surely convenience, or just
coincidence–rather than any nods to quality or pent-up demand–that these are the first two Euro-horror titles to arrive in high definition on
Blu-ray Disc. This double-feature package from BCI and Deimos
entertainment pairs two films starring the well-loved (and prolific)
Spanish horror actor Paul Naschy. Vengeance of the Zombies (La
Rebelion de las Muertas, 1972) is a potboiler from cult director Leon
Klimovsky involving a charismatic Indian cult leader (Naschy), his
less-attractive brother (also Naschy), and a beautiful redhead (Romy)
from a cursed English family. And Night of the Werewolf (La Retorno
del Hombre Lobo, 1980) is a genre mash-up directed by Naschy
in which he stars as the wolfman Waldemar Daninsky and faces off against a
bevy of vampire women led by Elizabeth Bathory herself. (Scroll way down to read about some problems with these discs.)
Blue Underground released this notorious and oft-censored installment in the Black Emanuelle series, directed by the well-known schlockmeister Joe D’Amato and starring the knockout Laura Gemser as a labored metaphor for the free love movement. Emanuelle in America boasts the softcore action you’d expect, including some nude underwater frolicking and copious amounts of disinterested fondling and caressing. It also delivers the action you don’t expect — like a woman masturbating a horse (yes, this actually happens on screen) and some hardcore, ahem, inserts shot from the kinds of camera angles that might have been commonplace in the 1970s but now seem rather unusual.