April 19, 2008

Things I've Learned Because of My (Twisted) Love of Nunsploitation Movies

I explained about exploitation movies here on Rocket Jones, including that unholiest of sub-genre's: nunsploitation. As it turns out, my limited personal collection includes four that are considered true classics of the type (and there are a surprising number of 'em out there). At the link above, I reviewed School of the Holy Beast, which is Japanese nunsploitation. Which leads to the first thing I've learned.

Japan has a small but strong Catholic population, mostly centered around the city of Nagasaki. As a seaport, missionaries first arrived in Japan there and many stayed to do their evangelical work with great success. Also, as a seaport with strategic military value, Nagasaki was selected as a target for an atomic bomb in World War II. The bomb devastated one of the few areas of Japan with real ties to the western world.

Nunsploitation movies sometimes aspired to more than casual nudity and sex while bashing the Catholic Church. The best of the group tell interesting stories that are set in a religious context. Tragic lives, murders most mysterious and the exploration of religious fervor as compared to mental instability make for a movie that's more than sacrilege for sacrilege's sake. The truth can be even more sad and terrible than lurid fiction.

In 1963, Jeanine Deckers recorded an album in which one song, Dominique rose to number one on the US charts. She was better known as The Singing Nun, and was played by Debbie Reynolds in a movie of the same name. I still remember how the movie ended, with a long elevated pull-away shot of her riding away in a jeep, to live happily ever after. One assumed.

Reality was much less kind. Jeanine Decker left the order a few years after recording her first album. Despite donating almost all of the profits from her music to the Dominicans, the Belgian government decided that she owed back taxes. Unable to overcome the resultant financial difficulties, she committed suicide with her long-time lesbian partner and they were buried together.

Like I said, I have managed to collect a few exceptionally powerful examples of nunsploitation films. I'll review them in the coming months, and hopefully I can convince you that the genre is more than just "Nuns Gone Wild".

Posted by: Ted at 11:07 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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