BY G. NOEL GROSS | May 16, 2003
"A student nurse." Such an ingeniously simple brainstorm, yet it helped launch New World Pictures, one of fringe cinema's most prolific and influential studios. As B-mogul Roger Corman tells it, the nurse notion came from Larry Woolner, a former owner of a Louisiana drive-in chain, who partnered with Corman during the studio's financially lucrative fledgling steps. Roger figured why tell the story of just ONE nurse when you could go with FOUR intermingling story lines. He also insisted they reflect the social climate by being strong, independent women who needn't rush to a MAN with every problem. Of course, these nubile feminists STILL had to pop their tops every 15 minutes or so. This IS business, after all! Stephanie Rothman directed and co-wrote The Student Nurses in just three weeks for $150,000. The flick rang in a MILLION dollars New World's first year and simultaneously touched off a working-woman firestorm in exploitation cinema. It was such a hit that Roger made the same goldang movie four more times before he was through (or rather his competitors choked drive-ins with coattailers such as Nurse Sherri and The Naughty Stewardesses). Now that they've all arrived on DVD, it's an excellent excuse to revisit the nurse genre -- with an awareness of Corman's formula: the naughty nurse, the witty nurse and the socially-conscious nurse plot lines peppered with '70s cultural hallmarks such as drug experimentation, racial tension, sexual liberation, Vietnam, bikers, pop psychology, the anti-establishment movement and pert American gazongas.
But first, a couple quick technical notes. Only Student Nurses is presented in its original widescreen (1.85:1) format. The others are most likely fullframe as boom mics are visible on occasion. All but Private Duty Nurses (perversely named for an organization who complained about the original flick's sensuality) feature theatrical trailers and Candy Stripe Nurses contains a brief Leonard Maltin interview with Mr. Corman. That said, class is now in session ...