An Act of Confession (1972)

The Holy Grail for many hardcore aficionados, the late Sam Weston’s An Act of Confession (which is its on-screen title, although several sources erroneously reference it in plural) ultimately proves more interesting for sheer obscurity and what it a tad clumsily attempts rather than fully achieves. One can only wonder and marvel at what possessed the director – still in his fledgling “Sybil Kidd” phase (well before he was to become “Anthony Spinelli“) – to make such extremely explicit account of a young 15th Century nun’s struggle to remain true to her vocation while vivid visions of depravity perpetually cloud her mind.  Bear in mind that much of the adult industry at the time was controlled by the mob, many of their members still strongly adhering to their Roman Catholic upbringing ! Historical account, though sketchy, specifically points to this fact as reason the movie was never theatrically released in New York and received only scant playdates on the West Coast. Availability thusfar has been limited to a poor quality and presumably incomplete VHS release by Alpha Blue Archives in 1996, quickly withdrawn from sales, under pressure perhaps ?

Best to proceed with the facts however. An opening scroll and accompanying voice-over inform that the historical time frame was a period of war, poverty and pestilence, convents serving as safe havens for especially female descendants of more moneyed families. To appease any potential audience fracas, a disclaimer defiantly name-checks Dante, Voltaire and Boccaccio as predecessors in artistic exploration of the timeless dilemma between the religious and the profane faced by members of the clergy, particularly those of the Catholic Faith, the sole remaining religion still demanding celibacy of its church leaders.  A youthful novice preparing to take her vows, Sister Beatrice (toothsome one shot wonder Kim Durey) eagerly pulls out weeds from the convent garden to soothe her restless soul, questioning her cloistered existence as feverish sexual fantasies overtake her at every turn. These include a naughty nighttime rendezvous with fellow Sister Jennifer (Cyndee Summers, whose astonishing longevity as a lust princess continued well into the late ’80s) and a severely twisted take on the rite of Holy Communion as a priest and friar offer their protruding erections to the kneeling nuns instead.

Decidedly blasphemous, which is not necessarily a bad thing (and I’m a Catholic, albeit a severely lapsed one), is the encounter in the confessional as Sister Beatrice luridly details her distractions to the Father Confessor (stalwart stud Keith Erickson, he of the wart-covered protuberance and an early adult mainstay in Larry G. Spangler’s The Life and Times of Xaviera Hollander and Richard Robinson’s magnificent Marriage and Other 4 Letter Words) who’s compelled to spank the bishop, rosary clearly clutched in fist ! There’s a hauntingly shot orgy in the chapel, flickering candle light sensuously heightening the contrast between the inky shades of convent clothing and pale exposed flesh, pseudonymous cinematographer “Peter Bigg” (ouch !) demonstrating an artist’s eye for composition, emphasized through deliberately longheld static shots. Designed to push any selfrighteous churchgoer’s buttons, there’s even a scene with the submissive Durey strapped onto a humongous crucifix, thoroughly ravished by friars Neville Francis (another alleged one shot) and Franklin Anthony, frequent Brigitte Maier partner in both Teenage Swinger and Inside of Me.

The major problem, both in terms of interpretation and assessment, firmly lies with film’s final scene. The nun spots a very hippie-looking Christ (Rocco Manuel) walking towards her across the water. Exchanging warm greetings, she drops to her knees and… At this stage, the badly weathered ABA print offers a clumsily edited recap of shots from previous encounters, allegedly to cover for the missing sacrilegious suck job. Although this act (presumably the one title refers to) reinforces the girl’s faith and resolve to pursue the path as literal bride of Christ, it was apparently deemed too shocking to show a quarter century down the line.  At present, many internet bloggers question whether any explicit footage for this scene ever even existed. Only two print sources describe it with anything approaching depth : the late Jim Holliday’s 1986 Only The Best (Cal Vista Publications), though he then vehemently denies the presence of the crucifix sequence, and Steve Fentone’s 2000 Anticristo (Fabpress), going into lurid detail about a “crowning cum shot“, but he routinely confuses both leading actresses, so it’s a toss-up as to who’s to trust…

Genuinely surprising however, is the seriousness with which Weston has broached this touchy subject, resulting ironically in getting it banned, lightyears removed from the salacious, church-bashing reputation this seldom seen film has acquired through ill-advised word of mouth, with a profoundly uplifting and pro-religious message in the final act few apparently picked up or cared to defend. So while it’s far from free of faults such as the solemn acting from a floundering cast (uncommon for Weston, but this was still early days) and the incessant Gregorian chants grinding on one’s last nerve like Chinese water torture, the movie surely deserves to be more widely screened, painstakingly restored to highlight its visual sophistication and released on a triple bill with thematically connected work like, oh say, Toby Ross’ even more elusive and frankly superior (as I can attest from actually having seen theatrically on two separate occasions some three decades ago, sorry Benson…) Not Just Another Woman and Walerian Borowczyk’s daintily depraved Behind Convent Walls. Ah, in more enlightened times perhaps, though I wouldn’t hold my breath !

Directed, written & produced by Sam Weston (as Sybil Kidd). Photographed by Peter Bigg. Starring Kim Durey (Sister Beatrice), Cyndee Summers (Sister Jennifer), Keith Erickson (Father Beauvier), Franklin Anthony (Brother Joseph), Neville Francis (Brother John) & Rocco Manuel (Christ). Running time : 68 minutes.

Sexploitation siren Cyndee Summers crossed over into hardcore and continued working well into the late ’80s

By Dries Vermeulen

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