Friday, October 4, 2013

Love Letters Of A Portuguese Nun

Love Letters Of A Portugese Nun  Directed By Jess Franco. Starring Susan Hemmingway (1977).
Lately here at Theater Of Guts, we've been delving into the pits of despair and misery, tackling films with subject matter like canine/female fornicating, organ stealing, scatological hijinks and now.......
   Satanic pedophilia, or a Catholic monastery posing as righteous, but in secret worshiping the lord of the flies in an unholy conspiracy of extra ordinary magnitude!
   That's right, we've finally reached a new low and plunged the epicenter with this beautifully crafted Jess Franco Nunsploitation flick! If there's a hell below, we're all going to go!
   We don't cover that many films in this genre because I find them to be usually dull and in my mind, The Devils stands alone beyond the pale, as the unholy sister torturing, reprehensible masterpiece that decimates all the competition.
   There's no reason to see any others in the category, once you've witnessed a hunchback nun lick the bleeding wounds off Oliver Reed, adorned with a crown of thorns in a frenetically induced wet dream. During the 70's however, the public demanded every second rate foreign smut peddler to crank out his own nun fetish, histori-porn and hopefully scare up enough religious hysteria to furnish their lush apartments. See The Flavia The Heretic  and The Other Hell for more nun torture flicks and even more here.
Spruce up any gothic castle with a naked virgin wrapped in bramble
   Portuguese Nun has alot in its arsenal, the cinematography by Peter Baumgartner for the usually Skin-A-Max drenched soft core Franco effort is spellbinding. The film quality, lighting and pastural, gothic locations sharpen up the typical Franco signatures and distractions into something memorable.
   Susan Hemmingway (nice try, but no relation)! is all innocent and nubile, she shows full frontal and played this role at the tender age of 15, her stark naked body got this film into some scalding ultra conservative water and often her scenes of torment and a subliminal Elmer's Glue facial were deleted. I'm guessing that Hemmingway was in the same boat as Traci Lords for appearing naked at such a young age (but on a timid scale). Later on she's tied to the rack and strewn with thorns that pierce her goose pimpled flesh, I can almost hear Glen Benton or the singer from Gorgoroth smacking their lips in approval.
Oh Good, I'm still locked in a satanic convent, I thought I was in high school!
   She falls victim to the corrupt mop topped preacher Father Vicente (William Berger), who chastises her for being lustful (or taking a harmless interest in a boy in the woods). What would be seen as adolescence and maturity in a young girl is seen as inhuman and fit for punishment by the warped hypocritical religious figures in charge of her fate and Maria is soon locked in a convent for the duration of the film. The first nun to sexually abuse her is a Susan Sarandon look-a-like played by Ana Zanatti, she checks her hymen to see that its pristine and sends her off to pray. Not a few minutes goes by when poor Maria isn't prodded naked by ridged clothed lesbian nuns who pray to Satan amidst flickering candles. Mephistopheles shows up in an orgy scene that seemed to influence the "Year Zero" video by bubble gum doom metal mavens Ghost.
Get a haircut Hippie!
   Father Vicente and Mother Sarandon trick the girl into thinking she dreamt the orgy and incessant molesting and that she of course is to blame. 
   I think Jess Franco thinks of himself as an amateur gynecologist and Love Letters contains some excessively furry vestal cooters, Satan would smile and high five other demons indeed! 
Franco goes to town with the WiseBlood fire and brimstone, Hazel Motes style wrath of God punishment and why not, after all, this film is set in the 1600's or prime inquisition time, when the most harmless virginal lightweight actions forced the legion of the uptight to bring down the hammer of the gods, (to quote from the gospel of Page, Plant and Bonham).
A very stoned Susan Sarandon
   In Franco's mind, the original letters left the door open for Satan (represented in this version as a unicorn/man hybrid or the inspiration for the Dungeons & Dragons 80's cartoon villain Venger) to become involved. But in the original letters based on the writings of Mariana Alcoforado, there's no mention of devils, only supreme devotion and piety being equated with ultimate lust. Don't forget, this took place during the Conquest of Spain and rampant rape and abuse were still being practiced along with religious hysteria. This made actual love so out of the ordinary that it achieved the opposite-- taboo. Love Letters ends on such a hopeful note that its genuinely uplifting and after all the burning of innocent women scene in every sleazoid witch burning flick, its a welcome change of pace but also a complete fabrication, because as we all know, there was no real justice for the persecuted.
The next singer of Ghost, Herby Fux ladies and gentlemen

Well, Hello Man Servant Hecubus!


  1. Great review my friend, I will always picture Satan high-fiving minions whenever sins are happening on earth from now on.

  2. Haha that's what I always picture!


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