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Plot: pious, virtuous nun is offered the temptations of the flesh by Satan.

While it was Great Britain that had the dubious honour of kicking off the nunsploitation cycle with Ken Russell’s iconoclastic The Devils (1971), it were the most devout contries of continental Europe (Spain and Italy, in particular) that gleefully embraced imitating The Exorcist (1973) and exhibited an almost religious zeal in indulging in its more sacrilegious inclinations. In France Joël Séria’s Don't Deliver Us From Evil (1971) had a dedicated segment and from there nunsploitation was the only next logical avenue. In Poland there was Walerian Borowczyk's Behind Convent Walls (1978) and Czechoslovakia’s Valerie and Her Week Of Wonders (1970) is a lot of things, but it certainly was not nunsploitation the way it was typically understood. That Mexico would end up creating one of the subgenre’s more defining and enduring works should come as no surprise. The country had a long history in horror, and it was and is both deeply superstitious and devoutly Christian. The only to surpass Satánico Pandemónium in sheer blasphemy, scorn, and irreverence was Brazilian filmmaker Juan López Moctezuma’s unparallelled masterpiece Alucarda (1977). In the company of such greatness it’s easy to forget that Italy got there earliest with The Demon (1963) preceding both The Exorcist (1973) and nunsploitation as a whole.

Gilberto Martínez Solares had a long career going all the way back to 1939 and in the six decades that he was active he directed just about every mainstream genre (romance, drama, comedy, etc) under the sun. He even helmed one or two Blue Demon and El Santo luchador movies – but none of his voluminous repertoire has attained the kind of longevity and prestige that Satánico Pandemónium has. On top of that, as near as we can tell, this was Solares’ only foray into horror. Perhaps that is why Satánico Pandemónium is filled to the brim with artful shots and visually arresting imagery. It’s always interesting when mainstream directors decide to helm a genre film. As with any production everything hinges on the lead. For that reason alone Cecilia Pezet was an interesting choice. Not in the least because she hardly ever did horror. Overflowing with enough clerical sleaze and containing enough corrupted Catholical imagery to satiate any agnostic, atheist, or anti-theist Satánico Pandemónium has lost none of its baroque charm and shock value. Even almost forty years later it’s is a towering genre achievement.

22-year-old Lutheran nun María (Cecilia Pezet) lives a virtuous and ecclesiastical life sequestered away in a Protestant convent somewhere in rural Mexico. In quiet resignaton the nuns live an impoverished life of celibacy, prayer, and contemplation. Whenever they are not being harangued or scolded, by Mother Superior (Delia Magaña) for their infractions they submit, as scripture dictates, to corporal mortification and self-flagellation. The closest thing to a friend María has is sister Caridad (Veronika Con K., as Verónica Avila). María is the youngest and described as the purest and most pious of her order. One day she's out picking flowers in a meadow when she's tempted by Luzbel (Enrique Rocha). Running away she encounters her friend Marcelo (Daniel Albertos) and helps him with feeding one of his lambs. On the way home María again is tempted by Luzbel. María tries to live a virtuous and sin-free life and it becomes increasingly difficult for her to balance the crushing weight and burden of her maidenhood with the nigh on insurmountable ballast that is her devotion to God. Matters are complicated by the fact that she’s haunted by visions of Luzbel by day and overcome by carnal lust and perverse desire at night. Sin, it seems, lurks everywhere.

After Compline Luzbel continues to seduce María. She's overcome by temptations of the mind and of the flesh. In her dwelling she's raped by a fellow nun (Verónica Rivas) or so she believes because when she comes to Luzbel’s lying on top of her. Soon sister Clemencia (Clemencia Colín) and a novice (Amparo Furstenberg) come relaying their increasing and continuing struggle with their vows and the natural inclinations that come with their age. Ever since that innocent stroll in the woods the other day María has been haunted by impure thoughts and is sometimes stricken by carnal urges of perverted desire. When Caridad commits suicide by hanging and Marcelo and his aging mother (Velia Lupercio) die under mysterious circumstances Mother Superior accuses young María of bringing sin into the convent. Forced to choose between her two masters María declares that Satan has been living inside of her and strangles the tyrannical Reverend Mother with a rope magically appearing in her possession. Surrendering to a life of blasphemy and vice María swears that if she cannot live her life in service of Christ then she’ll become an apprentice of Satan. Not only does she promise to visit heresy upon her sleepy village - she vows to bring down the convent, and if possible, the Protestant Church in its entirety, with her no matter the cost.

What could possibly be said about Cecilia Pezet in what was more or less her swansong theatrical performance? She would appear in La lucha con la pantera (1975) afterwards and here she’s, thankfully, cast against type for once. This, more than anything, served to amplify her performance manifold. Pezet’s portrayal of María is one of quiet agitation, understated misanthropy, and (during the third act) violent homicidal retribution. It’s at least as powerful, by sheer contrast alone, as Jeanne Goupil’s youthful exuberance and wide-eyed malevolence in Don't Deliver Us From Evil (1971) and Tina Romero’s legendary hysterical, maniacal, hair-raising performance in and as Alucarda (1977). Likewise does Enrique Rocha take great pleasure in his role as Luzbel who introduces María to the pleasures of the flesh and whose corrupting influence will eventually bring down the Church. Delia Magaña was one of the great divas of Mexican cinema and theatre who made a name for herself for her many comedic roles. Magaña attended cocktail parties with Charles Chaplin and Mary Pickford. Verónika con K. was a singer and soap opera regular who just as frequently worked as a television presenter. The remainder of the cast were either enthusiast first-timers while others experienced brief careers that didn’t really go anywhere.

And who could possibly forget Mexican bombshell Salma Hayek as Satánico Pandemónium writhing seductively in Robert Rodriguez’ beloved genre-hybrid From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) where she was dressed in little more than that tiny bikini, feathery headgear, and a slithering snake? If anyone reintroduced Solares’ masterpiece to a mainstream general audience, this was the where and the when. Rodriguez grew up on and in the grindhouse and he has been a staunch defender of exploitation cinema no matter how much Hollywood tries to force him into a mainstream direction. What better way to pay tribute to Mexico's greatest exploitation's than to have the latest superstar proudly bearing its name? Satánico Pandemónium was one of those legendary milestones, that there was something far darker brooding within the collective subconscious. The time of the Universal inspired gothics of the prior decade now was very well in the past. Like its Spanish counterpart Mexican horror is at its best when it bathes in that decaying, mildewy atmosphere and is unafraid to lay fire upon the Church and its adherents. Satánico Pandemónium has something for everybody, and a whole new generation of horror fans should be exposed to its malefic glory and dripping misanthropy.

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.