Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Other Hell (Bruno Mattei, 1981)

I'm not a big fan of nuns. And I'm certainly not a fan of nunsploitation movies. This dislike, by the way, has nothing to do with some sort of traumatic experience I had as a child/sticky-fingered miscreant. Beyond the fact that nuns were used in the ads for a chain of dry cleaning joints, Sketchley Cleaners, I haven't had much experience with nuns. Wait, I think Sketchley Cleaners used penguins in their ads. What I think I meant to say was Cadet Cleaners. Great, now I'm confused. At any rate, I just don't like their  whole holier-than-thou attitude. Just kidding, I could careless about that. No, what I'm not a fan of is their outfits; they're not sexy. Aren't you a little bit curious about what's going on underneath all those thick layers of pious fabric? Hell no. However, if you were to put say, the luminous Franca Stoppi (Beyond the Darkness) in a nun's habit, and have her appear in a convent-set film written by Claudio Fragasso and directed by Bruno Mattei (Hell of the Living Dead), then I might have a change of heart. Don't tell me, there's a film floating around out there that just happens to adhere to the frightfully specific standards I just finished laying out? Hot dog! And what's this? I'm being told that I just watched it. Woo-hoo! It's called The Other Hell (L'altro Inferno), and, of course, it sort of sucks ass, but it's also kind of great, too. And that, in one of them nutshell thingies, is the main reason I will continue to beat myself over the head with Bruno Mattei cinema. You could say I enjoy the mind-altering headache that inevitably comes after I have inflicted a Bruno Mattei movie on myself. At first, you'll notice that it stings a little bit. But after a while, you get used it. So much so, you'll be wishing that every movie was directed by Bruno Mattei, a.k.a. Stefan Oblowsky. Oh, and don't forget Claudio Fragasso; yeah, he should definitely write every movie.
A cautionary tale about what might happen if you inexplicably decided to put Franca Stoppi's demon baby in a pot of scalding hot water, The Other Hell is possession, murder and forbidden lust wrapped in an exhaustively precise package. It is? Oh, it totally is. And get this, Franca Stoppi's face is always framed by her black and white nun head covering. Hold on, head covering? There must be a better name for it than that. How about headpiece? Headpiece. Headpiece. It's better than head covering, I'll give you that. But I need something with a little more pizazz. I think I got it. Are you sitting down? Yeah, yeah, what is it already? Wimple. Let it sink in. Wimple. You know what? I like it.
I'm gonna give the whole face framing thing another go, as I would like to use the word "wimple" in a more organic-sounding fashion. Shot from every angle possible, Franca Stoppi's beguiling mug is always framed by her wimple, a medieval piece of clothing that covers the head, as well as the neck.

I can't stress this enough: The wimple is the perfect garment for an actress like Franca Stoppi, as it accentuates her strongest feature. And that is, of course, her gorgeous face.
Don't get too excited my fellow Franca Stoppi fans. In order to see our beloved Franca Stoppi glower from the inside of a nun's habit, you're going to have to watch The Other Hell. Well, duh, we kind of figured that out already. No, I don't think you understand. You're going to have to watch this movie. Hmm, when you put it that way, it doesn't sound so easy.
Never fear, Goblin is here. It's true, the Goblin music heard throughout The Other Hell is simply the score from Beyond the Darkness. Nonetheless, it was comforting to hear their unique brand of synth-rock every now and then, as it perked up the film's many dull patches.
"The genitals are the door to evil!" You can say that again, sister. Notice how she said they were "the" door and not "a" door. Mildly fascinating. Down below in the convent's basement laboratory/crypt, one nun, let's call her Sister Assunta (Paola Montenero), is telling another nun about the wickedness that lies beyond the labia. And just as she's wrapping up her anti-pussy diatribe, a set of glowing red eyes appear from out of the darkness. These eyes, of course, cause Sister Assunta to stab the other nun to death.
If what I just described sounds out of the ordinary for a nunnery, I have to say, it's pretty standard stuff for the convent that's run by Mother Vincenza (Franca Stoppi), as acts of nun-on-nun violence are par for the course at this place.
Don't believe me? Just ask Boris (Franco Garofalo), the convent's resident creepy gardener. If he sees a nun ranting and raving about the devil while bleeding from the mouth, he will simply shrug his shoulders and continue trimming the bushes.
While Mother Vincenza and Boris the gardener (he also runs the dog pound/chicken farm next-door) seem indifferent to the convent chaos, the members of the clergy seem to think otherwise. When the doltish Father Inardo (Andrea Aureli) is unable to get to bottom of things (his attempt to pray the evil away is met with mixed results, and by "mixed results," I mean it was met with complete and utter failure), the church sends in Father Valerio (Carlo De Mejo), a sort of  ecclesiastical detective who solves problems by using reason and logic.
As he arrives, Mother Vincenza is forcing the other nuns to burn all of Sister Assunta's things; he's also nearly mauled by one of Boris' dogs. So, right from the get-go, it's clear that they have something to hide. But what could it be? Frankly, I don't really care what they're hiding, as the film is not providing me with anything I can use from a perversion perspective. Oh, you poor thing. Is this nun-based supernatural thriller lacking in the titillation department? Yes. Yes it is. Well, suck it up, and stop being such a baby. Not every film is going to cater to your debased needs. Why not? The world doesn't work that way. What you should have done was not watch the film. Now you tell me.  
That being said, I did like the hanging dolls. Hanging dolls? Yeah, the attic was filled with naked dolls hanging from the rafters. If you add the music of Goblin to the sight of the dolls dangling, it creates a pretty effective sense of dread. You know what? You're right. The sight of the dolls dangling to the music of Goblin is pretty dread-inducing.
And as far as perversion goes, check out the scene where a prematurely grey nun (Susan Forget) chokes Father Valerio in her room. No offense, but I'm not really into strangulation. No, pay attention to the part where she collapses on top of him mid-choke. What am I looking for? Look at her legs. Oh, they're sheathed in black nylons. Nice. I'm glad you pointed them out, because I was just about to declare The Other Hell a nylon-free zone.
You know what else needs pointing out? What? The fact that the guy dubbing Carlo De Mejo's voice sounded exactly like Dean Learner from Garth Marenghi's Darkplace. Are you serious? I'm deadly serious. Wow, this little nugget of information just upgraded The Other Hell from lame to not-so lame.
What about Franca Stoppi? What about her? She must do something besides look delightfully sinister in her habit? Let me see. Oh, yeah. There's this flashback sequence that has Franca Stoppi employ one of the most trouser-moistening head turns while holding a recently scalded baby in recent memory. Imagine being on the receiving end of one of Franca Stoppi's trademark head turns, I would do more than just pee my pants (too much information?). It should go without saying, but the synth flourish that accompanies Franca Stoppi's head turn was awesome. As was the part where Franca Stoppi tells Father Valerio that men only emit empty screams when they're stabbed, yet when women are stabbed, they produce children. I couldn't have said it better myself; pure poetry.
Ending like you would expect (with lot's of nuns screaming), The Other Hell will probably be my last nunsploitation film for quite some time (what can I say? the genre is not habit forming). I'm not giving up on the genre entirely, but I am going to be a lot more careful when it comes time to choose my next foray.

video uploaded by micarone


  1. this review is coming up soon in the meantime check out this trailer we made

  2. I've never seen this one. I'm going to have to check it out. Great review, now I'm very curious.

  3. It's quite a whackadoo film, isn't it?

    If you do take the dip into this genre again, I would say FLAVIA & Franco's LOVE LETTERS OF A PORTUGUESE NUN are as close to art as it gets.

    1. I've heard that "Portuguese Nun" is the best of the best when it comes to naughty nuns. That and D'Amato's "Images in a Convent."

  4. @Crankenstein: Excellent use of The Devil Inside" by INXS.

    @Grimm: I'm about to watch Dead Hooker in a Trunk based on your recommendation, it better be good. ;)

    @vwstieber: I'll try to keep those in mind the next time I decide to take a dip into the genre.

  5. I've never touched this one. Ever ever. I read these reviews a long, long time ago: