Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (1977), Or How To Get Fux'ed By Satan

My dearest of friends, please, draw nearer. No, nearer still--yes, that’s it, close enough that you can hear my faint whisper, for I have a word whose mere utterance can shake the very foundations of our ignorant society: nunsploitation. That’s right, dearest readers, once again the Duke of DVD returns from up on the mount to bring you what you need! The honeyed drippings I bring you now aren’t silly rules etched upon stone tablets by a faceless and impotent god, heavens no! They are instead of a movie that may well be the paragon of a genre we hold most dear, a shining beacon which causes us to lift our palsied hands and turn our faces towards its radiant beauty, tears streaming down our faces as heretical bliss takes over.

Friends, when auteur and nunsploitational genius Jess Franco's Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun dropped through my mail slot with a resounding thud, I snatched it up with much alacrity and sprinted to the Ducal theater, clutching it to my chest possessively, like a man who had just bought the severed penis of a mass murderer from a rather unscrupulous coroner in order to dip said penis into a river upstream from his hated neighbor’s lands, thus letting the evil drift down to murder all of his enemy’s cattle, children, and crops. One does not let such a prize out of one's sight, and I didn’t intend to with the DVD copy of this movie, I assure you! I settled down in my chair to bask in the glory, but little did I know how depraved a movie I had in store.

Let us explore, shall we?

Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun starts off with young Maria (Susan Hemingway), a 15-year-old tart who lives alone with her mother and who likes to run around the woods with her boyfriend, laughing and flirting like a whore. She’s doing just that when her boyfriend manages to steal a kiss before they are surprised by the outrageously evil priest Father Vicente (William Berger). He chastises the youths for their wicked ways. Maria asks what she’s done wrong, and Father Vicente replies, “You didn’t offend me, child, but what about God?” What about God, indeed, sir! He drags young Maria back to her mother’s house and fills both of them full of such lies that Maria’s mother gives her up to a convent--one that Father Vicente just happens to hang out in. Not only does he hoodwink Maria’s mother into letting her go, but he also takes all of their savings, claiming it as a “dowry” to the convent. Mama mia!

"Yes, yes child...that's how you churn the Lord's Butter!"

Father Vicente whisks Maria away to the Serra D’Aires convent, a very castle-like edifice out in the country. Very quickly, she is interviewed by the Abbess (Ana Zanatti), who insists on everyone referring to her as “Most Eminent Priestess,” a moniker that should raise a few eyebrows. In full view of the priest, the head nun insists on doing the ol’ tried and true Virgin Finger Test™, by making Maria hike up her skirts so that the Abbess can ram a cold, twisted finger into the virginal honeypot Maria carries around with her. (Nota bene: besides being an entry requirement to most of the Vicar’s social gatherings, the Virgin Finger Test™ can also be fun at Bat Mitzvahs, retirement parties, office gatherings, and presidential inaugurations. Ask for it by name!) The Priestess notes the absence of under-garments, a state Maria says is because of how poor she and her mother are. The Priestess replies “Were you tempted because you weren’t wearing proper under linens?” Now how many times have I heard that?!

"Bish, pleez. Commando is how I roll."

Satisfied that Maria is indeed still bearing an intact hymen--or was, anyway--the Abbess sends her off to her new room, whereupon two nuns immediately enter and recruit Maria into a devotional kissing game. Heyo! What a convent! Maria is then made to go to the confessional, which amounts to a curtained-off corner of the main church. While all of the other nuns sit in their seats, Maria recounts her sins to Father Vicente. He very quickly steers her to the lewd, and she finally admits to having a dream in which she performed fellatio upon a boy. Father V loves this form of shrift, needless to say, and begins playing tug of war with cyclops right there in the booth! His fevered moans get louder and louder as Maria talks more and more about playing the skin-flute. The rest of the nuns titter with laughter as Father Vicente finally achieves sexual release inside his confessional--something the Vicar does daily, I might add.

"Just as I thought, my dear--you're a half-quart low."

Maria is informed that over the next three days she can’t wear any clothing, and instead must be wrapped with thorny vines, in order to pay some sort of penance for her sins. Some nuns strip her and help wrap thorn-bush limbs around her supple breasts and hips. During this time we are also informed that a nearby castle is inhabited by the Grand Inquisitor, who no doubt employs a ruthlessly fanatical devotion to the Pope, and whose arrival I  was totally unprepared for. Later that night, we learn just what kind of party they're throwing at this convent: we see the Priestess praying to Satan, and we also get an extended lesbian scene that would raise the Devil’s own putrid cock like a daisy after a big rain.

"No, Father, I've never been in a confessional with a Hole of Glory. How does it work?"

Maria’s boyfriend shows up, hoping to entice her home. I thought we’d get some scene in which he’s found out by Father Vicente and made to stroke it over a fire or something, but nah, Maria vows to stay and drive the wickedness from her soul, and the poor boy leaves empty-handed and full-bollocked. Around this time we get a positively evil scene in which the Priestess gets mostly naked and engages in a Satan-summoning ritual, which involves placing a bowl full of baby’s blood (we’re told) directly under her hoo-hoo, and she writhes in ecstasy while two nuns pinch her nipples and otherwise rub up and down her body. The spell works, for we get a tiny glimpse of one of Satan’s hands, which look just like a normal hand, except it’s covered with so much curly thick hair that perhaps Franco intended for Satan to be a Wookie.

The latest Parish fashions.

Meanwhile, Maria finally wises up to the fact that Satan appears to have cloven-hoof-hold in this particular convent. She writes her mother a desperate letter, asking to be rescued from the rampant lesbianism and overt, unapproved fuckery going on. Unfortunately, the High Priestess intercepts her letter, and reads it aloud to the lecherous Father Vicente. As punishment, Maria is stripped to her smallclothes and made to stand in a small wooden cell. Before you can say “Hello, Vicar!”, Father V saunters in and forces Maria to reenact her dream--on his cock! Now how is she supposed to say her Hail Marys around a mouthful of uncut heretic man-meat? HOW, I ask you?!

"The power of CO--uh, Christ... compels you."

Finally, the promised event is nigh! The night that Maria loses her virginity to His Infernal Majesty. The mood is set: blacked out room save for a few sputtering candles, a dozen scantily-clad nuns moaning and rubbing themselves, and above it all the High Priestess holding court. Bizarrely, the High Priestess situates herself on the central altar and positions soon-to-be-not-so-chaste Maria directly behind her, so that Maria is leaning on the High Priestess’ back. Soon, the Devil Himself shows up, played insanely well by the hilariously-yet-appropriately-named Herbert Fux. In Franco’s world, Satan is the quintessential ladies' man, clad in a red silk body-suit and sporting cape and hairy hands--only he also has a giant dong coming out of the center of his forehead! In fairness, one assumes this was supposed to be a horn, but to me it looked like a rubber phallus attached to Satan’s face, which only added to the awesome. Maybe Satan needs two dicks, as there's so much 'sploiting to be done! Indeed, when he starts rogering Maria, the High Priestess also seems to be really enjoying things. At any rate, the vile yet somehow sexy deflowering is complete.

"You're staring at my forehead junk, aren't you?"

The next day, Maria is in tizzy. Her queries about the previous night’s activities get laughed away, with the Priestess claiming Maria has dreamed it all. Did she? Who cares! Maria flees the convent, heading into the nearby town, where she finally talks to someone ostensibly in power: the Mayor, a corpulent hog of a man. Offering to help her, he takes her off in a wagon, and Maria promptly falls asleep, confident that her fat savior will take her home. Instead, he hauls her back to the convent, into the waiting grasp of Father Vicente, who assures the mayor he did the right thing.

Where canned tomatoes come from.

The Priest and Priestess waste no time in punishing Maria. They drag her to the Inquisitor (which caught me completely by surprise!) and he sets about stripping her naked and tying her to the rack. Lots of torture ensues, and I was really wondering as to why they were all going through this farce until I realized that the Inquisitor suspects nothing ill about the Priest and Priestess, and isn’t himself in on all the Satan-lovin’ that’s going on at the convent. He’s simply doing his job and wringing a confession out of a naked, nubile young teen, a hallmark of the Inquisition for decades.

"Before we begin, could you please sign this insurance waiver?"

Soon, Maria signs a confession, admitting she made the whole shitstorm up and indeed loves Satan and all his many wizards with every inch of her blackened heart. Satisfied, the Inquisitor decrees that she’s die by fire the following day. Maria is left alone to think on her ruined life, and for some reason is also left a pencil and plenty of paper. She writes a last-ditch letter, detailing all that she’s been through, and then tosses the letter out a window, hoping some errant wind will carry her missive to someone who gives a flying fuck. As luck would have it, a foppishly dressed dandy is just at that moment riding by on his palfrey! He reads the letter, and gets as stern a look on that his lead-powdered face will allow.

"Dear sir or madam, you might be the next winner of The Inquisitor's Clearing House Sweepstakes! WTF?"

The next day, Maria is hauled out before man and God to answer for her supposed crimes. Inquisition guards stand ready as Father Vicente, the High Priestess, and the Inquisitor look on. Maria is tied to a stake and the fire is lit under her, but what’s this?! A giant gay riding a horse arrives with a few men of his own, demanding that Maria be set free. As it turns out, he’s the crowned Prince of Portugal! What fucking luck Maria has! (Well, except for being buggered by the Devil...) Of course, the Inquisitor immediately believes the Prince, and orders Maria cut down and the Priest and Priestess arrested! They in turn flee, running through the castle only to finally be cornered by Inquisition troops inside the church’s inner sanctum. Free-frame, the end.

Friends, the title of this movie conjures all sorts of images. “What Love Letters?!” you bleat, “I was hoping for some sexy letters detailing the cunnilingus rituals of the notoriously horny nuns of Portugal!” And you would be right to be vexed so, as I too was expecting something similiar. Instead, the love letters in question appear only to be missives to Maria’s mother asking for help, which of course never got mailed, let alone delivered, and the other being a letter tossed out a window only to become the genesis for a Deus Ex Fancypants.

In my aristocratic opinion, any normal nobleman would have read such a letter and immediately handed it to the Inquisitor as further proof that Maria fornicated with Satan. Oh sure, the rest of the convent needs be put to the stake as well, I mean, they were in on it, and the High Priestess regularly has sexual congress with the Devil too, so of course they all have to go.Then again, perhaps I can see the Prince’s end of things. Maria was forced, was she not? Despite having her cooch pumped full of midnight black semen, perhaps she does deserve leniency. The altruistic Prince was simply doing the chivalrous thing. Of course, he can never, ever, dip his wick into Maria’s befouled nethers--one thing you do NOT want is Satan's Sloppy Seconds--but I’m sure she’d make a fine dishwasher in the royal kitchens.

Once again, folks, Jesus Franco brings us the good stuff. His use of color, framing, and light are unparalleled in my mind. He just gets things right, all the fucking time. And the sets! I’ve probably said this before, but apparently all of Europe is rife with awesome castles, churches, and convents, just sitting there waiting to be used for movie-making purposes. Or defiled by hot Euro-babe fleshmongers, as the case may be. I loved this movie from start to finish, and firmly enshrine it into the Nunsploitation Hall of Awesome. Stop what you’re doing right now, and go get a copy for yourself. You will not regret it, my dearest friends. When has the Duke ever steered you wrong? (Except for that commercial I shot for Dandy Dan’s Coat-Hanger Home Abortion Kit. I was drunk ok? I lost a bet!)
3+ Thumbs Up

"Yes, I'll help, but I insist on being paid in donuts."

"Wow...I DO have a nice rack!"

Butt on Satan's Claw


Drunketh said...

"Butt on Satan's Claw" you slick bastard, and damnit, now I want some canned tomatoes. I've seen this two or three times, own it and yes, I f'n love this movie. Especially the virgin fingering test. Hehehe...

Giovanni Susina said...

An awesome review duke...This definitly sets a new standard. I would like to review a Jess Franco film, but not one that sounds this icky. You go places I wouldn't dare, and I commend you for it...Still, I am most certainly going to see this one!

dr.morbius said...

I always get this film mixed up with Jorge Grau's Love Letters of A Nun for some reason. Maybe because the first bootleg I saw of the Grau movie had the title "Love Letters of a Portugese Nun" on it. Aparently, it foxed the bootleggers, too.

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