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With: Yumi Takigawa, Emiko Yamauchi, Yayoi Watanabe, Ryouko Ima, Harumi Tajima, Yuuko Oribe, Marie Antoinette
Written by: Norifumi Suzuki, Masahiro Kakefuda
Directed by: Norifumi Suzuki
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Running Time: 94
Date: 02/16/1974

School of the Holy Beast (1974)

3 Stars (out of 4)

And Then There Were Nuns

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In his great book Tokyoscope, Patrick Macias calls School of the HolyBeast "almost unbelievably blasphemous," and there's not much more I canadd. Though it's 3 decades old, the film is brutally, almost gleefullyaware of its own button-pushing. It dreams up some shocking andsubversive image, and then tries to top it. The plot has a beautifulyoung woman (Yumi Takigawa) joining a nunnery with the ultimate goal ofdiscovering what happened to her mother years earlier (her only clue isa cross with her mother's name etched on the back). While there, shelearns of the institution's many closeted skeletons. When the nuns thinkbad thoughts, they are trained to strip naked and flog themselves.Sometimes other nuns do the naked flogging. Most nuns engage in eitherlesbian sex acts or straight sex acts with the local priest. In onesequence, a nun confiscates a collection of dirty photos, then keepstaking them out of her drawer to look at them, alternately appalled andaroused. Director Norifumi Suzuki has more on his mind that sex andshock, however. He turns in a lovely, widescreen production withstartlingly beautiful use of color, shadow and space; it often lookslike a Mario Bava film. One particular scene combines Suzuki's brand ofbeauty and violence. A naked nun is tied up with barbed wire and whippedwith thorny roses; the red petals begin to fly off the stems and floatall through the frame. If nothing else, School of the Holy Beast isunlike anything you've seen before...

DVD Details: Cult Epics has done a gorgeous job preserving the film's scope and color with its new DVD release. Extras include a trailer, and interviews with actress Yumi Takigawa and critic Risaku Kiridoushi.

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