School of the Holy Beast
REVIEWED BY: Tim Posted on 14/11/2010
When a film has such a blasphemous and shocking reputation as School Of The Holy Beast and is widely regarded by fans as one of the best of its genre, if you're anything like me you jump at the chance to check it out. I've dabbled here and there into the genre of Nunsploitation but would by no means consider myself an expert.
I was personally disappointed and underwhelmed by the majority of the flicks I've watched and most would fit into the category of cool cover/poster but a totally dull viewing experience. That's an often expressed cliché of exploitation cinema, but hey it's true a lot of the time and like I said I'm no expert and I've probably been overlooking some gems of the subgenre. Like any excursion into a certain type of exploitation film there's a lot of shit to wade though to get to the crème de la crème of what's on offer. School Of The Holy Beast is one of those gems and if perhaps like me you had feelings of "What's the big deal?" when it comes to the topic of Nunsploitation this may be just what the doctor ordered.
Perhaps if it hadn't been for the fact that this film was directed by Norifumi Suzuki it would've more than likely slipped me by. Over the last year or so I've become a big fan of the man's work an am always eager to check out anything of his I haven't seen. Pinky Violence is something I'm quite new to but Suzuki's elaborately staged and beautifully shot spectacles of violence and depravity have really sold me on the stuff and turned me into an avid fan.
Suzuki's work has been hugely influential in terms of style and cinematography to modern cinema most notably Tarantino's Kill Bill series. Sure no one's really pushed the boundaries as much as Suzuki did in mainstream cinema but hey I guess the old saying of they don't make 'em like they used to still rings true. Umbrella have released Sex and Fury locally so I recommend checking it out to get a taste of what the man's all about.
School Of The Holy Beast centres itself around a young girl called Maya who gives up her regular life to enter a convent to devote her life to Christ. She describes it as a place "where women aren't women" and are forced to suppress their carnal desires. But of course the lure of "sin" is hard to ignore and many of the young nuns can't resist the temptation of whiskey and some girl on girl action. Well they are only human after all. These discretions are met with some harsh penalties involving various methods of bondage and torture.
This flick is some grade A trash offering viewers over the top moments of topless whip fighting and other perverse set pieces. Fumio Watanabe portrayal of Father Kakinuma was a highlight for me. Kakinuma is a jaded faithless priest with more than a passing resemblance Rasputin who has a penchant for raping young nuns. Watanabe devours the part making a sinister and memorable villain.
Eventually we discover Maya's true intentions of entering the convent are to uncover the events that led to her mother's death. As the story unfolds Maya exposes a dark past and twisted deception the church will go to any lengths to keep a secret. Primarily an exploitation vehicle, School Of The Holy Beast does offer an insight into how western religions are viewed by the east.
The Cult Epics disc is an excellent package with a pristine looking transfer that really accentuates Suzuki's signature cinematography. It is availble on its own or in the limited edition The Nunsploitation Convent Collection which includes Walerian Borowczyk's Behind Convent Walls. Well worth the time for fans of Asian exploitation cinema and all things blasphemous.
The Special features include an interview actress Yumi Takigawa and another with critic Risaku Kiridoushi which was very informative and gives some background of the erotic-grotesque/pink flicks TOEI produced during this period. I thought this was a nice touch and gives the film a bit more of an historical context and provides a good introduction to those who are unfamiliar with the genre.
DIRECTOR(S): Norifumi Suzuki | COUNTRY: Japan | YEAR 1974 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Cult Epics | RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 2.35:1 Widescreen | REGION: 1 | DISCS: 1
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