It's not easy defending the honour of sordid films. Openly supporting exploitation movies makes you an easy target for allegations of immaturity, violence, sexism and outright perversity. This is a hard lesson that Gort learned all too well this week.
I passed the Mothership's recreation deck on my way to recalibrate the ship's temporal force field in advance of the release of Looper, when I noticed a flickering light. Investigating, I found Gort huddled into the couch in front of the Mothership's main view screen. He immediately de-activated the screen and jumped to his feet, switching to recharge mode.
Noticing a box on the couch where he had been sat, I collected the object and read the cover aloud - "Nude Nuns With Big Guns, you dirty, robotic bastard". Gort immediately sprang to life and vehemently proclaimed that the film was not porn. He maintained his clandestine actions had been intended to avoid having the same very conversation with his girlfriend Helen Cox of New Empress Magazine. With a wary eye, I asked him what exactly the film was about, then.
Gort explained that Nude Nuns With Big Guns was an attempt to pay homage to the exploitative Grindhouse flicks of the 60s and 70s. Essentially, the Grindhouse was the birthplace of the B-movie. The arrival of TV led humans out of the cinemas and back to their homes, so enterprising cinema owners had to draw crowds back by offering gratuitous smut and violence at a budget price. These cinemas were about as pleasant as the toilets on a Rigellian Slime Warrior space station, but still less sordid and better put together than the films they showed. Nonetheless, they were awesome.
Among the outright porn and the disturbing docu-horrors were the first action movies; "blaxpoitation" may have been far from PC, but it cast racial minorities as heroes; and these fleapits cemented the horror genre as we know it. So fondly remembered were the Grindhouses, that Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarrantino released a double feature of Grindhouse homages entitled, appropriately, Grindhouse. Unfortunately, it didn't hold up.
Grindhouse may have included loving satire directed at the nonsensical plotting and ridiculously low production values of exploitation cinema, but it only generated two unusual parodies, without any of the real fun of the disreputable movies they referenced. Nude Nuns With Big Guns, on the other hand, perfectly recreates these by simply making a high production, modern Grindhouse movie without any attempt at satire, and comes off far better.
The story concerns a Vatican-supported drug running operation using nuns as manual labour and mules. One attempts an escape and is drugged and sent to work in a brothel as penance. Breaking free, she declares herself to be on a mission from God to defeat the drug runners, and is not taking any prisoners. Using her nun's habit and gunbelt as a superhero costume, she teams up with her lesbian lover on the inside of the nunnery and starts cutting a blood-soaked trail of vengeance through the drug empire.
She causes such a concern that a vicious group of enforcers are sent after her. So sadistic is the gang's leader that he interrogates women by setting a large nasty character nicknamed Kickstand on them in a rather unpleasant and gratuitous fashion; we think you get the point.
Likewise, the film takes any opportunity to get its extras naked, from various scenes in a strip club to a drug lab manned by nuns who have been stripped to prevent theft, but are still wearing their veils. Every female character with a modicum of sexuality is either a stripper or a promiscuous lesbian, while every male is a sexual sadist or a coward.
Of course, it wouldn't be an exploitation film without a bit of exploitation, but this is a movie that pulls no punches and it's not for the feint hearted. Still, it's no more commending rape and drug use than Friday The 13th is supporting axe murders. If you can see past your political correctness, then you'll find a lot of heart to this movie, not to mention some beautiful, stylish, technicolour imagery.
There's a shallow, but sensitive love story at the heart of the film, and a great sense of justice in seeing some truly despicable characters meet their fate. Despite the low budget, the film has some reasonable performances; some not so reasonable, but still... Nonetheless, the real power of this flick is the sheer badass cool of seeing a nun in full habit with a pair of huge revolvers shoot her way through a brothel filled with the scum of the Earth.
The film takes all that was best about the Grindhouse, from the memorable characters and sleazy exploitation to the raw style and sheer crowd pleasing, and gives it the benefit of modern techniques and a more generous budget. The result is both a brilliant homage to the Grindhouse and a thoroughly enjoyable B-movie in its own right.