Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 19th, 2010
Theatrical Release Dates: Japan, February 16th, 1974 (School of The Holy Beast), Italy, 1977 (Behind Convent Walls)
Directors: Norifumi Suzuki (School of The Holy Beast), Walerian Borowczyk (Behind Convent Walls)
Writers: Masahiro Kakefuda, Norifumi Suzuki (School of The Holy Beast), Walerian Borowczyk (Behind Convent Walls)
Cast: Yumi Takigawa, Emiko Yamauchi, Yayoi Watanabe, Ryouko Ima, Harumi Tajima (School of The Holy Beast), Ligia Branice, Howard Ross, Marina Pierro, Gabriella Giacobbe, Rodolfo Dal Pra, Loredana Martínez, Olivia Pascal (Behind Convent Walls)
DVD Released: July 27th, 2010
Approximate Running Times: 91 minutes (School of The Holy Beast), 95 minutes (Behind Convent Walls)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (School of The Holy Beast), 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Behind Convent Walls)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Japanese (School of The Holy Beast), Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Italian, Dolby Digital Mono French (Behind Convent Walls)
Subtitles: English (Both Films)
DVD Release: Cult Epics
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $39.95
School of The Holy Beast: Maya Takigawa (Yumi Takigawa) spends her final night of freedom living in sin with her boyfriend the night before she enters the St. Clore Abbey to become a nun. Maya has ulterior motives for becoming a nun which have too do with her mother who died in the St. Clore Abbey eighteen years ago on the day Maya was born. Maya soon finds herself surrounded by sadistic nuns whose appetite for sex is only rivaled by the pleasure they from torturing the other nuns who disobey. The more time Maya spends with the nuns the more she uncovers about the demise of her mother which ultimately leads to the discovery of who her father is.
Norifumi Suzuki is no stranger the exploitation film making such grind house classic’s like Sukeban, Star of David: Beauty Hunting and Sex & Fury which features Swedish sex goddess Christina Lindberg whose claim to fame is the film Thriller: a Cruel Picture. All the elements that one would expect in a Nunsploitation film like lesbian sex orgies and visceral violent set pieces that are filled with iconic religious imagery fill every picturesque frame of School of The Holy Beast.
Norifumi Suzuki in many scenes uses bold colors and a fetish like zoom on several compositions that are reminiscent to many of the same techniques used by auteur filmmaker Jess Franco who has made his fare share of films dealing with the same themes explored in School of The Holy Beast. The plot feels like something lifted right of the pages of one of the Marquises De Sade’s notorious works of literature. School of The Holy Beast moves at a brisk pace as the action never lets up and back-story keeps things interesting.
This film quickly shows us that all is not what it seems in the St. Clore Abbey as we are introduced to the various nuns and their carnal desires which are in direct contrast to what we would expect a nun to act like. There are many stunning set pieces in this film with the most beautiful and brutal being the interrogation of Maya. Who is wrapped up in thrones that have been tighten wound around her and then the other nuns beat her with bouquet of roses for good measure. There is a youthful like innocence to Yumi Takigawa’s performance as Maya that is most definitely helped by the fact that this was her first film. The best performance in the film comes from actor Fumio Watanabe who plays a Rasputin look a like priest named Kakinuma. His character is one of the few male characters in the film and he uses his power as a man of god to bed many of the nuns. Even though the acting is more the adequate in the end it is Norifumi Suzuki stylish direction that elevates School of The Holy Beast above your typical exploitation film.
Behind Convent Walls: Abbess Flavia Orsini struggles to retain control of a convent filled with sexual repressed nuns. The Mother Superior’s niece Clara is her strongest ally as she believes that a spiritual calling lead her to the monastery. Will Abbess Flavia Orsini quench the lustful desires that burn in virtually every one of the nuns at the monastery before their wicked ways convert her niece Clara into a sinner?
Behind Convent Walls is loosely based on Roman Walks, a story written by the notorious 19th century French author Stendhal. This film follows all the standard clichés that we have come to expect from the Nunsploitation genre like sexual repression and the liberation that comes ultimately from giving in to their desires.
Director Walerian Borowczyk takes on this genre with an artistic quality that has been rarely seen before as he shifts the focus away from the genre’s more exploitative plot devices and gives the viewer a more human look into the nuns who were sent to the monastery by their parents and their subsequent plight. Abbess Flavia Orsini’s own quest for control over these women only further separate her from them and the on setting reality of what is going on around her. The Abbess’s unwilling to compromise ultimately leads to her tragic demise.
The film’s most infamous scene which involves a nun named Clara who comes across a large piece of wood that is lying in pile of glass. She takes the wood and some of the fragments of glass back to her room to craft a large wooden dildo. This scene is nothing short of amazing as Ligia Branice the actress who portrays Clara looses herself in the moment. This is a bold scene that dances the line between art and pornography and as usual director Walerian Borowczyk beautifully captures this moment of pure ecstasy.
Behind Convent Walls was photographed by Cinematographer Luciano Tovoli who would also photograph the visual masterpiece Suspiria with the same artistry that he would also employee with his breathtaking use of soft focus lighting that gives the nuns a more angelic like look that remains even while they are doing naughty deeds. Overall Behind Convent Walls is filled with many splendid images and has more then it’s fare share of naked flesh on parade which make this film one of Walerian Borowczyk’s easiest films to digest.
School of the Holy Beast was originally released on DVD by Cult Epics in 2005. The DVD included with this collection appears to be a direct port of that DVD release.
Cult Epics presents School of the Holy Beast in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original 2.35:1 scope aspect ratio. The colors look nicely saturated as they remain strong through out. There is plenty of flesh on parade in this film with flesh tones look healthy and natural. Black levels are solid as they exhibit an exceptional amount of detail in every frame. There is some noticeable grain, still it never becomes distracting. There are no problems with artifacts or compression and there are some noticeable yet minor instances of edge enhancement. Overall the print used is in wonderful shape as it looks virtually flawless. Unfortunately this release is interlaced and there are a few moments of noticeable blurring.
This release comes with only one audio option the film’s original Japanese language track which is presented in a Dolby Digital mono. The dialog is clean and easy to understand. The music and effects are evenly mixed as they never overpower the other. There is some minor issue’s with distortion. Overall this audio mix more then gets the job done. English subtitles have been included that are easy to read and follow.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (3 minutes 18 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles). Other extras include a interview with the film’s star Yumi Takigawa (16 minutes 38 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles), who discusses how she got the role and how shocked she was upon seeing the film put together how many lesbian scenes there were since she doesn’t remember participating in any of them. Rounding out the extras is a interview with Japanese film critic Risaku Kiridoushi (19 minutes 20 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles), who discusses Norifumi Suzuki, Pink films and censorship in Japanese cinema. Both interviews are filled with interesting information that gives the viewer more background into the making of the film and exploration films in general.
Cult Epics presents Behind Convent Walls in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. This is a very good looking progressive flagged transfer, that is also a correctly converted NTSC transfer. Colors fare well and flesh tones look accurate. Print debris is minimal and edge enhancement is never intrusive.
This release comes with three audio options, a Dolby Digital Mono mix in English, a Dolby Digital Mono mix in Italian and a Dolby Digital Mono mix in French. The weakest sounding of the three audio mixes in the Italian audio mix that sounds flat and has noticeable background noise. The strongest audio mix in the French audio mix which sound clean, clear and balanced throughout. The English audio mix has some minor instances of background noise. Besides this flaw, the audio mix is a more than serviceable track. A quick glance between the English audio mix and English subtitles reveal that there are enough differences that this appears to be an accurate translation and not ‘dub’ titles.
Extras for this release include a lobby card gallery (11 images), a featurette titled “Behind the Walls” (10 minutes 52 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), which includes interviews with Borowczyk expert/retrospective programmer Daniel Bird, Sam Dunn and Mondo Erotico webmaster Marc Morris. For its short length these collections of talking heads experts cover a lot of ground and add plenty of insight into Behind Convent Walls and a interview with cinematographer Luciano Tovoli (17 minutes 1 second – anamorphic widescreen, in English), who discusses collaborating with Walerian Borowczyk and the visual look of the film.
This release was originally set to be a three disc set. With the third disc being a documentary on the Nunsploitation genre. After numerous delays, the documentary which was being prepared by a third party has dropped from the set. Overall this collection pairs together to exceptional examples of the Nunsploitation genre.
Note: Both of these film’s are also available as standalone DVD releases.