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 it's inspiration. It's a tawdry sex flick dressed in darker robes. All the plot mechanizations borrowed from the horror genre are there solely for the purpose of pushing MALABIMBA from one sex scene to another. In a rather unexpected move, MALABIMBA eschews the normal misogynistic tone of similar films and manages to attain a degree of genuine eroticism. Taken at this surface level - and how else would one take a film whose full title is MALABIMBA, THE MALICIOUS WHORE? - the film is success.
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.
MALABIMBA is often called one of the sleaziest films to come out of Italy in the 1970s. I disagree. Perhaps it's the wonderful visual quality of the film - MALABIMBA was lensed by Franco Villa, a talented cinematographer best known for a slew of spaghetti westerns, a few wonderful thrillers like NAKED VIOLENCE, THE ITALIAN CONNECTION and THE BOSS, as well as two underrated gialli, ASYLUM EROTICA and GIALLO A VENEZIA - that detracts from the queasy plot elements. Perhaps not. Watching MALABIMBA, I didn't find myself repulsed by any of the goings-on. I didn't feel anything other than slight intrigue bordering on boredom. Unless, of course, Katell Laennec was on screen.
In the role of Bimba, Laennec manages to go from virginal, pubescent girl to full-on seductress believably and potently. Few actresses would be able to out-sex co-star Patrizia Webley in her prime but Laennec does it time and time again during the film. She is not only a stunning young woman but she commands a great deal of attention, clothed or not, when she is on camera. Perhaps the most infamous scene in all of MALABIMBA is the scene where Bimba does a naughty strip tease in front of her bed-ridden uncle Adolfo before slowly climbing up his body and fellating him to death. It's the most memorable scene in the whole film - death by blowjob? How could it not be? - but the hardcore payoff, shot in leering close-up, can't match the erotic intensity of the stripping bit that precedes it. MALABIMBA was Laennec's first and only film. Damned shame, that is, as I can think of quite a few films of this sort that could have used her.
I don't really know how I feel about this film. It isn't good but it isn't bad either. Whether or not you enjoy it will depend largely on how attractive you find the two female leads and whether or not your mood is conducive to watching nearly endless scenes of masturbation and copulation. Generally speaking, I'm not adverse to either and MALABIMBA was a decent enough way to spend an hour and a half of my time.