Satanico Pandemonium
Mexico / 1973
Directed by Gilberto Martinez Solares
Starring
Cecilia Pezet
Enrique Rocha
Delia Magana
Color / 90 Minutes / Not Rated
Format: DVD(R0 - NTSC)
Mondo Macabro
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Review by
B. Lindsey
 
5
    8   10 = Highest Rating  
SNEAK PREVIEW | DVD Release Date: May 31, 2005
It's no surprise that horror movies steeped in Catholic theology and iconography would come out of overwhelmingly Catholic countries like Italy and Mexico. What is surprising is that some of these films especially those of the transgressive 'Nunsploitation' subgenre inspired by Ken Russell's The Devils were able to secure financing and get released in the first place.
    Set in a Mexican convent in the 17th or 18th century (the time frame is never specified), Satanico Pandemonium charts the spiritual downfall of a pretty young nun seduced to the dark side by her carnal desires. Sister Maria (Cecilia Pezet), beloved and admired by the other nuns for her strong faith, empathetic nature and knowledge of herbal medicine, would seem the ideal candidate for a future Mother Superior. But everything goes to hell in a hand basket for her when, out strolling the wooded fields beyond the convent one day, she encounters a handsome nude man (Enrique Rocha). Totally unashamed by his nakedness, the stranger greets her with a "Good day, Sister" and a sardonic smile. Maria flees without a word, only to encounter him anew
clothed this time a short while later. He offers her a bite from an apple (symbolism doesn't get more obvious than that!) but she refuses and returns to the convent.
   
Maria's encounters with the mystery man immediately trigger a flood of repressed desires. In the privacy of her room she ties a belt of thorns around her waist and flagellates herself with a whip. But instead of purging her of impure thoughts this painful penance only gets her more hot and bothered! Another young nun comes to her one night, professing lesbian love, and after a halfhearted struggle she allows the girl to fondle and caress her. Maria's really starting to get into it when the sapphic sister is revealed to actually be the handsome stranger Lucifer himself come to her in magically disguised form. He offers her the promise of forbidden delights as he has his way with her. Afterwards, no matter how hard she prays and punishes herself, Maria is unable to control her urges, indulging in all sorts of abominable sin. She tries to seduce another of the nuns as well as a teenage shepherd boy. (In the film's most eyebrow-raising scene, Maria strips and climbs into the bed of the sleeping lad, and with his grandmother dozing nearby, proceeds to manually stimulate him!) Soon she resorts to murder... Not just to cover her tracks, but also just for kicks. Truly, the Devil is inside her.
    I can only describe Satanico Pandemonium (also released under the title La Sexorcista) as being both sleazy and demure at the same time. You won't see some demon-possessed nun masturbating with a crucifix but it can still be pretty strong stuff, especially if one hails from a Catholic background and is in any measure religious. Pezet is frequently naked, given numerous opportunities to shed her habit in the throes of lustful abandon. A bit of gore and sado-sexual torture is tossed in for good measure, too, the latter a nod to the international box-office success of 1970's Mark of the Devil. Still, the film could have easily gone a lot further than it actually does. This can be either a good or bad thing depending on the viewer's sensibilities. (European Nunsploitation flicks, for example, tend to feature more explicit lesbian sex scenes and take more direct swipes at the Church.)
    Helmed by Mexico's most prolific director, Gilberto Martinez Solares (Santo & Blue Demon vs. the Monsters), the film achieves a dreamy gothic look via some Bava-style mood lighting and makes good use of rustic, rural locations. The meager budget is betrayed only by instances of less-than-convincing special effects and a phony looking cave set that could've come straight out of an El Santo movie. (And probably did.) A debauched revel at the convent, seen near film's end, is poorly staged and marred by some truly goofy music; this is unfortunate as it's a key sequence in the narrative. The final resolution is also something of a cop-out. Pezet is quite good as Maria, though, in both virtuous and evil modes, which really helps sell the story. Rocha makes for an appropriately smug and seductive Lucifer-as-Lothario.

Mondo Macabro's upcoming DVD release utilizes a generally excellent looking anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) print, tarnished only by a bit of dirt in the final minute of the film. The Dolby 2.0 audio track isn't stereo as claimed on the packaging but is clear and distortion-free. Optional, easy-to-read English subs are provided. Extras include an image gallery, a step-through text essay on the Nunsploitation subgenre, a filmography of Mexican 'naughty nun' movies and a talent bio of director Solares. Two featurettes really add value to the package. The first, entitled The Devil Went Down To Mexico (15 minutes), is an interview with Adolfo Martinez Solares, screenwriter of Satanico Pandemonium and also the late director's son. Speaking in English, he provides an interesting overview of his father's lengthy career and discusses the making of Satanico Pandemonium in particular. (Turns out some of the background nuns weren't really actresses but rather prostitutes hired from a brothel!) The other featurette, House of the Writhing Nun (11 minutes), is an interview with Briton Nigel Wingrove, managing director of Redemption Films. It serves as a nice introduction to the subgenre and is illustrated with clips from various Nunsploitation flicks. 5/18/05
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