Mondo Macabro // 1978 // 70 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // March 6th, 2009
Innocent nuns, in a convent ruled by sex and debauchery.
After fourteen years of Catholic schooling, mostly during those identity forming adolescent years, I still don't get the whole nuns-are-sexy thing. I mean, sure, I understand it from a psychological point of view, but it remains utterly foreign to my personal experience. If we let cinema be the judge, I'm apparently in the minority, as so-called "nunspliotation" films abound in cinema's recent history. The Sins of Sister Lucia is one such erotic nun picture from Japan. When I think of countries with significant populations of the wimple-wearing, I tend to think of Spain and Italy, countries with a large Catholic population. Apparently, however, the Japanese like their naughty nuns. Sadly, that doesn't make Sins of Sister Lucia worth watching.
For a plot, we've got a pretty straightforward tale of a girl trapped in a convent filled with lust-crazed nuns. In this case Rumiko (Yuki Nohira) is having an affair with her tutor. When her father discovers the relationship his henchman threatens the tutor, but before the tutor can be killed, Rumiko steps in to dispatch the henchman. Because Rumiko's father is a rich businessman who can't stand the idea of losing his daughter to prison, he rigs it so she goes away to a nunnery. Once there, the newly christened Sister Lucia discovers that the nuns are a horny lot who have a taste for discipline. As if that weren't enough, a pair of convicts have broken out of a local jail and ended up in the convent, where Sister Lucia claims all the nuns are "gagging for it," and the pair proceeds to rape a significant portion of the convent's population before the police are called to end the film.
I didn't have very many expectations when I stuck this disc into the player. I figured on copious nudity (especially of breasts), lesbian antics, and a bit of bottom-smacking discipline on a cheeky young nun. The film easily met these expectations, but I was amazed at how lackluster the film was overall despite the copious nudity, lesbianism, and discipline. The film suffers from two major problems. The first is that it's just not erotic. Sex scenes tend to be poorly photographed, with funky camera angels and odd editing choices. There is also little attention to atmosphere, so the sex tends to take place in unsexy places. Throw in the two comic-relief buffoons who go around raping everybody, and you've got a recipe for sexy cinema that isn't very sexy. The other big problem is a lack of plot. Generally that's not a negative for erotic films, but that's because most erotic films fill their running time with sex. Not so with The Sins of Sister Lucia. There are entirely too many scenes that don't drive the plot but also don't present anything sexy. It makes the film rather tedious to sit through, even at its meager 70-minute runtime.
While it's safe to say that The Sins of Sister Lucia didn't light my fires, I can say that Mondo Macabro shows some serious love for this film. Their appreciation starts with a pretty amazing anamorphic transfer for the video. The film still retains a gritty '70s look, but is remarkably free of print damage and compression problems. It's remarkable that this kind of film has been preserved so well. The audio isn't as impressive as the video, but the stereo Japanese track is free of distracting hiss and distortion.
There are only a few extras, but they are all worth watching. First up is a pair of text extras that include introductions to both Sins of Sister Lucia and the production company Nikkatsu, putting both in the context of world cinema as well as exploitation films. These are followed by a 23-minute documentary called "The Erotic Empire," which is an overview of erotic movies in Japan. I found this quite a bit more interesting than the feature because of the serious look the documentary takes at what many consider throwaway films. There's also a 9-minute introduction by Japanese film scholar Jasper Sharp where he discusses the film's principal creators as well as its production and reception. There some overlap between these extras, but the variety of sources makes that acceptable. The disc rounds out with trailers. The first set is vintage peeks at other Nikkatsu films, while the second set is adverts for other Mondo Macabro releases.
If you've got to get your naughty nun fix, then Sins of Sister Lucia will certainly do it. Also, if you're already a fan of the flick, then this Mondo Macabro DVD release is a godsend, with an impressive audiovisual presentation and a host of informative extras. Those new to nunsploitation should probably look elsewhere for a first foray into the genre.
Sins of Sister Lucia is guilty of not being naughty enough, but Mondo Macabro is acquitted for a fantastic presentation of a genre picture.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Mondo Macabro
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 70 Minutes
Release Year: 1978
MPAA Rating: Unrated