The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine (1974) – By Duane L. Martin

The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine. Sounds like a porn movie, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. It’s actually an Italian film from 1974 that takes place during the Spanish Inquisition, where a young man named Esteban has been falsely accused of herecy by his love Lucita’s parents. Their two families have been bitter enemies, but somehow Esteban and Lucita had found love and only wanted to be together, but Lucita’s parents got in the way. Esteban was constantly on the run from guards working for the inquisitors, and Lucita was sent to a convent called St. Valentine, where she was taken in as an initiate, but soon would be a full fledged nun.

After he was injured in a fight with some guards who were chasing him, Esteban ends up at the convent, where his friend Joaquin works as a servant. Joaquin is on their side, and after he hides Esteban away, he brings Lucita to him. Now aware of the situation, the two have to figure out a way to escape, but there’s a complication. Lucita’s roommate Josepha is murdered, and Lucita is blamed. Now not only do they have to escape the the evil clutches of the abbess of the convent, but also the most notorious and brutal of the inquisitors, who was sent there to interrogate Lucita about the murder, and after torturing her to get her to confess, ultimately sentences her to death. Will the two escape, or will the star crossed lovers be denied their happiness forever? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

I have to admit something. I came into this movie prepared to hate it. I figured it was going to be another cheap, Italian sex and torture flick, long on the sex and boredom and short on story. I am happy to acknowledge that I was wrong in this assumption. This film actually had a pretty well written and thought out story, and the cast all performed quite well. As you would expect with this genre of Italian film, the acting can be a bit melodramatic at times, and people don’t always do the logical thing when faced with adversity.

Francoise Prevost plays the abbess of the convent. Right from the first introduction of her character, you can tell she’s quite evil and only interested only in her own pleasure and desires. She was 45 years old when this film was shot, and still very attractive once you got her out of the nun’s habit. She discovers the story about Esteban and Lucita, and pretends to want to help them, only to get Esteban into her chambers. Esteban satsifies her passions in an effort to get her to help Lucita escape from her fate with the inquisitioner, but it’s to no avail. Only later does it come out that the abbess has actually, with the help of the other nuns, been bringing men to the convent to satisfy her sexual desires, and then she stabs them to death and has the other nuns bury them in the garden to keep them from exposing her secret.

Paolo Malco plays Esteban. He’s blonde and handsome, and there’s something in his appearance that makes me think of the Italian actor, Terence Hill for whatever reason. The relationship between he and Lucita, played by Jenny Tamburi, is surprisingly believable, and you’ll actually find yourself pulling for them.

The convent was actually a nice setting for a film of this nature, because the stone construction and closeness of the rooms and hallways almost make it feel like some kind of a sinister dungeon at times, and Corrado Gaipa as Father Onorio, the inqusitor, presents an imposing and ominous figure in this setting as he tries to root out what he believes to be evil wherever he finds it, and it doesn’t matter how many people he has to have put to death to eliminate it. By the way, he’s also quite mad, and Gaipa plays that well, keeping it more subtle until the end of the film, when he goes full on nuts.

All in all, this was a actually a rather good film, and a pleasant surprise. I’ve seen a lot of bad Italian films in my day, but this definitely isn’t one of them. It’s not spectacular, but it really is quite enjoyable, and I have no problem in recommending it.

This new release from Kino Lorber’s Redemption label only has trailers for special features, but it has been remastered in HD from the original 35mm negative. The film itself looks quite good considering its age, and the quality of this release has done it justice.

If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can check out its page on the Kino Lorber website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the blu-ray or DVD from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.