In December, Infinity Entertainment Group released the first volume of a new series collecting drive-in features, titled Presenting Roger Corman's...Best of the B*s Collection 1: Hot Bikes, Cool Cars & Bad Babes. Now we have the second volume, Naughty Nurses & Tawdry Teachers, which seems to stretch the library a little thin when it comes to filling out a 7-film set.
Disc 1 - The Student Nurses (1970) / Private Duty Nurses aka Young L.A. Nurses 3 (1971)
Revolution and politics flesh out the first two movies in the collection. In the former, Lynn (Brioni Farrell) meets Victor Charlie (Reni Santoni), the publisher of an underground Spanish newspaper, and devotes her time to helping people who support his causes, while in the latter, a young black nurse (Joyce Williams) helps a black doctor (Herb Jefferson, Jr.) start a sit-in protest at a local hospital run by a stuffy old white guy. Both stories feel very 1970s, as does the drugged out motorcycle drifter (Richard Rust) who seduces a different nurse (Karen Carlson) in Student Nurses. Both films track groups of nurses (four in the first, three in the second) and the ups and downs of the men they choose. Actually, almost all of the films in this collection use the same basic tactic, which is a shame because a unified central conflict relevant to all the girls would work better in just about all of them.
Between these two, The Student Nurses is the clear winner. I had high hopes for Private Duty Nurses because it features Grosse Pointe Blank director George Armitage at the helm, but it's a murky, sloth-like bore without any interesting characters. The drug subplot in Student Nurses works much better, ultimately turning into an abortion debate that delves deeper into serious sexual politics than I was expecting. Obviously, there are basic caveats to this choice -- praise the sexploitation comedy for digging, or bash the drama for pandering? -- but co-writer/director Stephanie Rothman does a fair-to-okay job of walking the line between skin flick and statement. Her visual metaphors aren't always perfect (a reverse-motion shot of Rust pouring out a vial of thick milky white liquid down past the lens is unintentionally hilarious), but a few of them really paint a vivid picture of Carlson's emotional turmoil.
The Student Nurses: **½
Private Duty Nurses: ½
Disc 2 - Night Call Nurses (1972) / The Young Nurses aka The Young L.A. Nurses (1973)
The second disc injects a bit more comedy, both of the intentional and unintentional variety. Night Call Nurses starts out seeming like the perfect combination of sweet, sexy, and funny, with a charming photo montage of beautiful actresses Patty Byrne, Alana Stewart, and Mittie Lawrence (the most attractive cast of all) making cute faces for the audience, but quickly devolves into weird darkness that involves a manipulative psychologist, a cross-dressing stalker, and violent gunfights. Highlights include future Adam Sandler cohort Dennis Dugan as a male nurse, applesauce-loving RoboCop co-star Felton Perry, and the best visual in the whole set: speed freak Kyle Toby (Richard Young) and his hallucinated disco hands!
Young Nurses toes the waters of blaxploitation, with Michelle (Angela Elayne Gibbs) tracking down the pushers who put deadly drugs in one of her patients' hands, but the whole thing quickly falls apart with the other two nurses (Ashley Porter and Jean Manson -- it's never just one nurse!) meandering through boring subplots (including a boat race -- based on Private Duty Nurses also sucking and containing a motorcycle race, maybe competitive sports are a bad choice -- and the potential firing of one of the nurses). It's a little better than Private Duty Nurses (entirely thanks to the nudity), but it's a weird mishmash of what might as well be leftover parts lying around whatever film factory these nurse films are assembled at. At least it has sterling dialogue, like "Will you come with me? You always did like boats."
Night Call Nurses: **
The Young Nurses: *
Disc 3 - Candy Stripe Nurses (1974) / The Student Teachers aka College Coeds aka Self-Service Schoolgirls (1973)
While trying to identify the name of an actor in one of these movies, I stumbled upon a review of Candy Stripe Nurses that said it was the best of Corman's nurse films, and my expectations perked up a little. I suppose it's the most ambitious and the most consistent, but its consistency is of mediocrity. This is a perfectly middle-of-the-road way to end it, with a bunch of attractive leads (Candice Rialson, Robin Mattson, and María Rojo), a dull-as-dirt trio of stories (involving a rock star, a basketball player, and a robbery, respectively), and some reasonably entertaining dialogue and more than passable direction. Five movies in, all the nurses are starting to run together into a big blob of occasionally sexy mush, and there's unique enough in Candy Stripe Nurses to drag it out of the muck.
Both chronologically and package-wise, The Student Teachers should have been the first movie on Disc 3, but it's second, perhaps to keep the five nurse entries separate from the two teacher adventures. I was eager for a change of pace, so I welcomed the switch-over, as well as the return of Jonathan Kaplan, who kicked off Night Call Nurses to a promising start (the most successful material in the whole set). Sadly, The Student Teachers isn't an overwhelming improvement, really. Brooke Mills plays an art teacher, and both her character and performance (as well as the beginnings of a romance with a student played by Richard Doran) are better than the previous couple of films had to offer, there's a mildly diverting subplot about sex education teacher Susan Damante, and the biggest role for Dick Miller yet as an angry chauvinist gym teacher, but it's still a slog. Cutting an overly elaborate drug-deal thread seems the most logical, particularly since the movie basically blows off the other two plots to make room for an extended car chase-and-gunfight finale. A nurse is one thing -- shot henchmen will end up in the hospital -- but there's not enough of a connection between teaching and mobsters to justify shoehorning this material into the film.
Candy Stripe Nurses: *½
The Student Teachers: **
Disc 4 - Summer School Teachers (1974) / Roger Corman Trailers
The last film in the set comes even closer to fun, frothy B-movie perfection than Night Call Nurses. Candice Rialson, star of Candy Stripe Nurses, is back as a gym coach who starts a women's football team, much to the consternation of chauvinist Dick Miller and many of the male football players. Rialson's whole team has the right kind of spunky attitude that I, for one, am looking for in a movie like this, and it's one of the only ones in the set that threatens but does not go too far with the third, "heavy" plotline (a "bad boy" student played by Will Carney gets wrapped up in a deadly conspiracy). The movie sags heavily in between the second and third acts, but it finally picks itself back up off the floor with a chaotic finale that qualifies as fun, if not quite as spirited as the rest of the film. Gotta save the best for last, I suppose.
Summer School Teachers: ***
All in all, I don't know that the "themed" collection is the best way to go. Unless you spent your formative years at the drive-in absorbing every nurse and teacher flick you could scrounge up the cash for, it doesn't seem likely that nostalgia or curiosity will hold enough sway over anyone to enjoy the majority of the material here. If future Corman collections are on the way, it seems wiser to give the buyer a cross-section of genres, like a grab-bag of forgotten films (ala the late BCI Eclipse).
I suppose the artwork for Best of the B's...Collection 2 is basically what you'd expect: simplistic, cheesy, and low-rent. That said, I would have appreciated some original poster artwork or film logos, the way BCI Eclipse had been doing with their Grindhouse and later Exploitation Cinema Collections. The four discs are overlapping on the sides of the cheapie case (two to a side), and, to help with shipping, a pair of disposable foam blocks were inside the case to make sure the discs didn't fall off the spindles.
The Video, and Audio
Popping in the first disc, my low expectations were lowered even further. In order, IMDb lists the correct aspect ratios for these films as follows: 1.85, 1.85, 1.85, 1.33, 1.85, 1.33, and 1.85; but only the first in the set is presented in widescreen (non-anamorphic), and just like the first volume, all are watermarked in the bottom right hand corner (thanks, Hollywood Select Video!). Two of them (The Student Nurses and Night Call Nurses) are perfectly watchable, with the usual mild softness, slight color warping, and print damage you'd expect to see in a bargain collection like this. Four of them (The Young Nurses, The Student Teachers, Candy Stripe Nurses, and Summer School Teachers are worse, with the softness knocking down the experience a few shades. Finally, Private Duty Nurses is basically flat-out unwatchable, with such washed-out blacks, they're often the lightest thing on screen during the movie's numerous bar and nighttime scenes. Muddy Dolby 2.0 tracks for all of them are equally unremarkable. I never felt as if I needed subtitles, anyway, which are not provided.
Four original theatrical trailers, for Night Call Nurses, The Student Nurses, The Young Nurses, and Candy Stripe Nurses are the only extra features included here.
Enthusiasts of the two genres and collectors of every one of New World Pictures films may find this budget box set to be agreeable, but for the uninitiated, there's not enough variety here for it to be worth picking up the whole set. If one or two of these movies inspires some teenage memories, they'd be better off renting those specific films.
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