Tuesday, November 15, 2011

#456. Killer Nun (1979)

Directed By: Giulio Berruti

Starring: Anita Ekberg, Paola Morra, Alida Valli

Trivia:  The entire film was shot on-location in Brussels, Belgium

Having spent 12 years in Catholic schools, the very concept of a killer nun isn't entirely foreign to me. That's not to say I've known any who've actually committed a murder, but there were days I was convinced some of them had it in 'em. 

Sure enough, Giulio Berruti's Killer Nun kicks off with the following disclaimer: “This film is based on actual events that took place in a Central European country not many years ago”. Sister Gertrude (Anita Ekberg) is an assistant at a psychiatric hospital, a facility for the sick, the wounded, and the elderly. A while back, Sister had a tumor removed from her brain, an event directly responsible for her current addiction to morphine. Complaining of headaches and fainting spells, Gertrude has started taking her frustrations out on the patients under her care. Her roommate and close friend, Sister Mattheiu (Paola Morra), does what she can to cover up for Sister Gertrude, but her odd behavior has been noticed by both the resident physician (Massimo Serato) and the Mother Superior (Alida Valli). With Gertrude's sanity slowly slipping away, it isn't long before the patients themselves rally against her, making her the prime suspect when several turn up dead. But is Sister Gertrude really a killer, or is she being framed by someone else? 

As I said, I've known some strange nuns in my time, but none were ever quite as twisted as Sister Gertrude. One night, as the patients are eating their supper, Sister Gertrude notices that Josephine (Nerina Montagnani), who's quite elderly, is soaking her false teeth in a glass of water. In a fit of rage, Gertrude throws the teeth onto the floor and smashes them to bits. Already suffering from a weak heart, this whole ordeal proves more than Josephine can handle, and later that night, she dies of a heart attack. Far from mourning for Josephine, Gertrude roots through the recently deceased's dresser drawer, swiping a valuable diamond ring that she hopes to sell or, at the very least, trade for morphine. The next day, Gertrude, wearing street clothes, makes a trip into town, where she pawns the ring, scores some morphine, and even has sex with a businessman in a hotel hallway. In these scenes, and many others, Sister Gertrude bears more of a resemblance to Attila the Hun than she does Mother Theresa. 

Killer Nun does offer a few tense moments, and, at times, is an eye-opening experience (I never knew some nuns slept in the nude), but overall, the movie is bland an uninspired. None of the murders are particularly memorable (save one involving some acupuncture needles), and the central mystery, once revealed, turns out to be anything but a surprise. As someone with a little experience in the area, believe me when I say the filmmakers could have done a whole lot more with a movie titled Killer Nun.

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