Severin Films // 1979 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // December 14th, 2007
A Teen Temptress Consumed By The Depraved Lust of Satan.
I swear I didn't know. I was expecting another Satan's Baby Doll, an Italian possession story with a Gothic flavor. I figured I'd see more than a few bare breasts, some scary '70s pubic hair, and if I was lucky, some hot lesbian action. Instead, I got all of the above plus hard core insertion shots.
Another castle, another nun (Mariangela Giordano, Satan's Baby Doll, and another young woman (Katell Laennec) possessed by the spirit of her overly-carnal mother. There's some business about a dead uncle and an inheritance, but what really matters is the transformation of the title character into a "malicious whore." How can she be saved?
Before continuing with this discussion of Malabimba, you should probably read Judge Johnson's appraisal of Satan's Baby Doll, as all of his comments apply to this film as well. The two movies are like siblings: Satan's Baby Doll is the younger sister, still worried about kissing a boy (or girl) for the first time, and Malabimba is the experienced older sister, who's already been found naked in the back of a car by law enforcement. Which is to say that both movies are very similar -- they share a plot and the actress Mariangela Giordano -- but one is a lot more sexually explicit. I watched Malabimba with friends, intrigued by the title. (I mean what exactly is a "malicious whore" anyway? I never did learn) We watched merrily along until the first shot of penetration, when we promptly went from merry to utterly disconcerted. It turns out that the little Italian nudie-film we thought we were watching had been altered by someone, Caligula style, to include pornographic insert shots. We finished out the film, agreeing that the inclusion of the hard core shots left us feeling a little icky.
I'm not automatically against shots of penis-in-vagina sex, but I wonder what producers/distributors are thinking putting them in as an after-thought. With Caligula it mostly works, reinforcing the depraved decadence of Imperial Rome. With Malabimba, it just adds an edge to an otherwise soft picture. I think most viewers go in with expectations similar to mine, having seen other, less explicit films like Satan's Baby Doll, so the hard core stuff is shocking, and not in a good way. Those looking for late-night cable style satisfaction will be overwhelmed by the genitalia, and those looking for pornography will grow bored very quickly with the slow, Gothic buildup of the story.
Besides the jarring nature of their surprising inclusion, the insertion shots bother me on an aesthetic level. Because the producer/distributor (it's not made abundantly clear in the extras) included the nastier stuff without the knowledge of his principles, the explicit shots are framed like a close up out of an anatomy textbook in the hopes that the viewer won't notice or care that it's two entirely different people from the wider shots. There is nothing erotic or titillating about these images, and I again wonder at their inclusion.
Leaving aside the question of pornography, the film offers an okay ghost story, with appealing set design, acceptable acting, and attractive women to watch. The atmosphere is appropriately Gothic, and when they're not writhing around with each other, the actors are convincing as they act out stereotypical roles, like the concerned father and the gold-digging bitch. The film could be vastly improved by showing more of what makes the ghost angry enough to possess Bimba, giving it some motivation. The inclusion of such back story would give the film's slightly tragic ending even more resonance.
Severin Films, who gave us both Malabimba and Satan's Baby Doll, does a fine job presenting the film visually and aurally. The 1:85:1 anamorphic print looks surprisingly good for its age, a little soft and a little grainy, but pretty good. The Italian mono ensures that dialogue is heard clearly. The extras include some deleted scenes, with the option to watch them inserted (pun intended) back into the film. Several of the included scenes give some of the back story I had desired, but only in dialogue from the other character's perspectives. Other scenes are just light connecting bits, and some moments of atmosphere. The scenes appear sourced from video and are framed at 1:33:1, looking much more beat up than the feature. A featurette which includes interviews with star Mariangel Giordano and cinematographer Franco Villa sheds some light on the making of the film. Considering some of the nice things they said, I wondered if we were referring to the same film.
Grab a beer, some friends, and this DVD, and you'll have an interesting night, especially if you don't tell them what to expect. However, if everyone goes in knowing exactly what they're gonna see, you could still have a fun drinking game by taking a shot every time Bimba gets naked or touches herself.
Those who don't mind insertion shots could do worse than watch this film. Those who like the sound of the story but don't want to see genitalia are urged to seek out Satan's Baby Doll. You've been warned.
Guilty as sin.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Severin Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Italian)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Integral Version: Feature with deleted scenes reincorporated
* "Malabimba Uncovered" Featurette
* Theatrical Trailer