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(aka "Interno di un convento" or "Intérieur d'un couvent" or "Within A Cloister" or "Within the Convent" )


directed by Walerian Borowczyk
Italy 1978


The fervent Mother Superior (Gabriella Giacobbe) oversees her convent with a firm hand. When a little musical accompaniment to the chapel cleaning turns into dancing and a little cuddling in the confessional, she smashes a nun's prized violin. When she discovers that a sister from an aristocratic family has been seeing her lover, she shaves the girls head and makes her retake her vows. She makes the butcher (Alessandro Partexano) wear chastity goggles when he visits weekly and barely tolerates the presence of the confessor's virile nephew Rodrigo (Howard Ross) in the convent to study the folio. She may have good reason, however, since Rodrigo lusts after her chaste niece Sister Clara (Ligia Branice of Borowczyk's GOTO and BLANCHE) and Sister Martina (Loredana Martínez) has been meeting up with Silva in the henhouse. When another nun convinces Martina to put a little morphine in the Mother Superior's tea, the dose proves fatal and various players resort to blackmail, murder, and suicide to keep further secrets of the convent from being revealed. While several nunsploitation films often draw (sometimes very loosely) from Diderot's prank novel "La Religeuse" or Huxley's "The Devils of Loudon" or more often to the true story of the convent of Monza, BEHIND CONVENT WALLS draws from a sketch in Stendhal's Roman travel work "Promenades dans Rome". It is more a loose collection of episodes than a plot (perfectly suited to the shooting style of Borowczyk and cinematographer Luciano Tovoli). We know eventually Sister Clara will yield to Rodrigo but the way the rest of the events seem to collapse around this event is less predictable but fits in perfectly with the sort of "storming of the convent" and seemingly "possessed nuns" climactic delirium suited to this type of film. The structure allows for certain marginally related or entirely disconnected episodes like a nun (Olivia Pascal, VANESSA) who commissions another nun who draws saints to draw a small image of Christ to glue to the bottom of a carved wooden phallus (which she puts to use in a hardcore scene missing from most versions), or a nun who becomes pregnant and gives birth in the secrecy of the convent, or Borowczyk muse Marina Pierro as a nun who pricks her hands on a Christ statue's crown of thorns and presents them to the Mother Superior as stigmata (the close-up of Pierro sucking her pricked finger adorns the French poster).

Eric Cotenas


Theatrical Release: 26 January 1978 (Italy)

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DVD Review: Cult Epics - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Cult Epics

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:34:27

1.73:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.37 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono; Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono; French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Cult Epics

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.73:1

Edition Details:
• Interview with cinematographer Luciano Tovoli by Daniel Bird (16:9; 16:59)
• BEHIND THE WALLS featurette (16:9; 10:50)
• Lobby Card Gallery

DVD Release Date: March 30th, 2010

Chapters 12



Things get off to a rough start with the title sequence which exhibits some chroma noise around the titles and is slightly cropped on the right but it is likely that the title sequence was composited from another source (a French master with the alternate French title burnt in beneath the more familiar one). The anamorphic, dual-layer transfer is refreshingly progressive rather than a PAL-NTSC conversion. While the source is not pristine, the film was shot in handheld in natural light (sometimes with long lenses - in the interview Tovoli says that he and Borowczyk would cut out the technically rougher bits and utilized multiple takes) and the encoding does its best but is probably true to the source. This is the uncut version which features a hardcore scene involving Olivia Pascal which was included in the German version (the scene was also restored to the UK DVD from Nouveaux Pictures which only featured the English dub).

Cinematographer Luciano Tovoli provides an English language interview about working with Borowczyk. He says that he used no filters and the way the light fell naturally in the settings determined when the scenes were shot (of this, he says both he and Borowczyk were inspired by Sven Nykvist and Ingmar Bergman's working methods). He explains the use of handheld camera as a means of conveying the sense that the viewer is peeking in on forbidden sights. The featurette "Behind the Walls" was previously featured on the UK DVD of the film and features contributions from Sam Dunn, Daniel Bird, and Marc Morris. Online specs and the cover also list a trailer but it is not present on the disc. BEHIND CONVENT WALLS is also available in a box set called THE NUNSPLOITATION CONVENT COLLECTION - likely titled so to differentiate itself from Media Blasters' nunsploitation box set which also came out recently - with SCHOOL OF THE HOLY BEAST by Norifumi Suzuki (TERRIFYING GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL). The set was also to have included a documentary on nunsploitation but this appears to have been dropped.

  - Eric Cotenas


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