Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 5th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, February 16th, 1974
Director: Norifumi Suzuki
Writers: Masahiro Kakefuda, Norifumi Suzuki
Cast: Yumi Takigawa, Emiko Yamauchi, Yayoi Watanabe, Ryouko Ima, Harumi Tajima
DVD Released: August 30th, 2005
Approximate Running Time: 91 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Japanese
DVD Release: Cult Epics
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
Synopsis: 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.
Cult Epics presents School of The Holy Beast in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The DVD box art for this release incorrectly lists the aspect ratio as 1.85:1 when it is actually in its correct 2.35:1 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 films 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 the films original trailer. Other extras include a seventeen minute interview with the films star Yumi Takigawa 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 nineteen minute interview with Japanese film critic Risaku Kiridoushi 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 have put together an impressive release that for one of Japan’s most notorious exploration films. School of The Holy Beast is one of the best films to come out of the Nunsploitation genre with its perfect mix of perverse sadism and art house visuals that look like picturesque paintings, highly recommended.