Thursday, May 14, 2020

SATANICO PANDEMONIUM (1975) (Mondo Macabro Blu-ray Review)


Label: Mondo Macabro
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 90 Minutes
Audio: Spanish PCM 1.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080P HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director:  Gilberto Martinez Solares
Cast: Cecilia Pezet, Enrique Rocha, Delia Magana,Clemencia Colin, Veronika Con K, Amparo Furstenberg

In the Mexican nasty-nun entry Satanico Pandemonium (1975) - truly one of the best movie titles ever - Sister Maria (Cecilia Pezet) is a goodly God-loving nun at a convent in the Mexican countryside, during what appears to be the time of the Inquisition. As the film opens she is picking flowers in the forest when she is approached by a sinister-looking man (Enrique Rocha) who appears to her in the nude. Frightened she flees back to the safety of the convent, but the image of the man haunts her. 

She prays but the man holds a strange sway over her, and she has visions of him, often appearing with an apple in hand, which is appropriate as it turns out the man is Satan himself. He later appears to her inside the convent disguised as one of her sister nuns, seducing her before revealing himself for what he is, and thus the evil has been planted within her. As her inherent goodness ebbs away she finds herself committing sinful blasphemies, first stabbing another nun with a pair of scissors, gleefully watching another nun hang herself, and then raping a a sickly adolescent boy before stabbing him to death, and then setting fire the cottage, burning both him and his grandmother alive to cover up her awful crime.

This is a strange film, it has a arthouse style that brought to mind something along the lines of Pasolini (Salo). The way the nun spirals into Satanic madness is fantastic, but even near the start of the film she's already a bit strange, acting on her  Catholic guilt with self-flagellation and wrapping her torso in a thorny cilice that draws blood. After giving into the satanic lesbian temptation, she moves onto raping  and stabbing that kid to death, strangling the suspicious Mother Superior, and eventually leading her entire convent into the arms of the Devil, and doing it all with a lot of not-unappreciated nudity, Cecilia Pezet being quite easy on the eyes. It's a film that's hitting all the nunsploitation touchstones, but doing it in a dreamy  atmospheric way, managing to be distasteful but artier and less vicious than something like Alucarda (1977). 

The film is well-shot and looks fantastic, the Gothic imagery abounds and the blasphemy is deliciously sinful with some cool Italian-style colored lighting that adds to the overall atmosphere, making this film an unforgettable bit of nasty-nun fun.       

Audio/Video: Santanico Pandemonium (1971) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Mondo Macabro, presenting the film in 1.85:1 widescreen in 1080p HD. We get two viewing options, one is a 4K scan sourced from pre-print elements and a 2K scan of a 35mm theatrical print. A text blurb indicates that the there was a "slight optical blemish" on certain reels of the 4K scan source, resulting in Mondo Macabro requesting a new scan from the licencor, but the only element not to have the optical issue was a theatrical print. That said, the theatrical print is in fantastic shape, and comparing the versions I think it's a bit of a toss-up to which I prefer. The 4K pre-print scan features tighter details, stronger clarity and more vivid colors, but the skin tones looks a bit cool at times. What I like about the theatrical print is the strong blue push, I like the aesthetic of it, though I have no idea which is closer to the original theatrical exhibition. The pre-print also version has warmer skin tones, and occasionally stronger primaries, but some of the darker scenes can be a bit muddy. The end result is that I am finding it hard to declare one version better than the other, their both inconsistent, but both are pleasing to varying degrees. There are pros and cons to both, but I give the edge to the 4K pre-print scan. Check out the comparison of the two versions of the film at the bottom of the review, where I have compared 24 screenshots.    

Audio comes by way of Spanish DTS-HD MA mono 1.0 with optional English subtitles. There's some age-related limitations to the fidelity but overall this is a clean and well-balanced audio presentation.  

Extras begin with a brand new audio commentary with Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger of The Daughters of Darkness Podcast, and it's fantastic. They point out that the film is a bit out of the ordinary for the prolific director, and how interesting it is that he doesn't seem to be coming at with a political agenda or particular morality, stating what sets it apart from other nunsploitation entries f the era and how it skirts both exploitation and arthouse.

We also get a set of archival extras with a 15-min interview with writer/co-director Adolfo Martinez Solares who is the son of the director. recounting what it was like working with his father, and that this was the of film he worked on with his father after graduating college, and how the satanic themes of the film deeply affected him, being a believer in God and the Devil. It apparently weighed on him so heavily that he vowed to never to work on films with witchy or satanic themes. He also touches on other Mexican horror films, including his father's Santo films, and tells some interesting cast stories from the making of the film. 

The second of the archival interviews is a 14-min interview with Nigel Wingrove of Redemption Films who talks about his love of nunsploitations films, making his own still-banned in the UK nunsploitation film Visions of Ecstasy (1989), After that he got into distributing cult films instead of making them, with his label really helping bring the seminal nunsploitation films to the forefront. There's clips from The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine (1972), Alucarda (1975), Satanico Pandemonium, and Wingrove's own films, including the aforementioned Visions of Ecstasy (1989) and Sacred Flesh (2000). 

The disc is buttoned up with a 14-min Mondo Macabro trailer reel, which is always a blast to watch. The single-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork featuring that bonkers painting of a nun ripping off her habit to reveal the grinning devil beneath, love that artwork!  

Special Features: 
- Brand new 4k transfer from a film negative.
- Two different versions of the film, 4K scan of pre-print materials and a 2K scan of a 35mm positive print 
- Exclusive interview with writer/co-director Adolfo Martinez Solares (14 min) 
- Audio commentary from Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger
- Exclusive featurette on nunsploitation with Wingrove of Redemption Films(11 min)
- Mondo Macabro Trailer Reel (14 min) 

Mondo Macabro's release of Satnanico Pandemonium (1975) is a devilish bit of awesomeness, offering two presentations, a terrific audio commentary, and a cool set of archival extras, what's not to love? If you're into Mexican horror, nunsploitation or just wildly demented world cinema you need this Blu-ray in your life, it's fantastic.   

Top: 4K Scan of Pre-Print Elements
Bottom: 2K Scan of 35mm Theatrical Print 


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