Malabimba Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome
Directed by Andrea Bianchi (as Andrew White)
Written by Piero Regnoli
1979, 100 minutes, Not Rated
Released on April 28th, 2020
Katell Laennec as Bimba
Mariangela Giordano as Sister Sofia
Patrizia Webley as Nais
Enzo Fisichella as Andreas
Giuseppe Marrocu as Adolfo
Elisa Mainardi as The Medium
Giancarlo Del Duca as Giorgio
Members of the Caroli family hold a séance and channel a restless spirit named Lucrezia, who speaks through the medium and causes clothing to fly off the participants. The spirit travels throughout the castle looking for a willing host when it happens upon the innocent, sixteen-year-old Malabimba. “Bimba” undergoes a sexual awakening and suffers wild mood swings. Her erratic behavior has her father, Andreas, worried and he seeks the help of a doctor. Her condition is dismissed as simply puberty combined with psychological stress. Sister Sophia, a nun living in the castle, agrees to help the girl through positive reinforcement, unaware that the trouble stems from a dark and sinister force.
The rest of the family carries on as though everything is normal, despite Bimba’s outbursts. Andreas is having money troubles and plans to sell the castle for something more modest. His mother objects and callously suggests he marry his wealthy invalid brother’s wife, Nais, to assume control of his finances. Nais is a nymphomaniac who enjoys teasing Andreas with sexual advances, which he consistently rebuffs. A sexual tension spreads through the castle as Bimba spies on her family’s exploits and secret hook-ups. She works out her frustrations “playing” with her stuffed animals in a more mature manner. When her teddy bear is no longer enough to satisfy her, Bimba turns her possessed body towards those around her. Can Sister Sophia rein her in and reclaim her soul from evil or will she become its next target?
Malabimba is a choice selection of Euro-sleaze from Italian director Andrea Bianchi (Strip Nude for Your Killer), credited here as Andrew White. This Gothic horror tale combines the popular wave of possession films with erotica. There are long, spooky corridors, dark and stormy nights, a séance, a nun and plenty of sexual tension. Written by Piero Regnoli (Nightmare City), the script makes room for an endless stream of masturbation scenes and throws in a surprising element of incest for good measure. Bianchi fills the screen with nudity and yet distributors were not satisfied and ordered hardcore inserts for the sex scenes without his approval.
Newcomer Katell Laennec takes the title role as the troubled teen and maintains a perfect balance of innocence and malevolence. There are a number of intimate scenes with her character in the nude and a few adult encounters that are a bit shocking. Her best scenes are opposite Mariangela Giordano (Don Milani) as Sister Sofia, and the two work well together as the spirit toys with the nun’s efforts to comfort the vulnerable girl. The most interesting character is Nais, played by Patrizia Webley (Salon Kitty) as a carefree, promiscuous woman who is confident in her actions and persistent in her goals. It is interesting that her behavior goes unpunished and she is free to do as she pleases, as most scripts would offer some negative judgment.
Malabimba is rich with atmosphere as Bianchi explores the spooky castle setting and mixes it with a softer, erotic style of storytelling. A generous amount of black humor is paired with some on-the-nose symbolism, but the film is rather light on plot. There is a decent amount of character development, although one guy named Giorgio’s only motivation appears to be food and having sex with Nais. There are some similarities between this picture and the American horror film The Entity, with a sexually driven spirit, but Malabimba aims for titillation over terror. It’s worth checking out as a curiosity, but you may want to stream it before making a purchasing decision.
Video and Audio:
The disc opens with a notice that the original 16mm camera negative was scanned by an outside lab in Rome and the source material arrived damaged. Efforts were made to restore the image, but were not completely successful. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, picture quality is surprisingly strong overall with rich colors and deep black levels. The damage is fairly minimal, consisting primarily of some staining but is not too distracting.
In addition to the damaged negative, some audio is video-sourced since no matching sound elements could be found. An Italian DTS-HD MA 2.0 preserves the original mono recording with only a few instances of minor disruption. Dialogue levels are always understandable and free from distortion.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Authors Samm Deighan, Heather Drain and Kat Ellinger provide a lively and entertaining audio commentary, as all three ladies are huge fans of Italian sexploitation pictures and the work of director Andrea Bianchi. They share their favorite scenes, comment on the batshit tone and mention other possession films of the era. There is also discussion of the themes and complex characters as well as notes on the cast and why this film is not categorized as Nunsploitation.
Actress Mariangela Giordano and cinematographer Franco Villa share their memories of the film in the segment Malabimba Uncovered (17 minutes). Topics include some interesting production stories, thoughts on the director and cast, the castle location, nuns in cinema and the erotic content in this picture. Villa denies shooting any hardcore material but says otherwise it is a pretty good movie. This featurette is in Italian with English subtitles.
A still gallery (1 minute) plays a collection of German promotional pictures as a slideshow set to music from the film.
The theatrical trailer is also included and is loaded with nudity.
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