Adarene San Martin
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Satanico Pandemonium (1975)
10th Dec 09
Nice nun is tempted by the Devil. Nice nun becomes dirty, naughty nun.
Über-prolific Mexican director Gilberto Martínez Solares dipped his toe into the nunsploitation genre in 1975, with a little ditty enticingly named Satanico Pandimoneum, about a nun who is tempted to eat the apple of sin by the Devil himself. Except he's less Satan, more Stan; a regular-looking guy who walks around either naked or wearing a big cape, presumably to make him appear more diabolical.
Sister Maria is well-respected in the convent. Educated in medicine, she is always on hand to tend to the infirmed livestock when her fellow sisters ask for help. But her days there are about to take an unexpected turn when Old Nick emerges from nowhere, butt naked and offering her an apple. She runs away but remains persistently plagued by visions of this cut-rate Beelzebub and his crap efforts at encouraging her to eat five-a-day. She eventually succumbs to the horny one when he transforms into a nun who ravishes her one night, before turning back into a guy and introducing himself as 'Luzbel' ("Call me Lucifer. If you want me, just think of me, I'm everywhere").
Now that she has bitten from the naughty fruit, Maria begins to act out of character. To begin with, she makes unsuccessful advances on Marcello, a young goat farmer. Next, she tries to seduce Clemencia, one of the sisters, who manages to escape with a mere flesh wound, but her newly found wicked ways take her one step further when she pushes the chair from under a nun about to hang herself. Maria is getting into the swing of this now, and soon continues her conquest of young Marcello, which is when things get really nasty, and it soon transpires that Mr Lucifer's plan involves Maria leading the other nuns straight to hell.
Nuns as pedophiles, that's not something you see every day. Satanico Pandemoneum really pushes the envelope in a way that no doubt upset quite a few South American Catholics back in the 70s, but in today's climate such aspects merely serve as relief from encroaching boredom. This movie is too slow in places, and is, in fact, about as far as the definition of 'pandemonium' as you could get. Perhaps this slugging pace is intentional, as if to mirror the slow, quiet life in a convent, but when as a viewer you are confronted with yet another long scene showing nuns walking around very slowly, it's hard not to reach for that fast forward button.
That said, there are some interesting elements going on here. The atmosphere is well mounted and thankfully, the pace picks up a little in the last 20 minutes or so, when the holy shit starts hitting the fan and Maria becomes increasingly steered by the big hands of the Evil One. And what's more, Cecilia Pezet plays the naughty nun with some style and pathos; she really has got the perfect face which jumps from pure to playfully murderous, almost without changing her expression. Enrique Rocha who plays Lucifer has worked prolifically in Mexico since this was filmed and although he has a reasonably engaging charisma, this is an ill-advised notion of portraying the man downstairs. It's a shame, because a different treatment of the same idea could really help this movie sit up there with other Mexican nun movies like Alucarda.
Other pluses include the black nun who remains ostracized even in the protective walls of a convent. Early on, we witness Maria comfort her when she is alone and crying because the racist Mother Superior makes her life hell simply because of her colour. It is she who Maria later helps to commit suicide in one of the film's most wicked scenes. More disturbing episodes are to follow when Maria sets out to rape young Marcello (who looks like a wolf) while his sweet grandmother snoozes in the chair beside the bed; a particularly nasty scene culminating in a hugely excessive stabbing which remains shocking even today.
Gilberto Martínez Solares pulls out the stops for other violent scenes, as Maria visualises her imminent torture of eye-gouging and chest-scraping. It's quite strong stuff I can tell you, but the eagle eyed of you will notice some shortcomings in the form of rubber knives and suchlike, but maybe that's just nitpicking needlessly at what is essentially a low budget Mexican nunsploitation movie from 1975.
The main aspect which grated was the soundtrack which although fairly decent in the final 10 minutes, mostly consists of really annoying 70s electronic sound effects, which simply detract from what's going on in the film. Soundtracks should never distract, and if they do, it should only be in a way which makes you order it online after watching the movie.
With more ambience than action, Satanico Pandemoneum nevertheless remains a worthy entry in the wicked world of nunsploitation, containing just enough jolts of horror and suspense to keep you interested. A big thanks to Mondo Macabro' for their great R1 release of this title, accompanied by a good interview with writer and son of director, Adolfo Martinez Solares, as well as a nunsploitation featurette with Redemption's Nigel Wingrove.