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School of the Holy Beast 

Thursday, Sep 1 2005
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If nun-sploitation isn’t your bag, Japanese cult director Norifumi Suzuki’s School of the Holy Beast (1974) may not have much to offer. This one’s all kinky, creepy sacrilege all the time. The film opens at a hockey match, the first event on a one-night sampling of earthly pleasures (also including a steamy French flick, a glittering carnival, a man) before teenage Maya (Yumi Takigawa) checks herself in to the Sacred Heart Convent. There, shadows grow dark behind the high gray walls, but that only makes the place’s few splashes of color — the chapel’s red carpet, the purple flowers in the hothouse, the kaleidoscopic stained glass — appear all the more lurid and inviting. Gradually, we learn that the adopted Maya is on a mission to uncover the mystery of her mother’s death in the convent years before. The film’s rhythms, though, flow less from its building of suspense than from its heaving waves of transgression and punishment. Even without Maya’s defiant provocations, the convent’s young nuns-in-training are hell-bent on throwing a prolonged bachelorette party before settling down to be brides of Christ. Their secretive smoking, drinking and (natch) lesbian affairs are met by the mother superior with nude whippings staged for the sadistic pleasure of the older sisters — an orgy of retribution that climaxes in a perverse precursor to American Beauty, when a stripped-bare Maya is bound and beaten with long-stemmed roses, red petals fluttering in slow motion before spatters of blood on pale skin. Ultimately, it is Suzuki’s high, torrid style that sets this shocker above and beyond typical nun-sploitation fare. Released on DVD by Cult Epics, it’s a masterpiece in a genre short on Citizen Kanes. Other recommended new releases: Heimat: A Chronicle Of Germany (DVD); Major Dundee (DVD); Ong Bak: Thai Warrior (DVD); Weekend (DVD). VHS/DVD: Monster-in-Law. DVD: Aftermath: Unanswered Questions From 9/11; Almost Heroes; As Time Goes By: Complete Original Series; Assassins/The Specialist; Astronaut’s Wife; Don Juan Demarco; The Bachelor/In Love And War; Backyardigans: It’s Great To Be A Ghost; Bed Of Roses/Pump Up The Volume; Best Of The Beatles; Blue Ice; Body Language; Campfire Tales; Captain Video: Cliffhanger Collection; Chef!: The Complete Collection (Series 1-3); Classical Baby: The Dance Show; Classical Baby: The Music Show; Clueless: The Whatever Edition; Combat: Season 5: Invasion 1 & 2; Corrupted Hearts; Corvette Summer; Cup Of My Blood; Curb Your Enthusiasm: Complete Seasons; Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Fourth Season; Dance With Death; Dead Silence; Detonator/Detonator 2: Night Watch; Devil In The Flesh; Doomsday Gun; Eleanor & Franklin: The Early Years; The Fairly Oddparents: Scary Godparents; Evil Come Evil Go; Faith Of My Fathers; Fire And Ice; The Funny Blokes Of British Comedy; Garfield And Friends: Volume Four; Gay Republicans; Gene Autry Collection: Down Mexico Way; Go Tell The Spartans; Gravitation: Lyrics Of Love Ova; The Gumball Rally; The Hand Of Pleasure; Head Office; The Hidden/The Hidden 2; Heaven Help Us; The Heist; Hero At Large; House: Season One; I Vitelloni; I Was A Zombie For The FBI; In The Shadow Of The Stars; Jackie Chan’s First Strike/Mr. Nice Guy; Justice; Knowing Me Knowing You; The Late Shift; The Librarian: Quest For The Spear; Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has A Glitch; Loving Couples; Low Height; Married... With Children: The Complete Fourth Season; Max & Ruby: Max & Ruby’s Halloween; Memories Of Murder; The Mind Of The Married Man: Complete First Season; Mistrial; Mom and Dad Save the World; Moonlight Mysteries; The Morning After; My Scene Goes To Hollywood; Nature of The Beast; Nip/Tuck: The Complete Second Season; Off The Chain; A Paradise Under The Stars; Piano: The Melody Of A Young Girl’s Heart; Pirates of Silicon Valley; Pretty Woman 15th Anniversary Special Edition; The Purifiers; Quick Change; Rollover; Rumble In The Bronx/The Corruptor; Sahara; Schultze Gets The Blues; Second Civil War; The Sensuous Nurse; Shot Through the Heart; Sleepover; So Wrong They’re Right; Spend An Evening With Saddle Creek Records; Strapped; Terror At Orgy Castle; The Purifiers; The Shirley Temple Collection: Heidi, Curly Top, Little Miss Broadway; The Staircase; Things I Left In Havana; Tommy Boy: Holy Schnike Edition; The Transporter Special Delivery Edition; Traveling Man; Twelfth Night; Victory In The Pacific; Vincent: The Life & Death of Vincent Van Gogh; Walk on Water; Warm Springs; Water Under the Bridge; Weapons of Mass Distraction; The Winter Guest; Wise Guys.

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