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Killer Nun (1979)

Arrow Video

Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/15/2019


All Ratings out of

Movie: 1/2


Audio: 1/2



Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/18/2019

Given the proliferation and accessibility of movies these days, there are probably plenty of people who think of themselves as movie experts.  However, the truth of the matter is that they are most likely plenty of movies and sub-genres out there of which the average film-fan has no knowledge.  For example, are you familiar with “Nunsploitation”?  This is a sub-genre of movies in which nuns do inappropriate things.  Yes, this is a real thing.  The movement gained notoriety in the 1970s with a series of movies from Italy.  And while there are several entries into this division, it never really took off.  Still, some titles still make their way to home video, such as 1979’s Killer Nun.

Anita Ekberg stars in Killer Nun as Sister Gertrude, a devoted woman who spends her days working in hospital alongside her fellow nuns and Dr. Poirret (Massimo Serato).  Sister Gertrude is known of being harsh, but she knows the patients (who seem to live in the hospital) well and seems to truly care.  However, she has being going through some rough times recently following an operation in which a tumor was removed.   Gertrude insists that she hasn’t fully recovered, but Dr. Poirret doesn’t take her seriously.  Therefore, her behavior becomes more and more erratic and she begins to turn away from her holy vows.  When violence erupts in the hospital, Gertrude’s odd behavior makes her a prime suspect.

I guess the term “Nunsploitation” is a pretty broad one, but it does set up certain expectations in the viewer, especially if one has seen other movies which would fall under this umbrella.  Having said that, I was expecting something called Killer Nun to be a little more “Nunsploitationesque”.  Granted, this is not a Disney film.  It has nudity, violence, and some dark elements, but it’s somewhat tame when compared to its brethren in the sub-genre.  In terms of graphic content, this falls in line with other Europen (especially Italian) films from this time period.  It’s got a certain level of sleaze, but this is no “Video Nasty”.

So, then what is Killer Nun?  That’s an interesting question, as the film’s tone is all over the place.  At the outset, it plays like a drama, as we meet Sister Gertrude and learn of her situation.  We watch her struggle on the job and see how those around her react.  Then, the more traditional “Nunsploitation” aspects arrive, as sex and drugs become involved in the story.  But, then, in the second half, Killer Nun suddenly becomes a giallo.  A murder occurs in the treatment center and the story then introduces mystery elements and all clues point at Gertrude.  The movie retains a serious tone throughout and it almost plays like a hospital drama at times, as the characters hide secrets and stab one another in the back.

All of this raises the question, at whom is Killer Nun aimed?  Director Giulio Berruti only helmed one other movie during his career (he has several credits as an editor) and he delivers a conundrum with this one.  Again, there are some salacious things here, but those who are looking for edge of the envelope thrills will be disappointed.  The film has some giallo elements, but it doesn’t take this turn until the second half and it feels like more of an afterthought.  Gertrude is a complex character, so much so that it gives the impression that she’s in a different movie.  Killer Nun is far from being a bad movie, but it’s certain a challenging one.  There are some nice moments here, but many viewers may come away feeling short-changed.

 Killer Nun never explains where Gertrude got her city clothes on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Arrow Video.  The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 33 Mbps.  The image is sharp and clear, although there is some overt grain in some shots.  The colors look good, most notably reds, and the image is never overly dark or bright.  The depth works quite well and we don’t get the “flat” look which can often plague older films like this.  The Disc carries a Linear PCM Mono audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 2.3 Mbps.  The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  Being a Mono track, we don’t get any dynamic effects here, but the actors are also audible.  The music never drowns out the other sounds and the track is well-balanced.

The Killer Nun Blu-ray Disc contains several extra features.  We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Adrian J. Smith and David Flint.  “Beyond Convent Walls” (29 minutes) has author Kat Ellinger discussing Killer Nun and giving an overview of the “Nunsploitation” sub-genre.  This includes clips and posters from other movies, as well as a historical perspective on the portrayal of nuns in culture.  “Our Mother of Hell” (52 minutes) offers an interview with Director Giulio Berruti where he gives details on his career and work on other films, but focuses mainly on Killer Nun.  We hear from Editor Mario Giaaco and learn of his work on the film in “Cut & Noise” (21 minutes).  “Starry Eyes” (24 minutes) allows actress Ileana Fraja to talk about how she got into acting.  The extras are rounded out by two TRAILERS and an IMAGE GALLERY.  The Blu-ray Disc contains two cuts of the film, the “Italian Version” and the “English Version”.  Aside from the language difference, the “Italian Version” runs about 2 minutes longer.

Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long