One of the three big staples of American sexploitation clichés (the other two being cheerleaders and stewardesses), the nurse movies of the 1970s proved popular enough that exploitation king Roger Corman did big box office with four of his entries all made in the first half of the decade (for some reason the first one, 1970's drive-in hit Student Nurses, has not been included). Shout! Factory, in their ongoing efforts to release the finest of Corman's films in excellent special edition DVD releases, wrangles up those four films for this new two-disc set, aptly titled Roger Corman Cult Classics - The Nurses Collection. Here's a look at what you'll find inside the keepcase in the order that they appear on the discs (which, for those keeping track, is not chronological)...
Candy Stripe Nurses (1974):
Directed by Alan Holleb in 1974, Candy Stripe Nurses follows the exploits of three candy stripe nurses who are, as the one sheet promises, 'will give you super fast-fast-fast relief!' Marisa (Maria Rojo) is working at the hospital because she got fed up and hit her teacher - so she's not here by choice but basically as community service. While she's making the rounds she meets and falls for a tough guy named Carlos (Roger Cruz) who is on the run after being accused of robbing a gas station nearby. She takes it upon herself to help prove his innocence. Slightly seedier is the story of Sandy (Candice Rialson), a beautiful blonde who takes the job because she wants to be as close as possible to her new beau, a handsome doctor. But once she's on the case, she just can't help herself by spending some quality alone time with a few of the handsome male patients in her ward. Last but not least is Diane (Robin Matson), a lovely young thing who starts to develop feelings for a basketball player that she meets on the job. He's got a drug problem that she knows he's going to need to kick and figures that maybe the love of a good woman will be just the way for him to do exactly that.
A strange mix of the sexy highjinks featured in the earlier Private Duty Nurses and the soap opera storylines of something like General Hospital (a show that, oddly enough, Robin Matson would go on to star in during the early eighties), Holleb keeps the moving going at a good pace and is smart enough to throw in a topless scene or a party scene anytime it seems like things might be slowing down. There's really not very much character development here at all and the script, also by Holleb, deals in little more than a string of clichés but the movie does what it does reasonably well. If nothing else it's a great chance to see a young and nubile Candice Rialson in the early stages of what would become a decent career.
Not the best film of the four in the set, it offers up a few cheap thrills, some unintentionally hilarious dialogue and some predictable but no less amusing scenarios performed by a cast that may not take home any awards but who no less offer some spirited performances.
Night Call Nurses (1972):
Jonathan Kaplan's 1972 film Night Call Nurses, our second feature, also follows a trio of lovely young nurses, this time made up of the seemingly unflappable brunette Barbara (Patty Byrne), the cheery and infectiously fun blonde Janis (Alana Stewart), and the stoic and responsible dark skinned beauty Sandra (Mittie Lawrence). The three ladies work under Dr. Bramlett (Clint Kimbrough) at a psychiatric hospital where, for some strange reason, the three periodically receive nasty and ominous letters. Complicating matters further is the presence of Samson (Stack Pierece), a big tough Black Panther type who got roughed up in prison where he was sent to do some time for his part in a black revolutionary movement. Aware that once he heals up from his wounds he'll be sent back to prison where his life will once again be in danger, the three nurses decide to come up with a way to keep him around long enough until he can escape and hopefully save his life.
Based on a script by George Armitage (who went on to direct Grosse Point Blank) and Danny Opatoshu (who wrote Student Teachers for Corman the next year) this one is pretty gosh darned shallow but offers up enough cheap sexy thrills to make for some solid B-grade entertainment. This one mixes up the frequent nudity you'd expect with a few interesting horror movie elements, some strange drug use, and even a little political meanderings in terms of the racial tensions that creep into the film. It's all set to a cool guitar driven soundtrack and shot reasonably well, making great use of the various locations that pop up throughout the movie. For a low budget movie, the production values are not half bad at all.
While this one lacks the 'star power' (and we're using that term loosely) of someone like Rialson, the three lovely leads all do just fine with the material in their own right. Of course the various situations that they encounter requires them to be naked often enough, that's more or less the point of the movie, but if none of them are great in terms of their thesping, at least they're trying and they look good doing it. There is some good humor worked into the script though, and some interesting characters throughout, so if it's not deep it is very entertaining and a good bit of fun.
Private Duty Nurses (1971):
Written and directed by George Armitage, this is the earliest film in the set. As you've probably guessed by this point, the storyline follows a trio of nurses who work in a hospital - a cute blonde named Spring (Katharine Cannon), a foxy black lady named Lola (Joyce Williams) and the more reserved brunette of the bunch, Lynn (Pegi Boucher). Like the other movies, the story is fairly vignette based, so it sort of branches off and tells the tale of each lady. First up is Spring who falls for Domino (Dennis Redfield), a Vietnam vet with some problems of his own who comes in to be treated after a nasty motorcycle accident. Lola decides to help out at a hospital in a tough black neighborhood and tries to help her boyfriend, also black, make it as a doctor in a white man's world. Lynn hangs out with her boyfriend who is on a mission to reduce pollution in the oceans - she's just sort of hanging around helping him out.
This one offers up the nudity and screwy situations you'd expect if you've made it this far into this review but doesn't quite give up any more than that. The story is the dullest of the four in the collection and the girls don't really stand out at all. They don't act well, they don't seem to fit together as well as the starlets in the other movies and they're really just not given all that much to do here. The humor is scattershot at best and the dialogue never feels anything more than forced and tired. Some unintentional laughs come from a few awkward moments here and there but overall, this one is a bit of a disappointment.
The film does earn bonus points for containing a truly weird opening song performed by the band Sky that sounds like it could have been a seventies AM radio hit. Front man Doug Fieger would form The Knack in the years to follow and they'd hit it big with My Sharona. So there's some interesting trivia for you, but overall this one feels like the rushed, cheap follow up to Student Nurses that it is and it's more or less forgettable. The girls do look great naked, however, so it delivers on that level and it's interesting to note the politics that pop up in this film as they compare to so many of Corman's other seventies movies.
The Young Nurses (1973):
Last but not least we have 1973's The Young Nurses directed by Clint Kimbrough and written by Howard R. Cohen. This is Kimbrough's only directorial credit though fans of Corman's films will know his name from acting roles in movies like Bloody Mama, Crazy Mama and a supporting role in Night Call Nurses. The late Cohen would pen some of the Deathstalker movies for Corman in the eighties and also wrote a few kids' TV cartoon shows like Rainbow Brite and The Care Bears, which is kind of weird when you think about it.
Wouldn't you know it, this movie tells the torrid tale of a trio of pretty young nurses who encounter danger, drama, intrigue and, of course, sex while on the job in the hospital. Our three heroines are Kitty (Jeane Manson), Joanne (Ashley Porter) and Michelle (Angela Elayne Gibbs), the latter of whom gets her feathers all ruffled when some patients come in pumped full of bad drugs. She decides to do some investigating of her own and track down the dealers who are in the while Kitty and hangs out at a boat race where Kitty falls for a racer named Donahue (Zach Taylor) and Joanne decides to go against orders and act as a surrogate doctor. Overseeing all of this is their boss, Krebs (Alan Arbus), the chief surgeon in charge of the hospital, and tough head nurse Dockett (Mary Doyle).
Featuring some fun cameos from the likes of Dick Miller, Sally Kirkland and, yes, famously Samuel Fuller this is one of the better films in the set. It's got all the bare skin and sexy shenanigans you'd expect from a movie like this and then some, and each of the three female leads definitely look gorgeous here, but aside from that there's a good sense of humor to a lot of what happens and the film does an interesting job of working in some blaxploitation movie elements. The film is well shot and looks a little better than the other three movies in the set, and it's also great a great score to keep all the action moving and on time. It's not the highlight of the series and it doesn't deviate from the formula very much but it does what it does well and if you enjoy the other entries in the series, this heaping does of 'more of the same' will go down smoothly enough.
All four film in The Nurses Collection are presented in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen and look pretty decent - not perfect, but decent. Colors look nice and natural save for a few bits here and there that show some age related fading while detail is generally quite good across the board, particularly when you consider the age and low budget of these movies. Some minor crush pops up in some of the darker scenes as does some minor compression but outside of that, there aren't really any authoring issues. Grain and mild print damage shows up throughout, but there's nothing so harsh here that it takes away from the experience.
The audio is on par with the video in that it's not going to floor you but it gets the job done. There are some level fluctuations here and there and some minor pop and hiss throughout but dialogue stays easy enough to follow. There are no subtitle or alternate language options provided for any of the features of supplements in the set.
Two featurettes make up the extras, the first of which is Anatomy Of A Nurse Film which is a fourteen minute long bit about creating the key elements required for a good nurse movie courtesy of Jonathan Kaplan and Alan Holleb. This is done with a bit of a sense of humor to it, but still manages to be pretty interesting as the pair discuss their work on their respective entries in this set. The second featurette is Paging Doctor Corman and it's an interview with producer Roger Corman who is accompanied here by his wife Julie. Both speak rather candidly about the nurse movies that they were involved in and Corman, whose memory is as sharp as a tack, makes no qualms about the motives behind these movies. Sadly there are no trailers included for any of the features, but in the tradition of earlier Corman releases from Shout! Factory, the cover art is reversible. Both discs offer movie selection and chapter selection by way of some static menus that make good use of the original poster art for the movies.
Roger Corman Cult Classics - The Nurses Collection isn't as extras laden as some of the other entries in the line so far and it omits the first movie in the series (hopefully it'll get a single disc special edition release or appear in a future collection with the Teachers films?) but it presents the movies in good shape and with a pair of interesting featurettes. This won't likely win over those not already enamored with seventies exploitation pictures but fans of fun drive-in sexploitation and cheap thrills should consider this set recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.