THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN (Damiano Damiani, 1975) **1/2
According to the Leonard Maltin Film Guide, this film merits a BOMB and is "indifferently acted technically atrocious" he must have been thinking of THE KILLER NUN (1978; see below)! What we really have here is an excellent cast of internationally renowned actors involved in a serious, arty exercise in "Nunsploitation": Glenda Jackson stars as the iron-willed Sister Geraldine who heads a strange hybrid of mental asylum and tourist hostel in Rome, with Adolfo Celi her right-hand man and Father Confessor to the 'inmates'. The latter are an eccentric set of ecclesiastical misfits Francisco Rabal is a communist bishop from Cuba, Arnoldo Foa' a Polish monsignor who collaborated with the Nazi regime in WWII, etc. and wealthy degenerates Gabriele Lavia is a Prince unhealthily obsessed with his own sister and so on; running the day-to-day operations of the establishment with an equally iron fist is Bolivian émigré Lisa Harrow (who, when married to the local Police Chief, fell for an anarchist and later organized the former's death in an ambush). The coming of historian Claudio Cassinelli (on an invitation by Foa', who needs help to write his memoirs in order to exculpate himself in the eyes of his superiors!) slowly but surely turns the entire order of things in disarray: contacting Lavia's sister on his behalf against Jackson's specific instructions (an innocent and trivial action which, indirectly, leads to Lavia's suicide a' la ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST ), reawakening Harrow's feelings of love for another man (she had previously turned those onto her pet feline or nightly bouts of masturbation!), etc. Eventually, all of the 'inmates' are liberated by Cassinelli's presence, revolt and go back out into the real world including Harrow who shacks up with the writer himself; unfortunately, as a result of Jackson's malicious misinformation that she is terminally ill, her long-dormant sexuality blooms into full-blown nymphomania (which includes sleeping with the, by her own admission, disgusting condominium handyman) and, while on their way to see a doctor by train, she runs out on her mate altogether! Some time later, just as he is about to commit himself to a new relationship with the briefly-glimpsed Ely Galeani, Cassinelli returns, on a hunch, to Jackson's hostel and, to his shock, discovers that all the inmates have come back and become their own previous subservient, resigned selves (he now also finds among them Lavia's gorgeous sister, the woefully underused Adele Sperati)! Director Damiano Damiani has made an eclectic bunch of interesting movies over the years and this, while perhaps not among his best work, is certainly one of them, aided in no small measure by another of legendary composer Ennio Morricone's weird, choral scores. From the cast, newcomer Harrow is a revelation (in every sense of the word, since she indulges in full frontal nudity during that aforementioned handyman encounter): this is still her best-known film although she would later go on to have a son by actor Sam Neill. Personally, it was a joy for me to watch 3 actors from films I dearly love Celi (THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY ), Foa' (THE 100 HORSEMEN ) and Rabal (NAZARIN , VIRIDIANA , BELLE DE JOUR ) sparring verbally on screen in their scenes together. One final note: ironically, it may be that this film is not better-known because the two English titles accorded it (including THE TEMPTER) were already attached to more popular movies!
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