Salvation Films // 2008 // 109 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // January 16th, 2009
For the first time the story of these curvaceous latex clad vampires can be told in their own words and pictures.
Chances are if you've heard of a late '70s punk band (The Sex Pistols, The Clash), they ended badly, in drugs, dissolution, or creative stagnation. Obviously many punk bands you've never heard of ended the same way, but there's a class of peripheral bands that managed to elude both fame and total obscurity, usually getting by on a small, dedicated cult following. San Franscico's The Nuns are a perfect example. Before Johnny Rotten asked the Winterland Ballroom audience if they ever had the feeling they'd been cheated, a young woman named Jennifer Anderson fronted a band which was one of California's first punk acts, and they opened for the Pistols that fateful night. Like many bands of the era, they lost numerous members (including a young Alejandro Escovedo) and eventually dissolved. However, unlike most bands of the era, they continually reformed around Jennifer Anderson (now Miro), reinventing themselves as a gothic cabaret act with significant sexual overtones. Over the years the band and its shows have garnered a serious following, and this DVD set from Salvation Films is aimed squarely at Nuns fetishists.
The DVD can be broken into four main categories: live footage, short films, TV pilots, and promotional material.
The live footage, pieced together from two shows (one in New York and one in London), is going to be the primary draw for fans of the Nuns music. As a music fan, my general preference is for concerts on DVD to present an entire show on a single evening, but the hour or so of live material here is sure to please fans with the diversity of songs and set pieces.
Fans of the Nuns' more campy aspects, or more general fans of nunsploitation and fetishism will appreciate the short films on the disc. Basically they're excuses to have scantily clad vampire woman saunter around on screen. These aren't going to break any new ground from a cinematic perspective, but they are campy fun.
The TV pilots are the bizarre highlight of this DVD. Jennifer Miro financed, shot, wrote, etc these two pilot episodes for a TV series about the lives of the Nuns. She then pitched this show to MTV. I want to live in the alternate world where MTV picked up this show instead of endlessly inane reality programming. I mean, if they're going to abandon playing videos, they should replace them with some worth watching.
Finally, the rest of the DVD is given over to promotional material. This includes a bevy of still shots and press clippings that provide a visual history of the Nuns. There is also a video introduction by Jennifer, recounting various Nuns stories, as well as a text-based bio of the Nuns' head mistress. Finally, there's a music video for the Nuns' track "White Slave."
The video comes from variety of sources, so it has unsurprising variations in quality. None of the video is reference quality, but none of it seems completely unwatchable, either. The aspect ratios change along with some of the sources. The audio fares a little better than the video, and I didn't notice any problems with distortion or hiss. However, some of the features are more ably recorded than others.
Undoubtedly, the Nuns are a fascinating footnote in the history of punk. However, this DVD doesn't offer much for punk historians because it focuses so much on the later incarnations of the band. Fans of fetish rock and nunsploitation are sure to appreciate the stage show of the Nuns, as well as the abundant flesh and vinyl on display in the short films and promotional material. Obviously, fans of the Nuns and their antics are going to want to snap this disc up, both for the contemporary footage and the peeks into the band's (recent) history.
The Nuns: New York Vampires is guilty of being a solid niche release. Although this DVD isn't for everyone, for fans it's an easy recommendation.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Salvation Films
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Nuns Website