The 13th Floor

Opium, Nuns, and Ample Flaying: The Tastefully Twisted FLAVIA THE HERETIC

“She Launched A River of BLOOD”

The 1974 Italian film FLAVIA: THE HERETIC is by far one of the most extreme films of the nunploitation faire, featuring visual feats such as castration, nipple slicing, and excessive impalements…yet all quasi-tastefully woven into the tragic story of the world’s first feminist nun. FLAVIA has received attention among ‘obscure euro-trash cult movies’ fans but has never really made it beyond that. Until a few years ago when Synapse Films restored the film, the only way someone could take a gander at the flick was being lucky enough to find a screening of the badly cut Italian language version. There was also an assortment of bad VHS releases circulating, all of which were incredibly grainy. The majority had been sloppily cut to remove some of the naughtier material. There is now also a snazzy Blu-ray copy available from Scorpion Entertainment.

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Nunsploitation as a whole is a rather amusing sub-genre to the 1970’s Grindhouse trend…ok, well it amuses me, at least. The majority of the nunploitation films of the 1970’s came out of Mexico, Spain, Italy, and Japan. Italy by far reigned over the nun releases with an impressive list of works. It comes as no surprise that Italy had the largest number of nunploitation films, which were often referred to as Convent Erotica. It is easy to criticize your next door neighbors, and with the Vatican being right in their backyard and a largely Catholic population, the religious commentary of nun films came easily and often.

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In this film our heroine, Flavia, is an over-sexed nun who must suppress her lusty fantasies of hot girl on girl action and swarthy Middle Eastern men. She spends most of her frigid days musing out loud about why men are so damned important in the Christian society, while females are just there for servitude. Flavia rants about how when the male God decided to make some humans, Adam came from God’s rib, but the first female, Lillith, was made from God’s primordial septic tank and was deemed evil because she wouldn’t submit to Adam. Then god created the subservient Eve. When Flavia finally is sick of the 1600’s religious “glass ceiling”, in a truly 1970’s post-feminist fashion, she revolts against her Christian brethren.

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Whereas many of these naughty nun flicks are campy and contain a checklist of sinful situations which are peppered awkwardly throughout, FLAVIA is a bit different. It has a very serious tone and packs a much bigger punch that just the normal lesbian or killer nuns. Flavia is struggling to understand feminism. She muses out loud throughout the film, philosophizing on women’s role in society, the Christian religion, and the world. Flavia is one smart lady. Towards the end, she even discusses differences and similarities between the Christians and Muslims, ultimately concluding that all religions are pretty much they same, and a lot can be understood about a religion by how it treats its women. Whoa, FLAVIA is pretty damn profound for a sexploitation-horror flick. The brilliance of this film is due in part to the lead actress, Florinda Bolkin. Having helmed other intense/profound horror films like DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING and A LIZARD IN WOMAN’S SKIN, Bolkin knows how to deliver a monologue and hold her own on screen. Her intensity shines through a dark restraint as she speaks angrily to her lord. Her actions, emotions, and musings are a large chunk of what makes this movie so successful.

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This is all, of course, intertwined with hefty amounts of gore and carnage. But even the gore is not that out of place. OK- there is a rather out of place castration scene, but much of the other gore is formulated in a way that almost complements the story, something not often seen in Grindhouse flicks. FLAVIA also contains a rather out-of-place-for-the-movie opium drug trip, which, though seems weird in the film, was pretty standard for exploitation films at the time.

How to See FLAVIA: THE HERETIC-  Blu-ray or DVD only. Sadly, I could not find this one streaming on any major platforms.

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