The Killer Nun – Italy, 1978


The Killer Nun – original title: Suor Omicidi (“Sister Homicide”) – is a 1978 Italian nunsploitation/horror feature film directed by Giulio Berruti from a screenplay co-written with Alberto Tarallo. It is also known as Killer Nun and Deadly Habits.

The film’s excellent soundtrack score is by Alessandro Alessandroni (Lady Frankenstein; The Strangler of Vienna).

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Anita Ekberg stars as Sister Gertrude, who is recovering from neurosurgery, although her Mother Superior (Alida Valli) dismisses Sister Gertrude’s fears about rushed recovery. Unfortunately, soon enough, it becomes clear that Sister Gertrude’s fears were legitimate, as the hapless nun spirals into psychosis and addiction to morphine and heroin at the geriatric hospital where she works…

As well as initiating a lesbian affair with Sister Matthieu (Paola Morra), Sister Gertrude expels concerned Dr Patrick Roland (Joe Dallesandro) from the hospital, and a reign of terror is initiated, in which Sister Gertrude inflicts humiliating calisthenics on one group of elderly inmates, stomps on an elderly woman’s dentures, reads gory hagiographic details of the lives of tortured saints to her hapless charges and is judged to have thrown an elderly man engaged in sex with a nurse out of a window.


As if this weren’t enough, Sister Gertrude goes into a nearby town, picks up a man at a bar, and has impersonal heterosexual sex as well. Finally, the Mother Superior is convinced that she must do something about the aberrant behaviour of Sister Gertrude… but is she really the perpetrator of murder, or is someone trying to frame her?

The film was originally banned in Britain in 1983 as part of the so-called ‘video nasties‘ moral clampdown, the general air of sleaziness and in particular “pins in the face scene” probably attracting the attention of the authorities.


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Reviews [may contain spoilers]:

“An agonizing scene where a crippled patient climbs up a flight of stairs only to make it to the top and have Sister Gertrude waiting is a slightly disappointing final kill, and would have been better suited in the middle of the film. The twist ending, however, makes up for it even though if you’re paying attention you will have already seen it coming. All in all Killer Nun isn’t the mother superior of nunsploitation flicks but it is a solid release and sleazy enough,,,” Basement Screams

“Giulio Berruti is a far cry from a good director and the pacing, acting, mise-en-scene, tone and visual creativity all suffer as a result. Fortunately he does have an eye for subversive meanings, particularly his insinuations that the drug experience and the religious experience are closer than the clergy could comfortably admit.” Film Walrus Reviews

“Killer Nun certainly stands out as a rare giallo/nunsploitation hybrid and manages to deliver an attention-getting bit of sexy sleaze or violence every five minutes or so, including a nasty bit involving a scalpel that landed this on the video nasties list back in the ’80s and a squirm-inducing rainy sex scene that most likely killed the libidos of anyone expecting the usual hot ‘n’ nasty softcore nun action they probably expected.” Nathaniel Thompson, Mondo Digital



“Ultimately this film is a hybrid of sorts as it mixes elements form the nunsploitation and giallo genres.The Killer Nun is an interesting curiosity that fails to capture the depravity that is prominent in the best nunsplolitation films. In the end just like Sister Gertrude this film isn’t quite sure of its identity.” Michael den Boer, 10k Bullets

‘A creditable attempt in the the thriller vein with pathological highlights in which Berruti shows another side of himself.’ Spaghetti Nightmares

Spaghetti Nightmares


Killer Nun is blasphemous sleaze all the way, and as a bonus, it’s f*cking beautiful. It’s not quite the blend of the giallo and nunsploitation you’d think you could get, but it’s a great watch just the same. It makes an enjoyable slight break from the norm during a woman of the cloth themed movie night, while still checking all the boxes.” Video Religion

Cast and characters:

  • Anita Ekberg … Sister Gertrude
  • Joe Dallesandro … Dr. Patrick Roland
  • Alida Valli … Mother Superior
  • Lou Castel … Peter
  • Paola Morra … Sister Mathieu
  • Massimo Serato … Dr. Poirret
  • Daniele Dublino … Director
  • Laura Nucci … Baroness
  • Alice Gherardi … Janet
  • Lee De Barriault
  • Ileana Fraia
  • Antonietta Patriarca
  • Sofia Lusy
  • Nerina Montagnani … Josephine

Image credits:  Video Religion



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