This is the second (and best-regarded) adaptation of the much-filmed romantic/religious/historical drama which, being something of a "Nunsploitation" template narrative-wise, its frequent presence later within that notorious genre comes as no surprise at all. That said, this earlier attempt is perhaps too genteel for complete success, albeit encased within a most handsome production (featuring lustrous monochrome photography by the renowned Tonino Delli Colli). Even so, the plot comes across a lot more effectively here than in the 1969 version of the same events (which actually preceded this viewing), since a lot more back-story is provided and where the repressed heroine is seen suffering psychological anguish rather than (the usual bout of) physical torture. Casting is ideal as well: Giovanna Ralli (naturally, in the title role and, as I said in my review of the later film, a dead-ringer for its star Anne Heywood), Gabriele Ferzetti (making for a far more worthy partner than Antonio Sabato his is certainly not as confusing a characterization!) and Helene Chanel as the victimized novice (surely the equal of Carla Gravina in the remake). While the Hardy Kruger figure is omitted here, there is another would-be lover for 'The Nun Of Monza' in the youthful Corrado Pani; besides, Gino Cervi and Alberto Lupo turn up towards the end as, respectively, the Cardinal who instigates Ralli's downfall and the judge who passes sentence upon her. Within this context, her live entombment makes more sense as if the Church literally wanted to wipe out the memory of her! Finally, star and director would re-unite soon after for a modernization of another highly popular romantic tragedy, CARMEN DI TRASTEVERE (1963), based on Prosper Merimee''s "Carmen" (later immortalized via Georges Bizet's operatic treatment of it).
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