JESS FRANCO MONTH: Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (1977)

It really says something about Jess Franco when the censored poster for one of his movies is filthier than the actual poster with nudity. I mean, red type that literally shouts, “Satanic lust behind cloister walls?” That’s how you get me to watch.

Who am I kidding? I watch anything and everything Jess Franco made.

Loosely based on the Letters of a Portuguese Nun attributed to Mariana Alcoforado, a Portuguese nun living in a convent named Convento de Nossa Senhora da Conceição, Convent of Our Lady of the Conception. There’s some debate over whether se was the real author of these letters, which tell the story of her affair with French officer Noël Bouton, Marquis de Chamilly and later Marshal of France. Some scholars think that the letters are fiction and were written by Gabriel-Joseph de Lavergne, although the actual Mariana did exist.

But this is a Jess Franco movie, so let’s prepare ourselves.

So while the basic theme of Maria (Susan Hemingway, born Maria Rosalia Coutinho) being in a convent stays the same, the convent is run by Satanists and our heroine is forced to make love to men women and even Satan himself. She writes a letter to God, which gets answered by a brave knight but ends up being taken by the inquisition and then tortured and burned at the stake.

So yeah, exactly like the book.

I mean, Jess Franco is the kind of storyteller that has Father Vicente (Wiliam Berger) bashing the bishop while Maria confesses that she wants to get biblical with her cousin. And she’s then forced to wear a crown of thorn over her privates because, well, I don’t know, it’s a Jess Franco movie. That’s usually my answer.

This is a filmed nightmare and also a dream, a time when Franco seemed to still take his time while never forgetting that it’s committing so many carnal and venal sins.

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