Friday, 5 August 2011

Sins of Sister Lucia (1978)

The existence of a sub-genre of Japanese anti-Catholic nunsploitation movies, such as Sins of Sister Lucia (Sudojo Lucia: kegasu), might at first glance seem surprising but once you become familiar with the world of 1970s Japanese exploitation movies it starts to make sense. Such movies appealed to the strongly anti-western, anti-authoritarian, anti-traditionalist, Marxist ideology that is so characteristic of 1970s Japanese cinema.

The better Japanese directors of that era infused their movies with enough style and enough weirdness to make them enormous fun in spite of the heavy-handed political messages. But in the hands of lesser directors it could get a bit tedious.

A particular problem with nunsploitation movies is that there are really only a couple of basic nunsploitation plots and most movies in this sub-genre adhere fairly closely to a rigid formula. Again it’s not a problem if you have someone as talented as Norifumi Suzuki in the director’s chair, as is the case with his gloriously outrageous School of the Holy Beast.

Sins of Sister Lucia, from Nikkatsu Studios, shows dramatically what could go wrong in the hands of an unimaginative director such as Koyu Ohara.

This film suffers from yet another problem. Any nunsploitation movies is going to be sleazy. That’s part of the fun. But there was a tendency in some Japanese exploitation movies for the sleaze to become merely vicious and unpleasant rather than fun. That’s definitely the case here.

The plot is pretty standard. Rumiko is the daughter of a corrupt politician. She not only steals the bribe money he had stashed away, she also stabs one of his cronies. She must be punished, but without a scandal, so she is sent to a nunnery. She is now Sister Lucia. It’s the sort of nunnery you find in nunsploitation movies - the nuns are all ex-crazed and most are lesbians. It’s all symbolic of the hypocrisy and corruption of all authority, at least in the eyes of radical film-makers in the 70s.

The arrival in the nunnery of two violent criminals on the run leads to more violence and more sex, until mercifully the police arrive and the movie ends.

There is one extremely good scene, in which the other nuns entrap Lucia in a huge spider’s web of woolen yarn. It’s the one moment of true visual inspiration in the movie. Apart from that it’s all rather pedestrian.

You’d expect copious quantities of sleaze and you certainly get it, but mixed with just a little too much nastiness for my tastes.

Mondo Macabro’s DVD presentation, as always with this company, looks superb and includes some nice extras.

If you want to explore the world of Japanese nunsploitaton you’re much better off seeking out a copy of the movie to go for is School of the Holy Beast (which is also available on DVD).

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