THE KILLER NUN (1978) Reviews and overview

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The Killer Nun will be released on Blu-ray in the USA and Canada by Arrow Video on October 15, 2019.

The 1978 Italian film has been newly restored in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative. Both the English and Italian audio and credits are included. It features uncompressed mono 1.0 LPCM audio with newly translated English subtitles. Daryl Joyce designed the new cover art; the original artwork is on the reverse side.

Special features:

  • Audio commentary by Italian genre film connoisseurs Adrian J. Smith (editor of MOVIES and MANIA website) and David Flint (editor of The Reprobate website) (new)
  • Beyond Convent Walls – Video essay on nunsploitation by Kat Ellinger (new)
  • Interview with director Giulio Berruti (new)
  • Interview with actress Ileana Fraia (new)
  • Interview with editor Mario Giacco (new)
  • Italian and international theatrical trailers
  • Image gallery

Here is our previous coverage of the movie:

The Killer Nun – original title: Suor Omicidi (“Sister Homicide”) – is a 1978 Italian horror feature film directed by Giulio Berruti from a screenplay co-written with Alberto Tarallo. It is also known as simply Killer Nun and Deadly Habits.


The film’s soundtrack score was composed by Alessandro Alessandroni (Lady Frankenstein; The Mad Butcher).


Sister Gertrude (Anita Ekberg) is recuperating after neurosurgery, although her Mother Superior (Alida Valli) dismisses her fears about rushed recovery. Unfortunately, soon enough, it becomes clear that Sister Gertrude’s concern was legitimate, as the hapless nun spirals into psychosis and addiction to morphine and heroin at the geriatric hospital where she works…

Aside from initiating a tentative lesbian affair with Sister Matthieu (Paola Morra), Sister Gertrude expels concerned Doctor Patrick Roland (Joe Dallesandro) from the hospital, and a reign of terror is initiated, in which Sister Gertrude inflicts humiliating callisthenics on one group of elderly inmates, stomps on an elderly woman’s dentures, reads gory hagiographic details of the lives of tortured saints to her hapless charges and is judged to have thrown an elderly man out of a window.

As if this weren’t enough, Sister Gertrude goes into a nearby town, picks up a man at a bar to enjoy an impersonal liaison with a man as well. Finally, Mother Superior is convinced that she must do something about the aberrant behaviour of Sister Gertrude… but is she really the perpetrator of the murder, or is someone trying to frame her?

The film was originally banned in Britain in 1983 as part of the so-called ‘video nasties‘ moral clampdown, the general air of sleaziness and in particular “pins in the face scene” probably attracting the attention of the authorities.

Reviews [may contain spoilers – click on links to read more]:

“An agonizing scene where a crippled patient climbs up a flight of stairs only to make it to the top and have Sister Gertrude waiting is a slightly disappointing final kill and would have been better suited in the middle of the film. The twist ending, however, makes up for it even though if you’re paying attention you will have already seen it coming.” Basement Screams

“Giulio Berruti is a far cry from a good director and the pacing, acting, mise-en-scene, tone and visual creativity all suffer as a result. Fortunately, he does have an eye for subversive meanings, particularly his insinuations that the drug experience and the religious experience are closer than the clergy could comfortably admit.” Film Walrus Reviews

“Sadistic, salacious, and downright delirious, Killer Nun is an absolute scream from beginning to end! Ekberg is pitch-perfect as Sister Gertrude, a character that can be high, horny, or hellish… often all at the same time, and she seems to be having the time of her life chewing the f*ck out of the scenery here!” Horror Fuel

Killer Nun itself has its fair share of issues, but there’s more going on here than in the average nunsploitation flick, and it’s a film in which fans who like their films a bit scummy will find something to enjoy. Arrow has provided a good number of extras on this disc, making it a naughty delight for any Killer Nun fan.” Killer Horror Critic

“Ultimately this film is a hybrid of sorts as it mixes elements form the nunsploitation and giallo genres.The Killer Nun is an interesting curiosity that fails to capture the depravity that is prominent in the best nunsploitation films. In the end, just like Sister Gertrude this film isn’t quite sure of its identity.” Michael den Boer, 10k Bullets

‘A creditable attempt in the thriller vein with pathological highlights in which Berruti shows another side of himself.’ Spaghetti Nightmares

Killer Nun is blasphemous sleaze all the way, and as a bonus, it’s f*cking beautiful. It’s not quite the blend of the giallo and nunsploitation you’d think you could get, but it’s a great watch just the same. It makes an enjoyable slight break from the norm during a woman of the cloth themed movie night, while still checking all the boxes.” Video Religion

Cast and characters:

Anita Ekberg … Sister Gertrude
Joe Dallesandro … Dr Patrick Roland
Alida Valli … Mother Superior
Lou Castel … Peter
Paola Morra … Sister Mathieu
Massimo Serato … Dr Poirret
Daniele Dublino … Director
Laura Nucci … Baroness
Alice Gherardi … Janet
Lee De Barriault
Ileana Fraia
Antonietta Patriarca
Sofia Lusy
Nerina Montagnani … Josephine

Some image credits:  Video Religion

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