If you’ve followed my reviews at all over the past few years, you’ll know that I’m a fan of Grindhouse flicks. Interestingly, this genre of film can fall into several categories: Exploitation, Blaxploitation, even Sexploitation. But up until recently, I had never heard of Nunsploitation. I should have known, however, that infamous director Jess Franco would be involved. Franco is responsible for some of the best known exploitation films ever, and LOVE LETTERS OF A PORTUGUESE NUN is no different. When it comes to Grindhouse films, Franco is a master.
If you are not familiar with LOVE LETTERS OF A PORTUGUESE NUN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Full Moon Direct:
16-year-old Maria is forced into Serra D’Aires convent, secretly run by Satanists. Her confessor is in collusion with the Mother Superior. Maria is tortured, forced into sex with men, women, and the horned Devil, and told that it’s all a bad dream. She writes a letter to God, and a Knight rescues her, only to fall into the hands of the Inquisition, put on the rack, and condemned to death like Joan of Arc. Susan Hemingway, William Berger, Herbert Fux and Ana Zanatti star in a movie so confronting that censorship bans prevented its release for two years. The other releases in the Jess Franco Collection can be purchased at Full Moon Direct. Collecting the entire series of Franco films will result in the building of an exclusive Jess Franco painting on the spines of the DVDs.
I’m very glad Full Moon has many of Franco’s films available to purchase. Distributors like Full Moon keep the exploitation genre alive and well, and they allow new generations to see and appreciate them.
LOVE LETTERS OF A PORTUGUESE NUN is shot much like Franco’s previous films. The cinematography captures the details of the sets, while focusing mainly on the characters (and the nudity) in each scene. And speaking of flesh, this film is a bit toned down from many of Franco’s other offerings. Not that this detracts from the movie at all, but I was surprised to see as little nudity as there was.
The acting in the film is above standard for a Franco film. Actress Susan Hemingway makes her acting debut as Maria, the young girl forced into the convent. Hemingway does a fine job in her role, and I’m surprised she didn’t go on to bigger and better things; surprisingly, she was cast in six more Franco productions, but then ended her acting career in 1983, after VOCES DE MUERTE.
The special effects in LOVE LETTERS OF A PORTUGUESE NUN look like typical Franco fare; the blood looks like paint, and there’s no real gore to speak of. Still, this doesn’t detract from the film…if anything, it makes the tongue-in-cheek aspect more fun.
The plot is interesting to me, and I would love to see a more serious movie made from it. The concept of Satanists running a convent back in medieval times is very intriguing, and I have to wonder if it hasn’t been fleshed out before. If not, I tip my hat to Franco for his ingenuity.
LOVE LETTERS OF A PORTUGUESE NUN is a win for me, and fans of Franco and/or exploitation films should find it enjoyable. The film is available now on DVD.