Color, 1979, 88m.
Directed by Giulio Berruti
Starring Anita Ekberg, Paola Morra, Alida Valli, Massimo Serato, Joe Dallesandro, Lou Castel, Daniele Dublino
Blue Underground (Blu-Ray & DVD) (US R0 NTSC), Shameless (UK R0 PAL), Koch (Germany R2 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
At a very dramatic hospital for the elderly and insane, Sister Gertrude (Ekberg) is slowly cracking up and still showing signs of emotional turmoil and hatred from a sexual assault years before. No one suspects she might be going off the deep end, but indeed, Gertrude is acting out by shooting up in private, using the younger Sister Mathieu (Behind Convent Walls' Morra) as her sexual plaything, and inflicting all kinds of petty distress on the patients. Oh, and sometimes she puts on normal street clothes, heads down the local bar, and bangs complete strangers after sucking down a pack of cigarettes. Meanwhile, someone's offing the patients in a gory fashion... but is Gertrude far enough around the bend to be the culprit?
Kicking off with a text card claiming this is based on a true story (yow!), Killer Nun certainly stands out as a rare giallo/nunsploitation hybrid and manages to deliver an attention-getting bit of sexy sleaze or violence every five minutes or so, including a nasty bit involving a scalpel that landed this on the Video Nasties list back in the '80s and a squirm-inducing rainy sex scene that probably killed the libidos of anyone expecting the usual hot 'n' nasty softcore nun action they probably expected. It doesn't really all gel together and ultimately pays off with an oddly muffled twist ending, but the benefits should be worth it along the way: nudity, blasphemy, trippy hallucination scenes, and a whacked-out psychedelic score by Alessandro Alessandroni, who also performed similiar duties on The Devil's Nightmare.
After years of underground swapping on the gray market thanks to a Japanese-subtitled English release on VHS, Killer Nun first hit American shores in 2004 on DVD from Blue Underground. The adequate but somewhat dreary-looking transfer of the English-dubbed version (complete with a couple of subtitled Italian-language scenes never completed in English) also comes with the theatrical trailer, a poster and still gallery, and an interview with director and co-writer Giulio Berruti, "From the Secret Files of the Vatican," in which he discusses his intentions for the film, bringing Ekberg aboard, and the whole true story claim, though not in great detail. Three years later it was released complete in the UK on DVD for the first time from Shameless, complete with a particularly ridiculous cover. The transfer here appears to be from the same source, but the selling point here is an exclusive interview with Ekberg covering everything from the film at hand to her star-making beginnings with Fellini.
Continuing Blue Underground's highly unpredictable slate of Blu-Ray upgrades, Killer Nun makes the jump to HD somewhere in the middle of its spectrum of Italian titles. Definitely not as soft, drab, or blown out as its standard def predecessors, it's a respectable presentation with rich flesh tones and far less print damage, and all of the extras (including the gallery) have been ported over. However, it definitely has some of that funky look seen on several labels' Italy-sourced HD masters and would probably be best compared to its immediate precursor on the market, Strip Nude for Your Killer. There's a fair amount of what looks like normal film grain, but some scenes have an oddly processed veneer as well that teeters over into that odd digital watercolor effect. It's an upgrade to be sure though, especially on the audio front as we finally, finally have the complete original Italian track (in DTS-HD mono like the English one), which is vastly preferable in every respect to the English dub. Several of the performers are speaking Italian in their original voices (including the always awesome Alida Valli in what amounts to an extended cameo), and the dialogue is far more polished and involving by comparison. There are also many, many more extra lines in the Italian version, too, when characters are speaking offscreen, and thankfully English subtitles are available both as SDH for the English dub and a straight translation from the Italian one. Additional subtitles are also presented in French and Spanish if you want to learn how to say a lot of bilingual Catholic jargon.