Color, 1981, 88 mins. 36 secs.
Directed by Bruno Mattei ("Stefan Oblowsky")
Starring Franca Stoppi, Carlo De Mejo, Francesca Carmeno, Susan Forget, Franco Garofalo, Paola Montenero
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), Shriek Show (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), Neo Publishing (DVD) (France R2 PAL), Dark Side (DVD) (Greece R0 PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

The Other HellThe Other HellNotorious for making films at the bottom rung of the Italian exploitation ladder, Bruno Mattei (often credited as "Vincent Dawn") has earned a special place in the hearts of junk movie fans with titles like Hell of the Living Dead, Rats: Night of Terror, and Women's Prison Massacre, not to mention depraved oddities like Libido Mania. It was inevitable that he would have to tackle a nunsploitation somewhere in there, and sure enough, in late 1980 he shot one with a much higher emphasis on horror than sex entitled The Other Hell. Given more press than usual in the American horror press at the time for a Mattei film, it was shot on 16mm and looked pretty terrible blown up for its handful of theatrical engagements (mostly as Guardian of Hell) before it skulked off for a long life on VHS, most notably from Vestron (which was utterly unwatchable). Filled with screaming, blood, Goblin music yanked from Beyond the Darkness, and sub-Bava candy color lighting all over the place, it's completely irredeemable trash -- which is pure catnip if you're a Mattei fan.

When The Other Hellmutilation and mayhem erupt during the embalming of a dead nun by her fellow holy sisters, the Vatican sends in young bearded priest Valerio (City of the Living Dead's De Mejo) is brought in to investigate the escalating uncanny events at the convent -- The Other Hellwhich also include his elder predecessor's fiery death and a red-eyed supernatural presence lurking on the premises. Anyone who tries to talk about the reasons for the disturbances starts to cough up blood, the grounds keeper (Mattei regular Garofalo) dies from an Argento-inspired dog attack, and the very creepy, domineering Mother Superior (Stoppi, the deranged Iris from Beyond the Darkness) not only makes life miserable for her charges but seems to be harboring a nasty secret as well.

Utterly lovable in its insanity and actually quite accomplished for a Mattei film (everything's in focus and some compositions are actually pretty stylish), The Other Hell is absolutely not where a newbie to Italian horror should start but loads of fun for those who know what to expect. The pounding score and regular injections of gore keep things zipping along quickly during the concise running time, and the dubbed dialogue is loaded with great nuggets like an early bit of wisdom about the dangers of genitals and a lengthy monologue about a satanic abortion that has to be heard to be believed. As with other Mattei films around this time, the film was actually made in collaboration with Claudio Fragasso (Troll 2, Monster Dog), who came up with the original story and directed huge chunks of the film due to The Other Helltheir heavily booked schedules with multiple projects in the air at the same time. Once again, it's a match made in movie heaven.The Other Hell

The Other Hell first appeared on DVD in the U.S. from Shriek Show in 2003, featuring a new 1.66:1 transfer from the Italian 16mm reversal negative that looked much better than the unwatchable tape versions but still looked very soft, flat, and full (as well as extremely smoothed out without a trace of film grain). Extras on the DVD include a pair of video interviews with a chain-smoking Mattei (8m37s) in Italian with subtitles and De Mejo (10m16s) in English covering the Naples cemetery where the opening was shot, the collaboration process between Mattei and Fragasso, the recycled music, the current state of the convent location (owned by the secret service now), the 16mm negative used to blow the film up for 35mm and the source for the DVD, De Mejo's pet dog named Dom DeLuise(!), and the herky jerky nature of the shoot with the leading man rotating between the two directors who were making The True Story of the Nun of Monza at the same time. Also included are the theatrical trailer and bonus trailers for Demonia, Hitcher in the Dark, Zombi 3, and Violence in a Women's Prison. The same source appears to be used for the 2006 French DVD, which contains English, French, and Italian audio options with optional French subtitles, an unsubtitled commentary by Fragasso moderated by Freak-O-Rama's Federico Caddeo, and a 26-minute video profile of The Other Hellhim in French only.

The Other HellBy the time Severin had the chance to bring this film to Blu-ray (with a simultaneous separate DVD reissue) featuring reversible artwork repurposing the film's U.S. and U.K. VHS art, the Italian negative was no longer feasible; interestingly, an English-language internegative was available that produces much better (and identically framed) results here with far better color reproduction (no more extreme blooming whites) and great deal of additional detail and actual film grain that allows you to make out actors' faces in medium and wide shots. It's still a pretty grubby-looking film of course, especially that scene right after the main titles in near darkness, but fans should be happy to see it substantially upgraded here. Audio options include English, French, or Italian LPCM mono with optional English SDH subtitles (labeled as "closed captions" on the menu). The commentary from the French disc has been included here with English subtitles for the first time, giving a more thorough breakdown of the tag team directing arrangement he had with Mattei and going into much more depth about how his original story idea morphed along the way to the finished product. The previous Mattei and De Mejo interviews are condensed down and reedited considerably into one featurette, "To Hell and Back" (11m22s), while "Sister Franca" (13m13s) features the actress, looking way more glamorous here than in her most famous roles, chatting about the makeup required to turn her into a stern nun, the beautiful locations, the making of that crazy baby boiling scene, her simultaneous night job on the stage (where she used the Stanislovky method), and her hatred of that unfortunately real chicken killing scene. The theatrical trailer is also included.


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Reviewed on April 13, 2017.