Marianna de Leyva y Marino was born on December 4, 1575 in Milan. While she was from a noble family, there were numerous disputes over money after the death of her mother. At the age of 13, her father forced her to become a nun in the Monastery of Saint Margaret and despite claims that she would receive an inheritance, that never happened.
By all accounts, she was a friendly and modest woman, who was praised by community members and even recieved a letter congratulating her choice to go into the sisterhood from writer and historian Bartolomeo Zucchi.
Then, there things got scandalous.
In 1597, while working as a teacher at the convent’s school for girls, Marianna met Count Giovanni Paolo Osio, who had previously been accused of murder.
It’s important to realize just how rich, powerful and influential the nuns of this time were. Sure, they had entered the vow of poverty, but the truth was that Marianne was still wealthy, despite never recieving the money her mother left her. In addition to teaching, her duties included administering the property revenues and justice in Monza, so she was able to freely move through the society of the elite.
Her affair with the count began with letters, but soon grew physical, thanks to the complicity of the other nuns and even the priest Paolo Arrigone. After two children were born to the couple — one stillborn and the other adopted as an illegitimate child by the count — Virginia went so far as to murder one of the nuns who threatened to expose her. She did this with the full complicity of the other sisters and the count also killed the blacksmith who had made keys to the convent for him.
However, the governor of Milan eventually arrested Oslo for the murder. He escaped and was later killed by a friend, while Archbishop Federico Borromeo ordered a trial of Marianne, whose defense was that she had lost her free will due to the diabolical force of lust. After a lengthy trial that even featured torture, she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to be walled-in for 13 years in the Home of Santa Valeria. She survived this sentence and lived there for nearly three decades before she died in 1650.
The Nun of Monza has been the subject of at least five other movies — including Sergio Corbucci’s Il Monaco di Monza — but never before with the sense of crazy mayhem like Bruno Mattei would bring to the table.
Using his Stefan Oblowsky alter ego and working with a script from Claudio Fragasso, Mattei seems committed to giving those with no attention span exactly what they come to a nunspolitation movie for as much as he possibly can. One wonders if these sisters even went to church what with all the arrdvarkery going on.
Zora Kerova stars as Sister Virginia de Leyva. You may remember her as the tarot card reader in Anthropophagus or as the sex show worker in The New York Ripper or getting hung by hooks in Cannibal Ferox. Her father has sent her to be a bride of Christ to remove her from the temptations of this world, but as we soon learn, all the whippings and ecstatic devotions simply lead to her fantasizing that Christ himself has come off the cross to get her on her knees. Yes, Mattei is never subtle, is he?
That said, she’s not alone in her carnal state. The nuns can’t stop aggressively cuddling and even a priest tries to assault our protagonist inside the confessional. To make matters even weirder, he’s dressed as Satan at the time.
Giampaolo Osio (Mario Cutini, Play Motel) soon falls for Virginia. He’s friends with the evil priest and has been shown killing numerous oppoennts in duels. But before they can get to know one another biblically, Virgina’s father dies, making her the new Lady of Monza. This also allows her to become the new Mother Superior, which worries the evil priest and his lover Benedetta (Paolo Montenero, A Bay of Blood). They set up Virginia by having Osio assault her, but this being a Bruno Mattei movie, she soon falls in love and bears him a child. That stillborn baby is summarily tossed out a window.
Look, if you’re coming to 1980 Italian exploitation cinema for even the slightest hint of good taste, you are not going to find it. Mattei’s other nun movie, The Other Hell, is perhaps even more obsessed with daring the Catholic Church to be upset.
Margherita (Leda Simoneti, Adam and Eve vs. the Cannibals) theatens to exposes the entire sordid mess before she’s killed, which brings in the Inquisitor which ends with our heroine walled up, just like in real life.
While this movie is set in the 1600s, that doesn’t mean that it can’t have a funky soundtrack by Gianni Marchetti, who also scored SS Girls and Emanuelle’s Revenge. There are also appearances by Paola Corazzi (SS Experiment Love Camp, SS Camp 5: Women’s Hell), Annie Carol Edel (Almost Human), Franca Stoppi (Iris from D’Amato’s Beyond the Darkness, as well as appearances in Mattei’s The Other Hell, Violence in a Women’s Prison and Women’s Prison Massacre) and Mario Novelli, who was the engineer in Amok Train/Beyond the Door III, as well as showing up in Eyes Behind the Stars, The Scorpion with Two Tails and Warriors of the Year 2072.
Despite stealing the horses in love opening from The Beast, this is probably as restrained as you’ll get Mattei. That said, this is also a movie about nuns whipping each other, evil priests and infants being launched from windows, so don’t go in expecting Godard.