3/16/09

Grab Bag: The Other Hell (1981)

It’s another Monday, and it’s time for another Grab Bag pick. This week, seeing as Bruno Mattei’s Hell of the Living Dead got chosen to be Terrifying Tuesday, I thought I would cover another Mattei film today. Consider it a Mattei-in. Yep I went there, and the real reason I chose this film was two fold. One, so I could use that lame pun, and two, I wanted to take a look at some Nunsploitation. Having been all over the exploitation map lately, I realized that the exploitation of Nuns had somehow eluded me. Well, no more. For tonight, we have a film that is full of all kind of nasty habits. (Sorry, sorry, but I thought I should get that one out of my system as well.) So Ladies and Gent’s let’s slip into your best penguin outfits and take a visit to a place called….

The Other Hell [Italian: L'Altro inferno] (1981) starring Franca Stoppi, Carlo De Mejo, Francesca Carmeno, Paola Maontenero, and Andrea Aureli. Directed by Bruno Mattei. 

After a couple of nuns die under mysterious circumstances, Father Inardo (Andrea Aureli) is dispatched by the Church to investigate. Once he arrives, he performs and exorcism on one nun and intends to reconsecrate the convent. As he begins the rites, he is interrupted by the screams of Sister Rosiara (Susan Forgot), but when they go to check on her, all that is left of her body is blood and an empty habit. At wits end, he reports to the Bishop, and they send in Father Valerio (Carlo De Mejo), a young priest intent on finding out the truth. While the nuns have a supernatural explanation for the goings on, Valerio seeks a more corporal villain. However as the twisted truth of the convent begins to come to light, Father Valerio may well find himself face to face with the devil in the flesh. 

The Bugg Picture


Mattei starts the film strong when a nun gets lost in the bowels of the convent and finds Sister Rosaria defiling the body of a sinful nun whose genitals were “The gates of evil”. After a superb speech on the evils of the vagina, she turns the knife on the lost nun, and sparks the chain of events which lead to the arrival of Father Valerio. The problems start right after that. With scenes that seem slapped together and a plotline that is nearly impossible to follow, The Other Hell may well refer to what the viewer goes though while trying to decipher the story. I am pretty used to Italian horror films and their propensity to have disjointed narratives, but The Other Hell really took that to another level. 

I really feel like there was a decent nugget of a good film in there. However, this was one of Mattei’s first forays into horror with his previous films focusing more on Nazis and sexploitation respectively. Co-director and screenwriter Claudio Fragasso was pretty new to the genre as well, but he would go on to leave an indelible mark on horror history with a little film called Troll 2. In the interviews contained on the DVD, Carlo De Mejo recollects how the two directors would film separate scenes at the same time. I’m sure this was to save money on a low budget picture, but I am also sure that this leads to the disjointed feeling that the film has. You see, it’s not only the narrative that feels forced, but the very filming of the scenes does as well. The version of the film I had from Shriek Show was recently remastered from the original 16mm print (which was blown up to 35mm), and still the picture quality was quite dark in some scenes. I shudder to think what it must have looked like before the print was cleaned up. 

The acting in the picture is okay at best. Carlo De Mejo, most recognizable to horror fans as Gerry from The City of the Living Dead, fills role as Father Valerio well enough. His character is perhaps best summarized by Franco Garofalo as the creepy groundkeeper when he tells Father Valerio, “You don’t seem like a priest. You act more like a cop.” It’s a true statement and kind of a pity that De Mejo never got a chance to make any Politzia. Other than that it’s hard to pick out many standouts among the nuns. I’ll be honest after a while they all started to look alike. However, Franca Stoppi’s Mother Vincenza clearly steals the show, and by steals the show, I mean does some glorious overacting. Her final scenes have to rank up there with some of the best melodramatic cheesetasticness which I have had the pleasure to see. 

The other nuns all blend into one another and soon so do the scenes. With no cohesive story to carry them along, it was a chore to pay attention. To add insult to injury, Goblin, fresh off providing the score for John Woo’s Bedazzled homage Mo deng tian shi, here provides another solid work that sounds, well, like Goblin. The problem is the tone and atmosphere does not lend them to prog rock. Several of the scenes in the convent seem almost laughable as the band’s typical style clashes so greatly with the staid religious surroundings. That’s not to say that the soundtrack was not good; in fact, if I could listen to it without the context of Nuns and a Nunnery, I would probably really enjoy it.

The Other Hell is a film which I really wanted to work, and I would say perhaps 50% of it did. The other half was just a mess, and quite a mess at that. By the time the end rolled around, I was satisfied with the way they wrapped things up, but at the same time, I had no clue as to if it made any sense. This being the first Mattei film I have watched and my first Nunsploitation flick, neither of which were probably a good idea, and to anyone looking to get into Bruno or the sub-genre, I would recommend starting elsewhere. Otherwise you'll neither reach the other heaven or the other hell, you'll just be stuck in mundane movie purgatory.




Bugg Rating 


6 comments:

  1. Another one that I'd say we see eye to eye on. This one was rough, but the idea was a good one--Mattei just couldn't pull it off. Not a complete waste of time, but not much to rave about either.

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  2. Bruno is not the most competent director. Really.

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  3. Those "seperate scenes" were for Nun of Monza,Other Hell was directed by Fragasso.

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  4. Thanks for the comments Nigel and Rev. I'll be interested to know what you have to say about Hell of the Living Dead Tomorrow.

    Anonymous, IMDB lists them as co-directors as does the film's credits. In the interview footage with both Mattei and De Mejo, both spoke to the fact that it was co-directed, and that Non of Monza was being filmed at the same time as well.

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  5. Ive only seen the film twice, once out of the same curiosity for the nunsploitation subgenre, and a second to try to get my wasted money's worth. A third viewing would definitely be out of pity.

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  6. I saw the Other Hell a super long time ago. I don't remember too much of it, other than I closed my eyes a lot (I'm pretty sure I was about eight) perhaps it's time to revisit.

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