October 13, 2017


A long, long time ago, on a website long since extinct, I wrote a review for a 1979 Andrea Bianchi movie called MALABIMBA. As I still have a back up of that review lying around, allow me to present you with a highly edited (and poorly written) summation. Ahem. 

MALABIMBA is not a nunsploitation film. I'll just get that out of the way right now. It's not even really a horror film, though it mines THE EXORCIST for a bit of it's inspiration. It's a simple, tawdry sex flick dressed in darker robes. All of the narrative machinations borrowed from the horror genre are there solely for the purpose of pushing MALABIMBA from one sex scene to another... 

The story concerns the Karoli family, a group of cash-strapped bourgeoise who are in immanent danger of losing the family estate. Andrea, recently widowed and living in the estate with his young daughter Bimba, knows the gravity of the situation all too well and his mother, ever indignant and dead-set against leaving the home, offers him a solution. She proposes that he marry Nais, the rich, slutty wife of his invalid brother, Adolfo. Once Adolfo kicks the bucket, Andrea and Nais will tie the knot, keeping the money in the family. This is not something Andrea wishes to do though he clearly craves a little one-on-one time with his brother's wife. 

Now all of this is well and good but it's really unimportant. What IS important is the opening scene of the film, a seance which unleashes the spirit of a particularly malevolent member of the family. The ghost spends a few moments molesting the party guests before flying upstairs to possess Bimba. What follows from there is, more or less, a series of erotic encounters between the people living in the home with a copious amount of masturbation thrown in to pad the running time. In keeping with the tradition of Italian sexploitation films, these scenes run from fumbling, near-comic excess to genuine eroticism, several punctuated with hardcore penetration shots.

I bring this up because what is listed above is not only the plot to MALABIMBA, it’s also the plot for SATAN’S BABY DOLL. Or at least, the vast majority of it is. There are some differences, but overall it is exactly the same. And for the most part, everything that occurs past that point in the plot summary is exactly the same too. The only real difference between Bianchi’s original film and Mario Bianchi’s 1982 remake is the tone. MALABIMBA was very much concerned with eroticism (and thanks to a cast that included Patrizia Webley and Katell Laennec, it succeeded with its goal) over spooks. SATAN’S BABY DOLL tries to have it the other way around.

So it would have been a much better choice for Bianchi to jettison all the masturbation and nudity. MALABIMBA was notorious for a single scene, a bit of oral sex between the possessed Bimba and her crippled uncle. Any film that contains a death by blowjob is probably going to gather attention. Well, that scene is repeated here with the gorgeous daughter Miria (played by Jaqueline Dupre) sucking off the wheelchair bound Ignazio. But it isn’t the knob polishing that does him in here. Instead, after suddenly gaining the ability to walk, the dumb bastard falls down a hole and dies.

Mariangela Giordano is featured in both films, playing the exact same role of a nun. In both films, she is used as little more than a sex object, a character only included so that folks with a nun fetish could get their rocks off. Both films give her long masturbation scenes. None of this needed to occur or to be included in a film interested in giving people the chills instead of the hot flashes, yet here they are. 

SATAN’S BABY DOLL does do a little bit more with the family dynamics though. It takes the lax narrative of MALABIMBA and attempts to put a bit of a family drama spin on it. The patriarch of the family, here named Antonio, mourns his dead wife, Maria. The family doctor, ostensibly only concerned with treating the ailing, crippled Ignazio, is hiding feelings of grief, too. It seems everyone in this house (with the exception of Miria) was in some form of a romantic relationship with the dead Maria. That bit of scandal is what pushes the narrative forward. Everyone knows of everyone’s coming and goings, petty jealousies rage, tempers boils over and, eventually anyway, the true cause of Maria’s death is revealed.

And sure, that’s all fine and dandy, but the goddamn film is so slow moving and uninteresting that there might as well not be any plot at all. Maria’s possession of Miria and her slow revenge against the family is handled with no real sense of urgency. Whole stretches of the film are spent watching people do repetitive, mundane things. The opening two minutes is just two naked women in an embrace. The following three minutes are spent watching a family stand around a corpse. At least ten minutes of the film are spent watching a men throw temper tantrums. There’s no pulse here.

Unlike MALABIMBA, which is a leaner and far more visually stimulating film. If you need to see only one version of this particular tale, please make it that version. SATAN’S BABY DOLL has the far more eye-catching title, but it has far fewer pleasures to savor.

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