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LOVE LETTERS OF A Portuguese NUN (Jesus Franco, 1977) ***
MARIO GAUCI17 October 2004
The first I've seen of the films Jess Franco made for producer Erwin C. Dietrich and, frankly, one of only three or four I'm really interested in (the others being DORIANA GREY [1976], JACK THE RIPPER [1976] and SEXY SISTERS [1977]). Having viewed this immediately after THE DEMONS (1972), I'm thankful it has proven to be a whole lot better, thus living up to its unanimously positive reputation online ever since it was released on DVD; definitely one of Franco's best (currently ranking at No. 7 out of only 18 I've watched so far).

From the very first moments (starting off with a much more fitting 'medieval' score than THE DEMONS' eclectic if messy soundtrack), the film conveys both its seriousness of intent (neither THE BLOODY JUDGE [1970] nor THE DEMONS could be taken as anything but fanciful peeks into this controversial yet intriguing time-frame) and its artistic bent (certainly among Franco's most gorgeous-looking films, evident even in the VHS copy I viewed). The film is very well directed for the most part: stylized but highly effective framing (notably the shot where William Berger is forcing himself onto Susan Hemingway) and positioning of actors (the orgy where Hemingway is again raped, now by Herbert Fux's devil incarnate, while all the time her head is resting on Ana Zanatti's shoulder, who seems to be getting her sexual kicks by proxy!). The nick-of-time ending is effectively handled as well, especially its fading out on the two villains' apprehension – leaving their eventual fate, as it were, to each and every member of the audience!

The acting of the three principals is terrific:

· Susan Hemingway manages both the character's inherent innocence as well as her determination to put a stop to all the evil at the Abbey (I quite liked the fact that when she finally escapes, we are not shown how she achieves this, and also the matter-of-fact yet rather moving way her 'love letters' are eventually picked up) [Brief parenthesis: I look forward to seeing more of her in Franco's SINFONIA EROTICA (1979), paired with the equally scrumptious Lina Romay who, incidentally, appeared in a remake of LOVE LETTERS OF A Portuguese NUN made by Jorge Grau in 1978!]

· William Berger as the sickest priest ever to hit the screen (far more damaging than the befuddled monk played by Jack Palance in MARQUIS DE SADE'S JUSTINE [1968]), who immediately demonstrates he is adept at persuading virtually anyone to do his bidding (the calm way he haggles Hemingway's poor and impressionable mother out of her savings at the beginning of the film, for instance, but also the girl herself during a humiliating confession scene that just about manages not to topple over into unnecessary grossness and emerges, in fact, as one of the film's highlights)

· Ana Zanatti, however, matches Berger with her proud (and evidently possessed) Mother Superior-cum-High Priestess, creating what is perhaps one of Franco's most fascinating female villains

What I couldn't quite figure out initially about LOVE LETTERS OF A Portuguese NUN is its apparently schizophrenic nature: while it takes the utmost care in establishing period atmosphere and the mood of specific scenes, and doing so with great subtlety (as in the almost subliminal but potentially repugnant shot where Hemingway's face is hit by a rush of semen), the film then goes overboard with its frequent depiction of sexual activity among the nuns and their unmitigated devotion to Satan (as if the agenda of this so-called Abbey hadn't been made blatant already!). That said, the scene where Zanatti painfully confirms her 'faith' (which reminded me of a similarly excruciating moment in the last of the Hammer horror films, Peter Sykes' contemporaneous TO THE DEVIL…A DAUGHTER [1976]) is well done – as are, in fact, the various tortures to which lovely Susan Hemingway is subjected for her defiance of the 'house' rules. [In any case, Francesco Cesari once again came to the rescue for me, putting the sex scenes in their proper context which is that, in their pursuit to 'demonize' sexuality, the Catholic Church has rendered the Devil a sexual object leading to a general perversion in sexuality – which 'disease' actually sprang from within the convents themselves! Apart from this, Francesco has rightly observed that, before we even get to see how truly evil they are, the characters of Father Vincent and Mother Alma are themselves depicted in the film as wretched human beings – indicating, in this way, that they are as much victims of this same culture as anyone else!]

I wouldn't mind buying the film on DVD (in view of the proper Widescreen ratio and VIP's restoration efforts) though the price-tag of the Swiss DVD is set rather too highly for my tastes; I only hope, therefore, that Anchor Bay UK (a DVD is planned for a February 2004 release) can pull this one intact from under the BBFC's scrutiny…

Much as Franco's THE BLOODY JUDGE was made in the wake of the classic WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968), his THE DEMONS and LOVE LETTERS OF A Portuguese NUN emerged from the relative success and eventual cult-status of Ken Russell's original 'nunsploitation' epic THE DEVILS (1971); I wouldn't say that Franco necessarily did a better job of it but, thankfully, his efforts did not prove so hysterical as Russell's either! (Actually, watching these two films has reminded me that I've yet to pick up Walerian Borowczyk's similar BEHIND CONVENT WALLS (1977) on R2 DVD from Nouveaux Pictures.)

P.S. The film's 'message' is still timely, especially since here in Malta a sex-scandal was recently unearthed involving priests' abusing of their young male charges(!); incidentally, the religious order involved is affiliated with the Secondary school which my brother and I attended between 1987 and 1992 – come to think of it, once we even spent a whole week-end at their convent!!
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Holy Moses!
Coventry10 August 2004
Tsk, tsk…. My poor, old and deeply religious granny should know what I'm watching here. Nunsploitation! Foxy looking nuns doing tricks with their willing and ravishing bodies, in blood-soaked and satanic-themed movies! Blasphemy, my old granny would call it…and she would be right as well. Call it what you want …it's still fun! It's pretty deranged to see a bunch of nuns bringing sacrifices to Satan. And it's even more messed up to see Lucifer actually appear then and sexually violate an innocent young disciple. Who else than Jess Franco could have been responsible for this? The Godfather of Sleaze tried out every subgenre of eurohorror in his long, fertile career and this stylish, well cinematographed film represents his bizarre nun-fantasies. A young girl named Marie – played by Susan Hemingway – is caught fooling around with her boyfriend by a frustrated priest. He intimidates her poor mother to force her into a convent. The nuns there, led by Alma Mater Ana Zanetti (who looks a lot like an exquisite version of Susan Sarandon, take unusual interest in her young and sensual body. Lovely convent this is! Mother Superior is a horny devil-worshipper and the priest is a perverted masturbator! Which brings me to the MESSAGE of this film! Yes indeed, message! Jess Franco's films don't often carry a message but this `Love Letters from a Portuguese Nun' does. Franco directly criticizes the historical hypocrisy of the Catholic Church and shows how Catholic superiors abused their powers. This really is one of Franco's finest achievements. Although the film exaggerates extremely when it comes to sleaziness and absurd situations, it also brings forward a lot of style and beauty. The acting is above average and the locations are beautifully chosen. The best aspect about the whole film is the truly magnificent music by Walter Baumgartner, who made a career out of filling exploitation soundtracks. Love Letters from a Portuguese Nun may not be top-quality cinema, but it shows a lot of goodwill and depth. And it's beautiful to look at. Hallelujah!
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One of Franco's Finest
lazarillo27 May 2004
Many people accuse Jesus Franco of being a talentless hack, but he has an amazing ability to bring artistry and watchability, and occasionally even a little class, to some of the most sordid subject matter. It's hard to rave unreservedly about a movie that features a naked sixteen-year-old girl stretched out on a rack and tortured with a pair of metal tongs--a movie whose subject manner includes masturbating priests, lesbian nuns, satanic ritual sodomy, and all other manners of depravity and blasphemy--yet it's a testament to Franco that the film remains highly watchable and even manages to be somewhat of a serious historical indictment of the Catholic church. Since this at first seemed to be another of Franco's sick WIP movies, I was initially curious why he had cast the unknown Susan Hemingway in a role usually played by Lina Romay, but it turned out to be a good choice. You actually feel sympathy for Hemingway's innocent-looking character when she's tortured and sexually abused by corrupt and lecherous nuns and clergy, whereas these scenes probably would have been merely crass titillation if Romay (who was many things but innocent wasn't one of them) had played the role. This movie makes you wonder what Franco could have done if he'd ever made a serious film that did NOT plumb the depths of sexual violence and human depravity. But I guess it wouldn't really be a Franco movie then, would it?
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Franco's love letter to A-class horror cinema
The_Void10 August 2005
Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun is a surprisingly professionally made movie from the king of sleaze, Jess Franco. Usually with Franco, you can count on a very thin plot and loads of sex (usually involving lesbians), but this time it's the other way round. Of course, there's still lots of room for sex (no need to worry, Franco fans) but it's definitely a secondary element to the plot. This film fits into the corner of the horror genre known as 'nunsploitation'. This is my first ever taste of nunsploitation, so I cant comment on the niche on the whole; but if it turns out to be as interesting as it's title, it should be pretty good! This film follows Maria, a sixteen year old girl that is forced into a convent after the convent's leader manipulates her mother into thinking she's in league with the devil and destined for Hell. However, this isn't a Christian convent and rather than worshipping God, these guys are actually a band of Satanists! After being forced to perform sinful acts with various members of the convent (including the Dark Prince himself...), Maria tries to escape the convent.

The message in this film is actually rather potent, and it exposes the hypocrisy of religion and, more specifically; the Christian church. The film manages to go even further than that too, with the idea of a sex scandal being pretty much timeless. Sex scandals are still a big part of our society's news stories, and I'm sure that they will continue to be; which gives this film an element of immortality where it's plot is concerned. The sex scenes are surprisingly brief, which is very surprising after watching the likes of Vampyros Lesbos and Bare Breasted Countess. The photography is smooth and nice to look at, leading me to believe that Jess Franco actually wanted to make a film, rather than just another of his usual quickies. Jess Franco made a lot of films over his career, a lot of which are forgettable rubbish; but this film hints that the man may have a lot more talent than his list of directorial credits suggests. Despite some silly sequences (such the Devil love making scene), this film is professionally handled and just well done on the whole. Maybe if Franco had put more effort into the quality of his films rather than the quantity, he would have a few masterpieces under his belt.
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Jess Franco, RIP
Lee Eisenberg2 June 2013
Spanish horror director Jesús "Jess" Franco died recently, so I decided to watch one of his movies. "Die Liebesbriefe einer portugesischen Nonne" ("Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun" in English) offers a scathing look at the Catholic Church. It tells the story of a teenage girl whom a priest sees cavorting with a boy, and he makes her become a nun as penance. We see how the nuns are sexually repressed, while the priest and mother superior do everything possible to humiliate the novice. Specifically, there's a lot of torture going on. There are some VERY ugly scenes.

On the one hand this is basically the average movie that goes as much for shock value as possible. Even so, the movie is also an indictment of the RCC's blatant hypocrisy (note the scene where the priest uses the girl's confession as a way to get sexually aroused). The Church's policies in Medieval Europe constituted some of the most vicious misogyny imaginable.

It's only the second Jess Franco movie that I've seen. In fact, the copy that I saw looked like a copy of a copy (or copied from the TV) and was dubbed in English with Finnish subtitles! I hope to see more of his movies in the future. Just understand that this is a good movie, but definitely not for the fainthearted.
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Wonderfully artistic "nunsploitation" movie!
Snake-66623 October 2003
Jesus Franco's dark yet artistic sexploitation movie concerns Maria Rosalea (Susan Hemmingway), a fifteen year old girl, who is caught cavorting with her boyfriend by the devilish Father Vicente (William Berger). Vicente convinces Maria's poor and easily intimidated, God-fearing mother (Aida Vargas) to force Maria into a convent. Upon arriving at the convent Maria is subjected to numerous vile and sadistic sexual tortures, and it becomes increasingly clear that it is not God that these particular nuns worship.

It is fairly easy to speculate whether 'Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun' is a film with a message or not. It would appear to be a film damning the historical atrocities of the Catholic Church, and while perhaps over exaggerating the real truth (though one may never know for sure), the portrayal of how the Catholic Church abused it's power, particularly during the 16th-19th centuries, seems to be effectively represented here. In fact, to this very day, there is still news making the headlines about the darker side of religion, including the vile sexual abuse that is often covered up the Church itself and carried out by those who are supposed to spread the word of God. While not meaning to sound anti-religious, 'Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun' is a film that is not afraid to push the boundaries of acceptability all the way and condemn the wrong doings in the Church. Bordering on illegal, with frequent horrific representations of a fifteen year old girl naked and/or suffering, what can only be described as sadistic sexual abuse, 'Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun' is a gloomy, yet surprisingly powerful, artistic and thought-provoking film.

Although the scripting occasionally left a lot to be desired, particularly in the scenes involving the Prince of Portugal (Herman Jose), generally the script was very tight, and the dialogue enormously effective. It becomes very easy to empathise with Maria as she suffers the numerous horrid indignities. While I am unable to comment on the verbal acting ability of Susan Hemmingway in this film (as I watched the film with English dubbing), the physical performance of Susan was highly realistic and there is little way that one cannot feel sympathy for this poor, young girl. William Berger's physical performance was also of a high standard and it becomes very easy to feel contempt for this sleazy and perverted man. The confessional masturbation scene early in the movie showed exactly how depraved and corrupt this so-called `good man' was. Berger was also complimented by the addition of Ana Zanatti in the role of Mother Superior, Alma. Zanatti added a loathsome female character which seemingly exhibited more savagery than the despicable Vicente.

Although some may find the occasional scenes of lesbianism portrayed within the movie more titillating than necessary, they still maintain an artistic air and help create an image, for the viewer, of the real actions within the convent. There are numerous scenes of nudity and sexual acts, but the majority of these are more repulsive than erotic. Outside of the eroticism/sexual deviances, 'Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun' is generally aesthetically pleasing as it was shot in some beautiful locations, and featured many scenes of glorious gothic architecture. An early comment on how beautiful the Abbey featured in 'Love Letters.' rings so true, and serves to underline the ignorance to the truth that both the church, and the village as a whole possesses. This imaginative and artistically presented film is certainly worth viewing for fans of similar movies, particularly those who enjoy European arthouse eroticism. My rating for 'Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun' - 7/10.
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Franco's Consummate Masterpiece!
Dr. Orloff24 March 2000
Jess Franco's "Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun" is the perfect film to show anyone who thinks all that Jess Franco is capable of is zooming in and out of tasteless sex scenes. Instead of his usual epileptic zooms, the cinematography in this is measured and carefully composed. The acting is also another plus. William Berger's portrayal as the Father Confessor is the epitome of slime and pretense. Let's not forget Susan Hemingway and her effortless performance as the innocent heroine of the title. In closing, this is a MUST-SEE picture and proof that Franco could make a film that would cater to the arthouse crowd.
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Nasty nunsploitation from the Godfather of Eurosleaze
Jens-2819 July 1999
Ken Russell's classic "The Devils" (1971) almost gave birth to a new genre of the exploits of sex starved and repressed nuns. "Love Letters Of A Portuguese Nun" is together with "Flavia The Heretic" one of best and it's also one Franco's most exciting. A teenager is caught kissing with her boyfriend by an evil priest who talks her mother into sending her sinful daughter to a convent. From the first day and all through the movie the poor teen is put through one sexual humiliation after another (incl. sex with satan who has one horn in the forehead!?!). It's sleazy as hell but also very done, beautifully shot, good locations and wellacted. "Love Letters.." could also be seen a comment on religion (Franco with a message?!?!). A must for fans of stylish European 70's smut!
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Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun
Michael_Elliott27 June 2008
Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (1977)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Fifteen-year-old Maria (Susan Hemingway) is caught by Father Vicente (William Berger) playing with her boyfriend in an innocent manor. The Father tells the girl's mother that she is possessed by Satan so the mother turns her over to a convent. Once there the girl realized that the Father as well as the main mother (Aida Vargas) are in pact with Satan and plan on turning her over to him. This isn't your typical nunsploitation film because it actually has a very strong message bashing the Catholic Church. A lot of these films are just out there to see lesbian nuns mess around and while we do get some of that here, the sexuality isn't the main goal. Franco is certainly trying to show the evils behind the walls of Catholic priests and this subject matter is certainly going to offend a lot of people just like it did when the film was originally released but after all the stories from the past five years it's easy to say this film and Franco were ahead of their time. Both Berger and Vargas turn in very strong performances and truly nasty ones as well. The entire film belongs to Hemingway who is simply brilliant here. Hemingway made a total of seven films in her career and all of them were with Franco, which I've watched six of. She's certainly a very good actress and it's a shame she got out of the business or was dumped by Franco but I've yet to hear any stories about what happened to her. She was around 15-years-old when she made this film so the scenes of her naked or being raped are going to turn a lot of people off but I think it brings a realistic nature to her performance as well as the film. There's nothing hardcore here but the scene where she is offered up to Satan is pretty disturbing. It appears Franco was working on a larger than normal budget here and he manages to turn over a very good looking film with some nice cinematography as well as a great music score. Franco has made a lot of exploitation films in his career but this isn't one of them. The message of the film is quite clear and very strong and in the end this ranks as one of the director's best films.
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One of the best in the genre
slayrrr66628 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"Love Letters of a Portugese Nun" is one of the best Nunsploitation films around.


During the Spanish Inquisition in 15th century Portugal, Maria Roselea, (Susan Hemingway) is having innocent fun with her boyfriend, but unfortunately, they are caught by Father Vincente, (William Berger) and threatens that the only way he can save her soul is if her Mother sends her to the Serreda Iris cloister, a local convent he supervises. When her mother protests, Father Vincente threatens to turn Maria over to the Inquisitors, and Maria is sent away. When she arrives at Serreda Iris, Maria immediately learns that the convent's Mother Superior, (Ana Zanatti) is now called Grand Priestess. As she is forced to undergo more extreme and extreme torture for the sheer pleasure it brings to the two in charge of the convent. Eventually finding that the coven is actually a front where the renegade priest and nuns perform Christian masses by day and worship the Devil at night, performing Black Masses and other lewd rituals in Satan's honor, she rushes to tell the authorities about the blasphemy, but constantly betrayed and tortured for her believes.

The News: This is a classic among Nunsploitation films. It's just a straightforward trial of the normal innocent nun piece, which the genre dictates certain scenes have to be in there and they are all here! Perverted priests, horny Mother Superiors, naked lesbian nuns, characters claiming their righteousness when we know otherwise, the infamous inquisition and a good old stake burning. There's no shortage of erotica in this movie, delivering with lustful, lesbian nuns, satanic sex rituals, lecherous priests, and plenty of exposed breasts and naked nuns. A couple of slight deviations though, the God of the convent worshipers is actually Satan, though to all outsiders they do claim to be Christians. Women usually emerge as the strongest, most resourceful figures in Franco's wild and wonderful world, yet few command our sympathy and admiration more than Maria. A bloody, bone-stretching session on the rack, encounters with a red hot poker; forced oral sex with Vincente ending with an almost subliminal cut of semen splattering Maria's face and an outrageous carnal coupling with the devil himself are just a few examples of a catalog of indignities forced on Maria by an evil regime that feeds on hysteria, and that doesn't include the tortures from before those sessions. After being examined to prove her virginity, Father Vincente takes Maria to the confessional, where he puts her through a humiliating confession where she can't see it, but the priest is actually masturbating to her sins! Later, The Grand Priestess strips Maria naked and tightly wraps thorn-covered switches around her breasts and mid-section. For her penance, the priest makes her perform oral sex on him then sacrifice her virginity to Satan in a Black Mass. While he rapes Maria, the other nuns break out in an orgy of lesbianism and masturbation. Zooms are thankfully minimal and barely noticeable. They're not of the nauseating kind, just a slow zoom in or out her and there, and none in quick succession. It's strangely sweet tempered at the end and achieves an emotional cathartics rare in the director's work. The titular letter-writing scene is quite haunting, and it gives a much needed feeling to the film. One of the most surprising things is how beautiful this film is, with the convent being a richly lush Portuguese Gothic locations, the lavish period costumes and sets, along with the painter's compositions, give this an aesthetic atmosphere and artistic distance which lift it above many films of this genre and other efforts depicting historical depravity. The contrast between the luxury of the convent and what happens within is quite striking and makes for a loving bit of contrast, as the film shoots the outside with a vibrant feel, and within, it's with a distant, unflinching eye. What problems there are about the film is its apparently schizophrenic nature. While it takes the utmost care in establishing period atmosphere and the mood of specific scenes, and doing so with great subtlety, the film then goes overboard with its frequent depiction of sexual activity among the nuns and their unmitigated devotion to Satan, as if the agenda of this so-called Abbey hadn't been made blatant already. It's worth noting the effect this appears to have had on Franco himself: Whereas he would normally delight in his voyeurism, focusing on the more abstract areas of the anatomy, here he adopts a surprisingly distanced, detached and cautious approach in depicting the tortures inflicted, almost as if he felt guilty or uncomfortable at showing what would have been run of the mill for any of his other similar films. It really feels like a disjointed effort that is really surprising considering where it's coming from, but otherwise, this is still a great entry in the genre.

The Final Verdict: One of the best in the genre, this is a Nunsploitation film with a great underlying sleaze appeal and with some of the best tortures imaginable in the genre, this one comes highly recommended for fans of the genre or Franco in particular.

Rated UN/NC-17: Full Nudity, several strong sex scenes, strong sexual themes, Violence, Rape and some Language
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A terrible disappointment!
joseceles1 August 2010
What led me to watch this film was the deceptive link it affects to have with the mysterious and hitherto debated origin of a series of letters written by a Portuguese nun from Beja in the Alentejo region, Mariana Acoforado, to her French lover Marquis De Chamilly. The original letters have been lost but they circulated in translations into several languages and were even published anonymously in Paris in 1669. Mariana's letters became synonymous with ardent love and passion, qualities attributed to Portuguese women for a certain time in those European countries where the letters were being read, with morbid curiosity no doubt. But the title is the only thing Jess Franco, the film's director, manages to salvage from what is otherwise a fascinating and mysterious relationship between a military man of aristocratic origins and the daughter of a well-to-do Portuguese gentleman who was placed in a convent at the early age of 11; her father's intentions were to assure her safety during the turbulent years of the Portuguese Restoration Wars (1663-68). This sad story of seduction and abandonment has its fruit in a literary genre of the letter. Franco's film could not possibly have strayed any further from the original tale of love gone wrong. Had the film industry existed during the time of the Reformation, the film would have been an excellent pamphlet of anti-Catholic propaganda. The film is a German production which somehow corroborates my suspicions that it could well be aimed at perpetuating a number of clichés concerning convents. We don't have secret tunnels connecting convents to the priest's residences; according to one of the clichés, skeletons of babies had due to illicit intercourse between priests and nuns littered these tunnels hidden from the eyes of the God-fearing populace. However, Franco's film presents us with an evil priest/confessor at a convent who obliges through lies to have a 15-year old girl, Maria Rosalea, put into the custody of nuns who turn out to be lesbian devil-worshipers whose plans for the little girl are mating her to the very devil himself during a nocturnal ceremony at which the rest of the community of nuns, dressed or rather undressed in cutaway habits receive the devil with frantic baring of their breasts while obscenely rubbing themselves with their wooden crucifixes and smacking their lips in sexual anticipation, avid to take the poor victim's place should Satan so require of them. As this does not happen they turn to one another for sexual solace. The priest had already been seen masturbating while listening to Mariana's confession. Later he forces her to give him head. He doesn't actually dare deflower her as her virginity is destined as an offering for the prince of darkness. Just in case anyone is wondering, the Inquisition makes its inevitable appearance in a confusion of events. While winding its ludicrous way towards the end the film suddenly changes genre. What seems destined to become a tragic ending with our innocent Mariana burnt at the stake, undergoes an unexpected turnabout and our heroine is saved by none other than the prince; a fit ending to a fairy tale. Had I not decided from the outset of the film that I would write a few lines for IMDb, I would not have been able to watch it till the end. If not the worst movie I've ever seen, it certainly occupies a very high place in the list.
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Watch something, no anything else instead.
BRENDAN28 July 2008
The plot of the movie, involving a girl being forced into a convent that was really run by Satanists was intriguing, and persuaded me to watch this (a decision I would come to regret). What sounded like it could be an interesting Nunsploitation/Witch hunting move instead turned out to be the worst example of either of those genres I have yet to see. The bulk of the movie consists of a bunch of vaguely connected scenes in the convent, some of them involving the so called satanic rituals, which were less than shocking to put it mildly. There is a fair amount of nudity, but don't expect anything even remotely erotic, all it does is make the movie seem progressively more and more sleazy (Not that sleaziness is necessarily a problem). The movie progresses at a glacial pace, and remains very uninteresting despite the potential of the subject matter. The trial sequence is very brief, and does not manage to capture any of the madness of such proceedings anywhere near the effectiveness of other witch-hunting movies. The ludicrously happy ending feels as though as they tacked it on at the last minute. All in all, it felt as though it was going through the motions of what a nunsploit/witch movie was supposed to be, but had nothing of its own to add.

The only thing that saved this movie from a 1/10 is the surprisingly decent production values and locations. (Although I doubt anyone but the medieval super-rich could have afforded to live in such splendor relative to what was common at the time.) 2/10
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The Best Franco Film I've Seen Yet...
EVOL6666 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I can't say that I'm a huge fan of the Jess Franco films that I've seen. I understand that some love him, some hate him - I've had a much more Luke-warm vibe from his films that I've seen, which haven't been many. But I will say that I found LOVE LETTERS FROM A PORTUGESE NUN to be one of the more "satisfying" Franco films, if still a bit "stale" and not nearly as glaringly "fun" and exploitative as other similar directors. A relatively common concept, but done with a bit of style and panache that Franco is (somewhat) known for...

Maria is caught screwin' around with her boyfriend, and is quickly sent off to the local convent by her mother, who is convinced that her daughter is in league with the devil. Turns out - the convent is just itchin' for some fresh meat, and her daughter was really the least of her worries as they're a bunch of Satanists. We got child-molestin' priests (pre-dating the current headlines by almost thirty years) that are all in league with the devil. Damn I wish Christianity was really this much FUN!!!

I can't say that LOVE LETTERS FROM A PORTUGESE NUN really brings much new to the table, but it was worth a view to my bourbon-riddled brain. A bit slow in parts, and it didn't contain any of the glorious hard-core scenes that other directors like Joe D'Amato pulled-off in some of his nunsploit films - but still worth a look to fans of the genre...7/10
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Slightly classier sleaze than usual from Franco.
BA_Harrison16 November 2016
Father Vicente (William Berger) catches pretty 15-year-old Maria (Susan Hemingway) flirting with her boyfriend, and has her sent to a convent where he can keep a closer eye on her. No sooner than she is cloistered, Maria is subjected to abuse, ultimately being forced to take part in a Satanic orgy, Vicente and the nuns all being followers of the devil (who makes a special personal appearance to take Maria's virginity!).

I admit it: sometimes—okay, quite a lot of the time—I'm just not in the mood to labour over a really in-depth and informative movie review, and am just happy to rattle off some old rubbish to get it out of the way. I imagine this is how director Jess Franco must have tackled a lot of his films… just get the bloody thing in the can and start the next one. Sod the quality!

Not so, however, with Love Letters From A Portuguese Nun, which feels like the director actually tried to make something a little more stylish than his usual dross: the locations and scenery are beautiful, the cast are half decent (there's no Lina Romay, whose 'beauty' I simply cannot comprehend), and the cinematography is classier than usual (fewer rapid zooms and out of focus shots). Hell, even the title is fancy schmancy.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day, behind this semblance of style, it's business as usual for Franco, his film ultimately being another predictable slice of sleaze, with the vaguest of plots to string together the obligatory scenes of lesbianism, masturbation, orgies and torture, all of which eventually gets very boring. As Franco films go, this is far from his worst, but there are far better nunsploitation films out there (School of the Holy Beast and Sister Emanuelle spring to mind).
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Demented nunsploitation from the one and only Jess Franco
Leofwine_draca19 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
As to be expected of a director from whose body sleaze exudes from every pore, LOVE LETTERS OF A Portuguese NUN, a beautifully-shot West German exploitation film, is as sleazy and perverted as they come. Taking the basic nunsploitation formula and mixing it with themes of black magic and witch-hunting (recalling his previous work on THE DEMONS and THE BLOODY JUDGE), Jess Franco creates another lovingly-shot slice of sometimes sick perversity. Brimming with nudity, sex, and torture of various kinds, this is definitely not a film for the faint-hearted yet fans of the director will know what to expect; altogether I think it would serve as a fine example of his typical output. Everything you can get from a Franco film is here and in spades, although this time it's noticeably less reliant on the zoom lens and boasts a better budget, with very nice cinematography and an excellent soundtrack of organ music, which comes as a bit of a surprise.

The plot is simplistic in the extreme: a young, virginal girl named Maria is kissing a lover and a deceptive priest witnesses the act. He forces Maria's mother into sending her away to a convent. However, where the basic formula differs here is that instead of mingling with the other girls, Maria instantly becomes a victim of lust and black magic from both the perverted father and the devil-cult which runs inside the convent. Franco treats us to some typically extreme images, including a sexual dream which incorporates some shocking subliminal imagery and some bloody fragments of torture footage. The most outlandish aspect is the orgy itself, presided over by Satan (as played by the hilarious Herbert Fux) as an intense, almost comical caricature, complete with red cape and black horn, who proceeds to rape the unfortunate heroine.

The film then follows a more straightforward route as Maria keeps attempting to escape and warn of her predicament, with predictable results: nobody believes her story. Events culminate in her being tried for witchcraft and stretched on the rack, and the climax is fairly exciting and suspenseful for a Franco movie. The performances are rather good here, especially Susan Hemingway who does well with the leading role of the victimised Maria, and Ana Zanatti as the creepy Mother Superior. The best turn comes from William Berger who plays the perverted Father Vicente; his performance is so over-the-edge that I'll have trouble watching the actor play his typical 'sympathetic old man' parts in the future! Lots and lots of nudity, lesbian fondlings, devil-man rape, and sadistic torture culminate in making the ultimate Franco experience, and at least its never boring as some of these nunsploitation films can be (the arty but dreary BEHIND CONVENT WALLS, anyone?). Demented fun!
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Shocking, but empty
Warning: Spoilers
"Die Liebesbriefe einer portugiesischen Nonne" or "Love Letters from a Portuguese Nun" is a Swiss / West German collaboration and the film is in German language. The year is 1977, so this one will have its 40th anniversary next year. The director is Jesús Franco and he is known for his violent, pornographic works from that era back then. So this one here is all about a nun who ends up in a monastery where almost nobody seems to be a really devout Christian believing in the Old or New Testament. Or maybe they believe too much in it as the entire 90-minute film is basically about punishing the nun for her dirty thought, even if these were just a dream while all the males in here have dirty thought about her of course too, no matter if they are priests. I must say I am a bit shocked that there actually exists an own genre about nun exploitation films. My innocent mind had never thought of something like that before. The lead actress here is Susan Hemingway and it is her first performance. A couple others (also in Franco films) followed before she ended her acting career fairly quickly. Judging from what I saw here, this is perfectly fine. I can't really see a whole lot of talent that goes beyond her beautiful looks. This is not a failure, but not a good film either. I give it a thumbs-down.
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Unabashedly offensive, but surprisingly decent for a Franco film
callanvass15 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I'm not overly familiar with Franco's work. I've only seen a couple of his movie. The story for this one is better than I expected with copious amounts of nudity and sex. I won't spoil everything, but this one takes the cake. I'm talking stuff like a cum-shot (Blink and you'll miss it) lesbianism, explicit crotch shots, hints of incest, grisly torture scenes, Satan worshiping in a church and lots more. Jess Franco is obviously trying very hard to be offensive and he managed to succeed with that a lot of the time as I couldn't believe my eyes at the dialog between one of the priests and a girl during this movie. I was also really impressed by how Franco managed to mirror the 1870's precisely. It was gorgeous to look at. My only true complaints about this movie are the crude dubbing and the talky pace at times.

This movie is certainly the best Franco movie I've seen thus far. It's talky at times, but never truly boring. There is more than enough absurdity to keep you interested.

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Classic Nuxploitation
chow91316 May 2013
FYI, there are only two letters written in the entire film and neither is a love letter.

Second, as usual IMDb fails to watch the movies they are summarizing. Maria is 15 NOT 16! Over the past year and a half I've been digging at the bottom of the barrel in search for movies I haven't seen. Hence, Giallo and other Italian films, old B&W films not good enough to be considered classics, and Bollywood, but mainly exploitation films.

The "nunxploitation" genre was one I could never get into. They mainly revolve around revealing the secret lives of nuns who all turn out to be Satan worshiping S&M lesbian rapist serial killers.

I don't mean "Satanic" and is "evil" or "bizarre." I mean "Satanic" as in they actually worship Satan.

I don't consider nunxploitation films to be anti Catholic since they all turn out to be Satanists they're not even Catholic.

1977's 'Love Letters of A Portuguese Nun' is a refreshingly good nunxploitation film.

Within the first 15 minutes we already have, a priest gratifying himself while taking confession, a 15 year old girl (don't ask me how old this actress really is) stripped naked and molested by a nun to confirm her virginity, Satan worshiping, and various S&M lesbian acts. And all this is JUST THE FIRST FIFTEEN MINUTES!!! The plot: (FYI, there are no love letters of any kind.) In Portugal during the Inquisition 15 year old Maria is caught innocently frolicking in the woods with her boyfriend Christopher.

An evil priest (although since they're actually Satanists no character is really a priest or a nun) falsely convinces Maria's single mother give that she's no longer a virgin and forces Maria to his convent. And even forces Maria's mother to pay him.

Of course the priest obviously wants Maria for his own sexual purposes and the convent turns out to be a secret bordello of Satanic S&M lesbians. Poor little Maria is too innocent to realize what's obvious to audience.

Over the next hour poor little Maria is repeatedly tortured, starved, and raped by both men and women during Satanic orgies. I suspect this is VC Andrews' lost screenplay. This is about 85% of the film so prepare yourself! The ending is very tacked on unfulfilling as far as the Satanists getting their just desserts.

All the stars I've given here are going to 15 year old Maria's nudity. (don't ask me how old this actress really is) The rest past the first 15 minutes is forgettable.
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Restrained yet powerful.
Nigel P1 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
With a title like that, and a director like Jess Franco, it's fairly sure that there will be a certain amount of sleaze in this film. I didn't realise how much - in many ways this is his most perverse project. 15 year-old Maria Rosalea Coutinho (Sarah Hemmingway) is spied enjoying a playful kiss and cuddle with a local lad by Father Vincente (William Berger), who then manipulates Mariah's terrified mother into forcing her into life at a convent. Vincente then brings himself to orgasm at the confessional booth after coercing Maria into telling of her mild sexual fumblings.

Many raised eyebrows were caused by the casting of Hemmingway, who looks extremely young, and who is tricked, coerced, tortured and humiliated by the hordes of liars, sycophants, perverts and manipulators around her, most of whom cloak their blatant indiscretions behind the veil of their perception of religion.

As you might well imagine, there are lesbian scenes between the nuns, complete with dialogue like "You have served the prince of darkness, now I will perform the ritual." These are restrained for Franco, and frankly rather too long. It is the treatment of young Maria which is most effective - a pure innocent who has been cast amongst this nest of vipers because of what they consider to be HER bad attitude! It's not nice at all. Especially as the unpleasant events are conveyed without spectacle, either by Franco, or the benign choral score from Walter Baumgartner.

As with all Franco/Erwin C. Dietrich collaborations, this is crisply shot and appears to have been provided with a decent budget. As always, the locations are incredible. An exercise in 'nunsploitation', the use of religion as a veneer of respectability is effective, and Hemmingway appears so naive with her character offering barely any resistance to the horror she finds herself in (excepting her pleas to a mother too stupid/timorous to help). Even Satan appears to join in with the black mass being practiced. Berger is highly convincing as Father Vincente, effortlessly bending others unto his will and gleefully taking advantage of Maria. You get the distinct impression he and others like him are used to getting away with these kind of atrocities and bare them no thought. Even through the barrier of dubbing, it is very easy to despise this rotter. Of all Franco's output, I find this film one of the most difficult to watch.
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Nunsploitation winner from the ever-twisted Jess Franco
Woodyanders12 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Innocent virginal teenager Maria (an appealing and convincing performance by the comely Susan Hemmingway) gets sent to a convent as penance after she's caught cavorting with a young boy. However, said convent turns out to be a front for a satanic cult.

Director Jess Franco, working from a bold script by Erwin C. Dietrich, offers a flavorsome evocation of the period setting, astutely captures the oppressive atmosphere of the abbey, tackles the edgy blasphemous subject matter head on, makes terrific use of the gorgeously opulent locations, and handles the expected nudity and soft-core sex in a surprisingly tasteful and elegant manner. This film gains considerable dramatic impact from its powerful and provocative central message about the abuse of power and perversion of sacred religious principles. Moreover, the fine acting from the excellent cast further enhances this movie's overall sterling quality, with especially praiseworthy contributions from William Berger as the depraved Father Vincente, Ana Zanatti as the equally wicked Mother Alma, Jose Viana as the fearsome Grand Inquisitor, Herbert Fux as a memorably creepy Satan, and Patricia Da Silva as Maria's timid God-fearing mother. Walter Baumgartner's lush score and Peter Baumgartner's beautiful cinematography are likewise proficient and impressive. Definitely one of Franco's best films from the 1970's.
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Hypocritic letters of a ponderous filmmaker
chaos-rampant13 March 2013
Its spring and I find myself gravitating to films where girls explore themselves, I saw a few of them. Maladolescenza was self-serious and symbolic, lame about confrontation. The Czech film The Virgin and the Monster was childish but layered. Alucarda was delirious and fun. So I thought I would round up this batch with the requisite Jess Franco, with one of his most appreciated.

Now my taste in European sleaze cinema runs to Rollin to Daughters of Darkness, which is a shorter step to the undressing of naked mind in Marienbad. In this one, as in Rollin, I appreciate the sensual simplicity, the transparent gaze of the camera.

My god, though. It's sensual but utterly worthless.

It has a hamfisted message against religion, I can get past that, it's a hamfisted religion. There is some noodling with what is in the tormented nun's head and what not, early on she confesses an erotic dream which informs a scene in reality. You can even roll on this the false fairytale ending, inspired by a letter she sends out. It could be a good film on layered dreams, but Franco simply won't let you indulge the pleasure.

There's a solid bottom of contrived 'real' here, which only makes his visual wandering seem more and more ponderous. What irks is that instead of reveling in the flesh he undresses, all the time he has to insist he's depicting religious wrongs. Lame.
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