The pretty Cecilia Peret (LABERINTO) is Sister Maria, a kind soul renowned at her convent for her charitable nature. She's especially kind to sick animals, young farmhands and suicidally depressed nuns.

All this begins to change, however, when a man (Enrique Rocha) appears before her naked while she's picking flowers one sunny afternoon. The man starts to appear to her regularly, offering a juicy red apple to her. Maria resists and flees on several occasions, and refuses to discuss this with anyone.

Early in the film, Maria's torment at these visions is expressed by her need to lock herself away in her room and give herself a good whipping - punishment for what she sees as wrongful thoughts of sexual desire.

Later that evening, Maria is accosted by a fellow nun, who proffesses her love for our holy heroine. Moments later, the nun has thrust herself upon an initially reluctant Maria and removes the sister's robes. As the nun proceeds to give Maria oral pleasure, she turns into the man. He awakens Maria's passion, then pulls away and advises her that he is in fact - surprise! - Satan.

Old Nick tells Maria that whenever she wants or needs him, she just has to think about him and he'll always be there.

Maria is understandably quite upset by the whole experience and as a storm rages outside, she weeps in her room all night long. The following morning, on the other hand, is a different matter entirely.

Maria wakes up decidedly frisky, trying it on with not only the under-age farmhand Marcello but also later with the attractive sister Clemencia. Both parties flee from Maria's advances, Clemencia receiving a pair of scissors in her back for her troubles.

It would seem, then, that the devil has awoken Maria's sexual desires and led her into temptation. Just in case any more proof of the saintly Maria's descent into evil doings were required, we witness her assist in the impromptu suicide of a previously troubled nun.

Think that's bad? Things - and Maria - get a lot crazier! Gory knifings, paedophilia, graphic torture hallucinations and a twist ending are all still to come.

SATANICO PANDEMONIUM is actually a very well-made film, and one of the more interesting entries into the 1970's Nunsploitation cycle.

Director Gilberto Martinez Solares (HOUSE OF TERROR; several Santo movies) makes full use of Mexico's gorgeous landscapes, giving the film a rich, colourful look. As lurid as it is beautiful, the look of the film will satisfy Eurohounds to no end.

Jorge Barragan and Adolfo Martinez Solares' screenplay is unusually intelligent, with a fair attempt to rationalise the conflict between good and evil being made. There are digs at the blind faith of organised religion, and the fact that Maria struggles consistently with her conscience makes her character all the more interesting.

The acting, too, is above the level usually endured in this type of film. Peret is great in her role, while Rocha wisely handles his role as tempter in a subtle manner - a more hammy performance would have made it laughable.

Fans of this enjoyable yet little-seen gem should start wanking now, as Mondo Macabro's disc is excelllent.

Firstly, the video quality is brilliant. Presented in it's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and anamorphically enhanced for 16x9 TV sets, thje film's been transferred direct from the original negative and it shows. Colours are bright, pin-sharp and vibrant. The final frame has minor print damage that is unavoidable, but not distracting.

The film is equipped with a Spanish stereo 2.0 soundtrack which is faultless. Removeable English subtitles are error-free and easy to read.

The film can be accessed via 12 chapters. The disc has very attractive animated menus, revelling in some of the movie's more satanic images.

As usual with Mondo Macabro releases, the extras are almost as good as the films themselves. In fact, the fact that any extras exist for such an obscure film from 32 years ago is amazing. But here they are:

THE DEVIL WENT DOWN TO MEXICO. An all-new 16 minute on-screen interview with co-writer Adolfo Martinez Solares (the director's son). He speaks of his dad's illustrious film-making career, the inspiration for SATANICO PANDEMONIUM and how the extras in the film were actual prostitutes! Mr Solares' English is fine, so subtitles are not required.

HOUSE OF THE WRITHING NUN is an 11 minute review of Nunsploitation films by Redemption head honcho Nigel Wingrove. He comes across as a lot less slimy than in previous interviews, and speaks candidly about his censorship woes when releasing VISIONS OF ECSTASY. Along with VISIONS, we're treated to clips from THE NUNS OF SAINT VALENTINE, ALUCARDA, SACRED FLESH and PANDEMONIUM.

A couple of galleries include several lobby cards and theatrical artwork relating to the film limited release in the early 70s.

A text essay on Nunsploitation films by Anthony Hartman offers a lot more info than the aforementioned featurette, as does the lengthy filmography of Nunsploitation films culled from Steve Fentone's excellent ANTI-CRISTO book.

"About the Director" is exactly how it sounds - an interesting text biography of the hugely prolific Solares.

Finally, there's a nifty 3-and-a-half minute promo reel for Mondo Macabro releases - the likes of ALUCARDA, PANIC BEATS and ASWANG are advertised to good effect.

A great package from the ever impressive Mondo Macabro stable. And the film is an overlooked gem, now ripe for discovery on this excellent DVD.

Review by Stu Willis

For ordering info visit the Mondo Macabro website by clicking here.

Released by Mondo Macabro
Not Rated - Region All (NTSC)
Extras :
see main review