Gort, The Nun and The Devil walk into a convent...

Commander's log, Stardate 13112012.2:

After taking my seventeenth shower of the week, I was still finding glitter following our besiegement by Tim Curry and Richard O'Brien. Silently repressing the events of that fateful day, I wandered into Gort's quarters to see if he had any more industrial make-up remover and was stunned by the sight I beheld.

Gort stood, adjusting the garter of the basque-and-stockings combo from 'the incident', which he wore underneath the nun's habit from his previous escapade inspired by nunsploitation flick Killer Nun.

"What?" he asked as he saw me staring at him slack jawed.

It took me several moments to gather my composure enough to ask: "Does Helen know about this?"

Gort sighed in frustraton: "We're covering another nunsploitation flick this week aren't we? I'm just dressing for the part."

Another few beats passed before I queried: "So what's with the underwear?"

"Isn't this what nuns wear under these penguin outfits?"

I took a deep breath and answered: "You have been watching way too much nunsploitation..."

The Nun and The Devil, or Le Monache di Sant'Arcangelo in Italy, is a strange one. If you go into the film expecting the usual culture clash of cloistered nuns discovering 70s sexual liberation, going off the rails and ending up in a murder frenzy, you're going to be disappointed. This fringe nunsploitation flick is actually a period drama, based on true events, with historic costumes that would put the BBC to shame.

Set during the Spanish Inquisition, the story concerns the political machinations of a group of nuns at the Sant Arcangelo di Baiano in Naples. Their ageing Mother Superior has died and four of the sisters are competing to earn the right to take her place. Former Miss Great Britain, Anne Heywood has few scruples in her pursuit of the position, yet she has an unhealthy interest in one of the teenage initiates under her care. Another nun has taken to self harm to deal with being cast aside by Heywood in favour of this younger ward. A third has the support of an influential young conquistador who sneaks into her bedroom at night. Lastly, a stern older sister feels she should take precedence over her younger competitors. Caught up in all this is a young Ornella Mutti, of Flash Gordon fame, Heywood's niece who has been forced into the convent to separate her from her puppy-love suitor.

Aside from a brief bit of toplessness during the conquistador's fumbling, a scene of lesbian knee kissing and a bit of off screen confirming of the initiates 'virtue', the film continues on without any of the lewdness, perversity or gore you would expect from a nunsploitation film. What you will find in the movie, however, is quite an involving plot and some interesting quasi-history. The political ducking and diving is quite tense and amounts to a just-about-watchable Borgias-style drama.

Even more surprisingly, the film actually has a moral theme. As Mutti states early on: "God is love". The movie is taking a swipe at the Catholic church to declare, Bohemian style, that any institution that forbids romantic love is immoral. All this culminates into Heywood's declaration that none of the lines she has crossed in her pursuit of the freedom that would have been granted her as Mother Superior was as cruel as the cloistered life that was forced upon her by the corrupt Church.

Of course, before we get to that stage, the film manages to just about sneak in its quota of both nudity and torture porn as the Spanish Inquisition comes a calling to force the nuns to confess their ambitions and subterfuges. One is subjected to a Judas Cradle, while another is force-fed water until her stomach begins to swell. The film justifies these as examples of real-life Inquisition torture, but the effort still manages to gain it entry into the nunsploitation genre.

As a package, The Nun and The Devil works as a great little palette cleanser in the middle of an exploitation marathon by having just enough merit to make it a respectable B-movie in its own right. It's worth your attention as a unique entry into the canon at the very least.