FLAVIA THE HERETIC (1974) – The Dungeon Review!

“Changed By God And Man…Into A Priestess Of Violence!”

Nunsploitation is one of numerous branches of the 70’s exploitation film. Nunsploitation is exactly what it sounds like; exploitative films about nuns that often include themes of lesbianism, rape and torture. It’s not terribly surprising that the vast majority of these films come from countries where the Catholic Church has a prominent presence like Italy and Spain. Personally, I love any film that questions religion, and Flavia The Heretic has the word “heretic” right in the title! Not to mention it features the great Florinda Bolkan as Flavia!

Flavia has been imprisoned in a convent by her brutal nobleman father. Tired of her oppressed existence under male domination and disillusioned by the sadism she witnesses, flavia flees the convent with companion Abraham. The duo doesn’t get far before they are captured. Abraham is jailed and Flavia is flogged and returned to the convent. Back in the convent she is befriended by Sister Agatha who detests all men and aspires to be the first female Pope. More determined than ever to escape, Flavia joins a group of raiding Muslims and takes one of its leaders as her lover. Flavia declares vengeance on her father and the convent and invades alongside the Muslim warriors. But Flavia learns that revenge is not always sweet.

Whether she is playing psycho or serene, Florinda Bolkan leaves an impression in everything I’ve ever seen her in. The woman knows how to do intense and has one of the coldest stares around. Bolkan is terrific here as always, but her dialog is a bit on the thin side early in the film, replaced with meaningful stares and glances. The film takes place sometime in the middle ages, which was not a great time to be a woman. To stand against your oppressors was a pretty big fucking deal and generally resulted in death. You really had to be true to your convictions! An interesting enough premise rooted in historical fact but
Flavia The Heretic really takes its time getting to the meaty stuff. The final scenes are lively, bizarre and full of sex and violence but they don’t give you much to tide you over along the way. The film is more artful than exploitative. It is surprisingly character driven, but it is also awkwardly paced and a bit slow because of it. Flavia The Heretic is a bumpy ride but entertained me nonetheless.

Flavia The Heretic is a really nice looking film bathed in muted hues and the old buildings, the beautiful landscapes that surround them and the costumes are all used to great effect. The score is excellent and has a wee bit of a spaghetti western tone that complimented it perfectly. While director Gianfranco Mingozzi takes a more artful approach, there is no denying that this is Nunsploitation. There is nudity, rape and graphic violence in the form of boiling liquid pored on naked flesh, slicing off of a nipple, and a wince-worthy skinning. Towards the end of the film the nun’s drink some whacky Kool-Aid that
allows them to throw away their inhibitions naturally leading to all manner of sexual naughtiness. The weirdest scene of the film is definitely a naked nun masturbating inside of a dead cow that is hanging suspended from the ceiling. I included a picture but it really doesn’t do it justice.

Flavia The Heretic is beautifully filmed, perfectly scored and a strong performance from Florinda Bolkan made the film very watchable. Director Mingozzi leans heavier towards arthouse than exploitation and its slow-pace definitely weighs it down at times. It has its memorable moments though and your patience is rewarded with an energetic finale jam-packed with your daily requirement of exploitative goodness. Flavia The Heretic has its issues but it is still a pretty good film. Recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 3/5

Directed By: Gianfranco Mingozzi

Starring: Florinda Bolkan, María Casares, Claudio Cassinelli, Anthony Higgins, Spiros Focás, Diego Michelotti, Raika Juri, Jill Pratt, Franca Grey, Laura De Marchi

7 Responses to “FLAVIA THE HERETIC (1974) – The Dungeon Review!”

  1. Even after reading the caption to that cow carcass/wank-off picture, I still can’t really process it. Truly bizarro.

  2. Hey Kate! I thought Flavia would be a flick you might appreciate, but you sure as hell weren’t going to like that ankle violence! You have to admit though, they did an impressive job with the effect!

  3. […] Flavia The Heretic I reviewed a couple weeks back Killer Nun is an exploitation flick that’s not all that […]

  4. Wow, I reviewed this last year as well. Erm, sorry to do this, but…

    http://moonwolves.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/jarvs-schlock-vault-flavia-the-heretic/

    I have to say, though, that I disagree with you on this- the ankle is horrible, but essentially this is a 1970’s message film tacked on to nunsploitation, and the nunsploitation isn’t even that well done. Not to mention that Flavia is a touch dull, and Florinda (while a great turn) highly unlikable in the part.

    Still, though, it looks like you’re working your way through Shameless’ catalogue as well- if you haven’t seen it Who Saw Her Die is a reasonably amusing piece of giallo with an epic Morricone score, and avoid Oasis of Fear, and Le Orme at all costs- they’re both terrible and really boring.

    • Jarv, no need to apologize, to each his or her own. I stand by my review. That said, it is unlikely I would ever revisit Flavia. I liked it, but it certainly has its isues. Nunsploitation flicks seem to rarely live up to my expectations.

  5. ..sometimes..having best times…

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