From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Nunsploitation is a subgenre of exploitation film, which had its peak in Europe in the 1970s. These films typically involve Christian nuns living in convents during the Middle Ages. The main conflict of the story is usually of a religious or sexual nature, such as religious oppression or sexual suppression due to living in celibacy. The inquisition is another common theme. These films, although often seen as pure exploitation films, often contain criticism against religion in general and the Catholic church in particular. Indeed, some protagonist dialogue voiced feminist consciousness and rejection of their subordinated social role. Not surprisingly, many of these films were made in countries where the Catholic church is influential, such as Italy and Spain. One atypical example of the genre, however, is Killer Nun (Suor Omicidi), set in, then, present-day Italy (1978).
Some segments from the Scandinavian silent film Häxan (1922) may be seen as a precursor for this genre.
Amongst other examples of exploitation cinema in Europe over the last sixty years, nunsploitation genre movies are discussed in Mendik and Mathij's recent overview volume on this general trend within regional cinema genres, cultures and audience consumption. Chris Fujiwara wrote a detailed piece discussing examples of the genre such as Killer Nun (1978), The Nuns of Saint Archangelo (1973) and Flavia The Heretic (1974), in Hermenaut, a US pop culture journal.
Some films, such as the X-rated The Devils, based on a book by Aldous Huxley and directed by Ken Russell, have some basis in fact. Huxley based his original historical account, The Devils of Loudun, on a reported case of mass hysteria and demonic possession that allegedly took place at a French convent in the seventeenth century. Given that the genre was the product of the sixties and seventies, with an occasional contemporary example like the recent Sacred Flesh (1999), there has been little further resort to possible historical source material, like Aelred of Hexham (1110–1167) and his account of the Nun of Watton, for example. Another example might be the life of Sister Benedetta Carlini, a 17th century Italian lesbian nun.
Twenty years ago, Graciela Daichan collected stories about aberrant medieval women religious, but since that time, there has been no serious historical attempt to explore what factual basis might exist for the literary depictions that often served as the basis for nunsploitation cinema.
The practice of depicting the clergy in explicit sexual situations is documented at least since Histoire de Dom Bougre, portier des Chartreux (1741) and Matthew Lewis's The Monk (1796) and to a lesser extent in the same year The Nun by Diderot. In the early days of what is now called pornography, it was customary for revolutionaries to depict the clergy in sexual situations in order to subvert their authority or denounce their real or imagined excesses.
- The Monk and the Nun (1591) – Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem
- Kneeling Nun (c. 1731) by Martin van Meytens
- The Sin (c. 1880), painting by Heinrich Lossow.
- The work of Peter Johann Nepomuk Geiger ((1805 – 1880)
- Pierre Gandon (1899 - 1990) illustrations
- "Alibech and Rustico" in the Decameron
- Lettres portugaises (1669)
- Venus in the Cloister (1683)
- La Religieuse (1796)
- The Monk (1796)
Nunsploitation in Japan
Catholic nun exploitation films have been a sub-genre of Japanese exploitation film since at least the early 1970s. Though Christianity was never a dominant religion in Japan, Japan did encounter Christian missionaries. By taking a minority religion as their subject, it has been suggested that these "shockingly perverse and wildly blasphemous" Catholic nun films are "a way of thumbing one's nose at organized religion without attacking the more sacred beliefs of the general society." Some entries in this genre include Norifumi Suzuki's Convent Of The Sacred Beast (1974), Masaru Konuma's Cloistered Nun: Runa's Confession (1976), Koyu Ohara's Sister Lucia's Dishonor (1978), and Wet Rope Confession: Convent Story (1979), Hiroshi Mukai's Nun: Secret (1978), Nobuaki Shirai's Nun Story: Frustration in Black (1980), and Mamoru Watanabe's Rope Of Hell: A Nun's Story (1981) and Electric Bible: Sister Hunting (1992). In 1995, big-bust AV idol, Mariko Morikawa starred in Big Tit Monastery (巨乳修道院), another Japanese variation on the nunsploitation genre.
Examples of nunsploitation films
- The Nun of Monza (Eriprando Visconti) (Italy) (1969)
- The Devils (Ken Russell) (1971)
- Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (Jesus Franco) (1973)
- The Nun and the Devil (Domenico Paolella) (Italy) (1973)
- Flavia, la monaca musulmana (Gianfranco Mingozzi) (1974)
- School of the Holy Beast (Norifumi Suzuki) (Japan) (1974)
- Le Scomunicate di San Valentino (Sergio Grieco) (1974)
- Satanico Pandemonium (Gilberto Martinez Solares) (1975)
- Cloistered Nun: Runa’s Confession (Masaru Konuma) (1976)
- Sister Emanuelle (Giuseppe Vari) (1977)
- Killer Nun (Suor Omicida) (Alberto Berruti) (1978)
- They Call Her Cleopatra Wong (Marrie Lee) (1978)
- Behind the Convent Walls (Interno di un convento) (Walerian Borowczyk) (1978).
- Sacred Flesh (Nigel Wingrove) (1999)
- Convent of Sinners (Joe D'Amato) (1986)
- Images in a Convent (Joe D'Amato) (1979)
- Graciela Daichan: Wayward Nuns in Medieval Literature: Syracuse: Syracuse University Press: 1986: ISBN 0-8156-2379-8
- Chris Fujiwara: "Convent Erotica" Hermenaut 12: 
- Ernest Mathijs and Xavier Mendik: Alternative Europe: Eurotrash and Exploitation Cinema Since 1945: London: Wallflower: 2004: ISBN 1-903364-93-0.
- Anticristo: The Bible of Naughty Nun Sinema and Culture: Guildford: FAB: 2000: ISBN 1-903254-03-5