Plot: novice nun is both tempting and tempted by a life of hedonism.
When taking a closer look at the early years of Gloria Guida’s brief 8-year stint as comedy Lolita a curious pattern emerges. She was never going to be considered a highbrow comedic actress the way Laura Antonelli, Ornella Muti, Eleanora Giorgi, Ely Galeani, or Jenny Tamburi were, but that didn’t stop la Guida from making a few interesting choices along the way. For every one or two lighthearted sex comedy romps that Miss Teen Italy 1974 would do, she usuallly did a more serious (and frequently more cynical) melodrama (coming of age, sexual awakening or otherwise). The earliest example of that was The Novice which came right after the fairly interesting The Minor (1974). The Novice set a precedent. This wasn’t just another feature revolving around Guida's endless forms most beautiful. Whether Gloria chose her scripts deliberately, or that things just turned out that way by circumstance, is not very important. What does matter is that there was more to glorious Gloria than just her famous derrière.
Giuliano Biagetti wasn’t exactly the biggest name in Italian cinema. He mostly specialized in dramas and comedies. If he’s remembered for anything (if he’s remembered at all, that is) it’s for Interrabang (1969) with Haydée Politoff, Corrado Pani, and Beba Loncar, in what is generally considered to be the earliest Top Sensation (1969) imitation of note. His other most famous work is the coming of age drama La Svergognata (1974) with Leonora Fani, and Eurocult favorite Barbara Bouchet.
Gloria Guida was, of course, famous for two things: her bawdy sex comedies, and that legendary ass of hers. Mario Imperoli famously lensed Blue Jeans (1975) as a valentine to Miss Teen Italy 1974’s world-famous derrière. In The Novice there’s both comedy - albeit in a lighter, more subtle form – and a few instances of Gloria’s naked form. The difference being that The Novice is one of Guida’s more serious melodramas, and it takes a good while before she does her familiar pout-strip-and-smile routine. Compared to much of her other work, The Novice takes its sweet time to get steamy. As always, good things come to those who wait.
Affluent playboy Vittorio (Gino Milli) is summoned back to the countryside to look after his ailing and terminally ill uncle Don Nini (Lionel Stander). His uncle expects him to arrange matters regarding his last will and testament, and that everything is executed according to his wishes. Looking after his uncle’s palliative needs are Suore Immacolata (Gloria Guida) and a night nurse (a role that Guida wouldn’t portray until 1979). Upon arrival Vittorio is picked up by his good friends Rodolfo (Fiore Altoviti) and Saretto (Beppe Loparco) – and the first order of business is getting really, really drunk. Houskeeper Agatha (Vera Drudi) is none too pleased with the disturbance of peace and Vittorio is, understandably, scolded for the ruckus. Almost immediately since arriving in town Vittorio has attracted the attention of Nunziata (Femi Benussi), and she will use every opportunity to make very strong advances, if not to throw herself at him. To lift the old man’s spirits the boys head to the local brothel run by an old madam (Sofia Lusy) and hire a pair of prostitutes. When blonde and bosomy Franca (Maria Pia Conte) crawls on his bed she nearly sends Don Nini convulsing to an even earlier grave. Much to chagrin of Suore Immacolata who sees the boys as nothing but a nuisance that hinder her from giving the service she was hired to provide for the old man.
One night Vittorio is invited by Nunziata to a lavish bourgeoisie party that her husband is throwing for his associates. He brings Rodolfo and Saretto along while Nunziata can finally have some private time together with him. Vittorio is rather annoyed with Nunziata’s insatiable lust, and arranges a three-way with Rodolfo and Saretto. He finds Suore Immacolata hiding somewhere in the dark recesses of the apartment, and the two share a gentle moment. Before long Vittorio is pulled back into his hedonistic lifestyle by his two friends, leaving Imma heartbroken and sad. After attending his uncle’s funeral service some time later Vittorio is surprised to find that Imma is nowhere to be found. He travels into the mountains and after talking to some locals he’s able to track down Imma’s current whereabouts. When he spots her in a meadow he learns that she no longer calls herself Immacolata but Mariangela. Reunited the two young lovers spent an intimate moment in the tall grass. What Vittorio comes to realize far too late is that Mariangela's parents are none too pleased to have him there.
Coming hot on the heels of The Minor (1974) Gloria Guida, or whoever managed her business affairs, wasted no time in striking the iron while it was hot. 1975 was her busiest year that saw her appearing in melodramas and darker morality plays. As always Guida would be shaking her famous rump in more lighter fare as well. As such glorious Gloria could be seen traipsing around, often with little in the way of fabric, in the cynical So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious… (1975), the fun-loving La Liceale (1975), That Malicious Age (1975), as well as the semi-comical Blue Jeans (1975) that would make her ass a thing of international renown. That Gloria would wind up in a nun’s habit was all but inevitable as with Secret Confessions in a Cloistered Convent (1972), The Nuns of Saint Archangel (1973), The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine (1974), and the compartively late Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (1977) from Spain nunsploitation came exploding into the mainstream. That la Guida would be forced to look for more interesting scripts/roles was apparent, by 1975 she had played about every male wish fullfilment fantasy figure multiple times already. It’s unfortunate that she never ended up working with Luigi Batzella, Renato Polselli, and José Ramón Larraz.
Gloria was at her best when she was surrounded by, and could play off, people with more genuine talent than she had. The only veteran, and possible international draw, here is blacklisted American character actor Lionel Stander and his performance is so passive poor Gloria has nothing to work with. La Guida shone when she was surrounded by people as Nino Castelnuovo, Giuseppe Pambiere, Corrado Pani, or Lando Buzzanca – but since none such figure can be found in The Novice it makes glorious Gloria something of a nonentity at the best of times. No wonder then that for a majority of the duration she appears as a supporting character rather than the focal point. Gino Milli does most of the heavy lifting for about three-quarters, and only in the finale do we see Guida do what she does best: running around naked and causing trouble. What remains puzzling is that Guida never crossed over into the giallo, horror, or erotic subgenre, something which many of her commedia sexy all’Italiana colleagues (Barbara Bouchet, Edwige Fenech, Femi Benussi, Nieves Navarro, Rosalba Neri in case of the former, and Ely Galeani or Ilona Staller in the latter) were often prone to do. As these things go The Novice is one of the more interesting Gloria Guida features, if only because it does something more than parading Guida around in the buff.