Sacred Flesh DVD Review

Written by Eric Strauss

DVD released by Heretic Films

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Written and directed by Nigel Wingrove
2000, Region 1 (NTSC), 72 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on November 15th, 2005

Starring:
Sally Tremaine as Mother Superior
Moyna Cope as the abbess
Simon Hill as the abbot
Kristina Bill as Mary Magdalene
Rachel Taggart as Catechism
Christopher Adamson as Father Peter
Eileen Daly as Repression

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Review:

Sacred Flesh is an usual bit of “nunsploitation” in that it spends almost as much time ruminating on the perils of repressed sexuality as it does lingering on the flesh of nubile young women.

The plot of this British film centers on the Mother Superior of a convent, who has apparently gone mad, seeing visions and locking herself away in the abbey. The Mother, well-played by Sally Tremaine, is trapped in a mental battle between lust, as represented by the critical Mary Magdalene (Kristina Bill, The Affair of the Necklace), and her vows to Christ, as represented by an even more critical skeletal nun (Rachel Taggart, Spider) and her leering green companion (Eileen Daly, the face of the Redemption video line).

As the Mother struggles to maintain her chastity, she is tempted by Magdalene, who throws the confessions of her young nuns at her as examples of how repression leads to sin — and how much sin turns her on, if only she’ll let it.

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The confession scenes are where the film’s ample nudity come into play, as the perversions grow in form and number. What starts with simple masturbation escalates through lesbianism, two priests seducing a young nun, and climaxing — pun intended — with three nuns kidnapping and faux-crucifiying a rival. 

Though this “Nuns Gone Wild” element requires little other than good looks and heaving bosoms from the younger women, the other roles require more skill — after all, they have lines. Tremaine and Bill acquit themselves well in the back-and-forth debate interspersed with the back-and-forth lesbian action, and Simon Hill and Moyna Cope, as two senior church officials discussing the Mother Superior’s problems, are also capable. There are some weak actors among the supporting players, but that’s a minor and typical quibble.

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Sacred Flesh also benefits from good, albeit limited, locations and costumes, giving it even more of a professional air. If the interchangeable younger nuns’ looks are somewhat anachronistic — with several obvious boob jobs, French manicures, heavy eye makeup, trimmed pubic hair and at least one visible belly-button ring — their habits are quite the opposite, looking very realistic.

And the dark stone walls and expansive grounds of an English nobleman’s home make for a very convincing abbey, and the interior sets match that appearance. Once again, a B-movie benefits from an advantageous location, and this one puts in the work to make the most of what it has.

But, in a way, it’s unfair to call Sacred Flesh a B-movie. Yes, it was shot in only a few days. Yes, at its base, it is an excuse to show two attractive young women 69ing on the floor of a religious sanctuary. But there is a definite sheen of professionalism throughout that rises above the low-budget roots.

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Video and Audio:

The good news is, the anamorphic widescreen image is bright and generally sharp, with plenty of detail visible.

The bad news is there is some softness and grain present, and the digital conversion has some issues with edge enhancement and haloing, plus a little bit of visible pixellization.

However, as low-budget films go, the image quality is so good, it’s surprising, and it’s easy to overlook the flaws during the best scenes, which are almost as sharp and polished as an average studio picture.

Oddly, the version Heretic Films was selling at conventions is widescreen, but most major retailers are listing the version being released this week as full-screen. Who knows what that change, plus the lack of anamorphic enhancement, will do to the video quality.

The Dolby 2.0 audio is less successful, with a hollowness to the soundstage that makes some lines hard to understand and a dialogue volume that compounds the problem when it has some trouble finding its equilibrium.

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Special Features:

The main extra is an audio commentary by Wingrove and Mick Southworth, “an associate of Salvation Films,” the production company. The commentary is honest and just as thoughtful as the film itself, as Wingrove discusses his intentions, the perils of low-budget filmmaking and the struggles converting a sex-based film to a more intelligent one. He even addresses some of the issues with the younger “glamour girls” and their stylized look, and is willing to explain the realities of the situation and how they meshed or clashed with his hopes and intents. A frank and professional job, fitting with the rest of the package.

Four sets of stills offer more than 125 images, including publicity materials (with some helpful captions regrettably absent from the other galleries), designs from the soundtrack CD, storyboards and on-set and behind-the-scenes photographs. It’s a good, well-rounded set of photos, with plentiful nudity and some amusing candid shots.

There are also a lengthy “teaser” trailer and a theatrical trailer that calls the film “Confessions of the Sacred Flesh.” The two are very, very different in tone, but both are appealing — especially the sex-filled theatrical one.

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Grades:

 
Movie: Threestars – It’s tough to grade a sex-based exploitation film, but the “sacred flesh” is very visible and there is some intriguing thoughtfulness when the participants are clothed.
Video: Fourandahalfstars – Not perfect by any means, but a strong picture that adds to the professional look of the film. Here’s hoping the retailers are wrong about the ratio.
Audio: Oneandahalfstars – The one element that fails to live up to the rest.
Features: Threeandahalfstars – The commentary is the only feature that rises above the basic, but it’s a very good one.
Overall: Threestars

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Conclusion:

Some films that change gears midway through wind up a fiasco, and some films that toss a layer of “class” onto their exploitation roots only expose their hypocrisy.

If Sacred Flesh had stuck to its sex-film roots, it would have been a forgettable bit of soft-core nunsploitation, nothing more than (admittedly beautiful) young women pawing at each other and stripping off costumes.

But instead, it tries to be something more, and that extra thoughtfulness and attention to quality — regarding both the film and the DVD — are what make it something more memorable.

There may be too little sex and too much talk for those just looking for a soft-core film, and there may be too much sex and too little talk for those seeking a statement on religion. But say this: Anyone renting a film with a name like Sacred Flesh and a masturbating nun on the box cover is looking for a specific type of movie. Sacred Flesh elevates itself above that type, and that’s to its credit.

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