Nasty Habits (film)

Nasty Habits is a 1977 British comedy film directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, starring Glenda Jackson, Melina Mercouri, Geraldine Page, Rip Torn and Susan Penhaligon. It is based on Muriel Spark's novel The Abbess of Crewe.[1]

Nasty Habits
Directed byMichael Lindsay-Hogg
Produced byRobert Enders
Written byRobert Enders
StarringGlenda Jackson
Melina Mercouri
Geraldine Page
Sandy Dennis
Anne Jackson
Anne Meara
Music byJohn Cameron
CinematographyDouglas Slocombe
Edited byPeter Tanner
Bowden Productions Limited
Distributed byBrut Productions
Release date
18 March 1977
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


At the little-known and extremely wealthy Abbey of Philadelphia the Abbess, Sister Hildegard, is dying. She wishes her favorite, Sister Alexandra, to succeed her but dies moments before she can make her endorsement public. Alexandra conspires with Sisters Gertrude and Walburga to win the coming election, and to defeat her rival, Sister Felicity, who is openly carrying on an affair with a Jesuit priest, Father Thomas. Alexandra orders hidden microphones and cameras installed throughout the convent, and even hires a pair of Jesuit students, Gregory and Ambrose, to break in and steal Thomas's compromising letters from Sister Felicity's sewing box. The break-in is discovered, but the real meaning is kept hidden and Alexandra wins the election by a landslide. Once she is made Abbess, Alexandra expels and excommunicates Felicity, who begins a very public campaign to topple Alexandra. At the same time, the publicity brings the abbey to the attention of the Holy See, which discovers that the order is an unofficial one, with no actual ties to the Roman Catholic Church. To make matters worse, Gregory and Ambrose blackmail Gertrude and Walburga, who send the bungling Sister Winifred to pay them off only to have the whole scandal made public.

Parallels to the Watergate Conspiracy

The film and the original novel were a satire on the presidency of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal, including Alexandra's parting line as she boards a plane to Rome to answer charges from the Vatican. The characters are parallels of the Nixon cabinet and Watergate conspirators.[2]



Vincent Canby in The New York Times wrote that Glenda Jackson had her best role in years, and that the film was "very funny" but was too uneven to be ultimately successful.[2]

The film was released on VHS tape in 1989, and on DVD in 2014.


  1. "Nasty Habits, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg | Film review". Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  2. Canby, Vincent (19 March 1977). "Movie Review - Nasty Habits - 'Nasty Habits' of Nuns in Politics". Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  3. "Nasty Habits (1977) : Full Cast & Crew". Retrieved 4 October 2015.

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