In the beginning there was THE STUDENT NURSES, and it was good. Gazing down upon its receipts and reflecting on its returns, producer Roger Corman decided in his infinite wisdom to milk said picture's premise for all it was worth. The result, a series of "Nurse" pictures that would help jump start Corman’s latest venture, New World Pictures, and spawn a whole series of likeminded fare. The nurses picture begat the school teacher picture, the school teacher picture begat the cheerleader picture, the cheerleader picture begat the stewardess picture and so on and so on. Pretty much any profession in which young women service men in some fashion was fair game and for that we have Roger Corman, King of the B's to thank.
A quartet of slim and trim nurses share an apartment and school work in THE STUDENT NURSES (82 minutes), the first in a series of “Nurse” films that found themselves a sturdy foothold in drive-ins throughout the 1970s. While their focus should be on their school work, each lady can not seem to help but find themselves in one predicament or another. Priscilla (Barbara Leigh, JUNIOR BONNER) hooks up with a drug dealing, vegetarian biker (Richard Rust, NAKED ANGELS) only to be left with a bun in the oven. Sharon (Elaine Giftos) falls for a terminally ill patent with a chip on his shoulder. I'd give you three guesses as to how that relationship is going to end but you would only need one. Phred (Karen Carlson, THE CANDIDATE) is sleeping with an OBGYN (Lawrence Casey, THE GAY DECIEVERS), not because he's a hot young doctor but because his medical licensing deals less with death than say, a brain surgeon. As such it doesn't sit too well with her when Priscilla enlists her doc boyfriend to help her abort her love child. Then there is Lynn (Brioni Farrell) who while trying to track down a young Hispanic kid (Pepe Serna in his first theatrical role) with a head injury, befriends a local militant leader (Reni Santoni, DIRTY HARRY) and shortly thereafter finds herself joining the peoples' revolution.
The premise is fairly simple. Four nurses, each with their own unique personalities, fall in love and deal with conflicts inspired by the newspaper headlines of its day. Make sure some, if not all of the girls take their tops off, show at least one experimenting with drugs, add a healthy dose of women’s lib and you've got yourself a drive-in hit. In laying the ground work for the "Nurse" pictures, director Stephanie Rothman relies more on drama than straight exploitation and while such a formula works for the most part here, such a dramatic leaning does water down several of the succeeding “Nurse” pictures. Rothman would shoot one more picture for New World, THE VELVET VAMPIRE, before joining Dimension Pictures where she helmed TERMINAL ISLAND and THE WORKING GIRLS.
Having previously worked for Corman in GAS-S-S-S, his last picture
for AIP, Elaine Giftos spends most of her screen time trying to help a whiney
kid find a reason for living, going so far as to take her top off and crawl
into bed with him. Now that's what I call a bedside manner. Karen Carlson certainly
isn’t shy to take it off but don’t cross her or she will just sit
in the corner naked all night and leave you with little recourse but a cold
shower. Brioni Farrell is unfortunately too busy trying to understand what makes
Reni Santoni's character Victor Charlie tick to take her clothes off for any
extended period of time but Barbara Leigh more than makes up for such transgressions.
Barbara steals the film with both her exotic good looks and by being present
in all of the film's most memorable scenes, including one of a bad LSD trip
that finds her naked on the beach surrounded by her ogling cast mates.
PRIVATE DUTY NURSES (76 minutes) continues the formula set by its predecessor as it follows a group of young nurses who while living and working together are thrust into a series of topical social situations. The only difference is that this time no one thought to add any humor or fun into the mix. After reluctantly falling into bed with her slime ball landlord Dewey (Paul Hampton, THEY CAME FROM WITHIN aka SHIVERS), Lynn (Pegi Boucher) finds favor in the arms of Dr. Doug (Joseph Kaufmann, BRUTE CORPS), a nice enough fellow with a bad habit of poking his nose where it’s not wanted. After finding a strange pollutant off the California coast, Doug starts his own investigation only to end up knocking on the wrong door, leaving Lynn in tears yet again. Spring (Katherine Cannon), who is anything but sunny, takes her job very seriously and under the tutelage of Dr. McClintock (Paul Gleason, THE BREAKFAST CLUB) looks to have a promising career ahead of her. Then Domino (Dennis Redfield, DEAD & BURIED) rolls in, a frustrated Vietnam vet, and Spring’s focus shifts from her studies to helping the one guy in physical therapy who doesn’t want help. Lastly there is Lola (Joyce Williams), an attractive African American beauty who hooks up with the equally attractive Dr. Elton played by Herb Jefferson Jr., Lt. Boomer on the original "Battlestar Galactica" television series. Dr. Elton runs an urban clinic that helps those in the area who can’t afford proper health care or insurance but his goal in life is forcing the hospital that Lola works at to allow a brother on the board.
Nothing really clicks with PRIVATE DUTY NURSES. The soundtrack by
Sky leaves one envying the hearing impaired, all three leads get at least one
sex scene with their respective partners but none are worth writing home about
and I have to admit being somewhat taken aback by the film's notion that it
is, or was, a black woman’s duty to help a black man achieve a position
of power over that of her own. Sort of knocks the whole women’s lib theme
set up in the first NURSE back a few steps if you ask me. After PRIVATE DUTY
NURSES, his directorial debut, George Armitage continued in the exploitation
game, writing and directing the blaxploitation picture HIT MAN before moving
on to direct Kris Kristofferson and Jan-Michael Vincent in VIGILANTE FORCE.
George then stayed quite for awhile but bounced back in 1997 with the dark hit
man comedy, GROSSE POINTE BLANK. It should also be noted that George is responsible
for writing the screenplay to DARKTOWN STRUTTERS which for some unknown reason
has yet to find its way onto DVD.
NIGHT CALL NURSES (77 minutes) opens with the lovely Lynne Guthrie (THE WORKING GIRLS) finding her way to the roof of a psychiatric hospital, disrobing and then jumping over the side to her death all before the eyes of nurse Sandra (Mittie Lawrence). While shaken from the event, Sandra pushes on her with work and is given the job of looking after Sampson (Stack Pierce, HAMMER), a patient under police custody whose days appear to be numbered. The pigs got it bad for Sampson and would like nothing more than to see him put away for life or better yet, lying in a pine box. Sandra however is not about to loose another patient, even if that means having to sneak him out the hospital. Meanwhile Sandra’s friend and co-worker Barbara (Patty Byrne), while attractive, may be too new agey for her own good. After getting mixed up with a free love and a group therapy troupe, Barbara begins to get the suspicion that she is the butt of a rather cruel joke. The troupe’s leader is either trying to awaken Barbara to the fact that she is mentally deranged or he is just trying to get into her pants. Either way his methods, which include interpretive group groping sessions and suggesting that his female students disrobe as a means of taking ownership of their strength as a woman, are fascinating to watch. And lastly there is Janis (Alana Stewart, ex-wife of Rod Stewart and George Hamilton), an attractive blonde who befriends a drug-addled truck driver whose head trips are both horrific and hilarious. Oh, and did I mention that there is a crazed nurse sending cryptic messages threatening to kill our three heroines due to their lascivious lifestyles?
Director Jonathan Kaplan, working off a script by George Armitage
(who clearly learned from the mistakes made on PRIVATE DUTY NURSES) knocks NIGHT
CALL NURSES out of the park. The picture's randomness is awe-inspiring. A thousand
times more entertaining than PRIVATE DUTY NURSES, NIGHT CALL NURSES is packed
to the gills with the kind of random for randoms sake nuttiness that I personally
thrive on. From disco mirror ball hands to random scenes of skydiving, the picture
is anything by dull. There’s nudity, humor, fight scenes, car chases --
you name it and NIGHT CALL NURSES probably has it. Not only do we get to see
all three leads in various carnal situations but the picture is filled with
familiar drive-in faces. Dixie Peabody (BURY ME AN ANGEL) shows up and shows
off simply because she can, Dick Miller gets a nice little pervy scene as a
passer by who picks up a hitchhiking Patty Byrne, there is a rather humorous
exchange between James Millhollin and Robert Staats over pharmaceuticals and
Dennis Dugan (THE HOWLING) all but steals the show, and portions of the female
cast's wardrobe, as the deranged orderly Kit.
THE YOUNG NURSES (75 minutes) When Michelle (Angela Elayne Gibbs) discovers that drugs are being peddled through a local hospital she decides to throw on her detective hat and sets out to uncover the ring's inside man. To help in her search she reaches out to her main man Lester (Caro Kenyatta, CLEOPATRA JONES) unaware that his motives may be more personal and involved than she realizes. Meanwhile Kitty (Jeane Manson, Playmate of the Month August 1974) finds herself falling for Donahue (Zach Taylor, GROUP MARRIAGE), a patient with a penchant for boating. Warnings from his doctor to take it easy fall on deaf ears, much to Kitty’s dismay, as the rich kid's desire to please his father over all else could cause Donahue to wind up back in the hospital or worse, in the morgue. And then there’s Joanne (Ashley Porter), a striking brunette whose yearning to be a doctor repeatedly blinds her from following proper procedure. Fed up with the hospital's regulations, Joanne begins to help at a local free women’s clinic, which if she doesn’t stop playing doctor behind the hospital staff's back may soon become her only means of employment.
While not as engaging as NIGHT CALL NURSES, THE YOUNG NURSES strikes all the right chords and in generally the right order. The women’s lib angle is turned up a few notches as showcased by Ashley Porter’s character and her involvement with the free women’s health clinic. The film all but encourages women to skip trips to the OBGYN in favor of self examinations and home remedies. Who knew yogurt was so much more than a healthy treat. Jeane Manson is rather easy on the eyes and provides for at least one laugh out loud moment. While frolicking nude on the beach with Zach Taylor, Jeane’s arm gets tired of holding a kite. Rather than bringing it back down to Earth she, rather matter-of-factly, decides to tie the kite to Zach’s penis! Be sure to keep an eye out for Kimberly Hyde as Peppermint (trust me she’s hard to miss), a young Sally Kirkland (TWO EVIL EYES) as the “Woman at the clinic” and a "blink and you missed him" cameo by Mantan Moreland (SPIDER BABY, KING OF THE ZOMBIES), one which would prove to be his final theatrical role.
Kaplan (BAD GIRLS, PROJECT X) returns this time assigned with the duty of kick
starting a side-genre to the “Nurse” picture, the “Teacher”
feature. THE STUDENT TEACHERS (78 minutes) opens with a naked Brooke Mills (who
looks amazing!) as she gets ready for another day of teaching high school kids
about the finer points of arts and crafts. As the art teacher's assistant, Tracy
(Brooke) has quite a lot to deal with. She has to make sure that the supplies
are fully stocked, help guide the growing minds of her students and figure out
how to make a relationship work with her philandering boyfriend/boss. Tracy’s
problems are however trivial when compared to her co-worker Jody (Brenda Sutton).
After school hours, Jody volunteers at an alternate learning center run by an
assortment of drop outs. Times are tough for the small day care center and with
funds dwindling fast Jody and her band of reformed convicts and junkies decide
that the best way to increase their cash flow is to steal it from a local drug
pusher. Unfortunately for Jody such a plan involves her going undercover and
placing her neck, and other body parts, out on the line. And then there’s
Rachel (Susan Damante), who finds herself in hot water with the school's gym
teacher (Dick Miller) when she encourages her health class to make their own
sex education film. Rachel also has to deal with a student body on the verge
of a breakdown as the school has recently been the victim of a serial rapist
who wears a dime store clown mask to conceal his identity.
Produced by Julie Corman (Julie actually produced five of the features present in this set), THE STUDENT TEACHERS sticks to the tried and true formula established in THE STUDENT NURSES. The only difference is that a hospital setting is swapped for a school yard. The various plotlines are a little more convoluted (if that’s possible) but they all manage to pan out in a satisfying way. Brooke Mills, who was featured in the July '73 issue of Penthouse magazine, shows off quite a bit but she’s not the only one getting in on the action. There’s Marilyn Joi (NURSE SHERRI) dancing topless, Tara Strohmeier (VAN NUYS BLVD.) modeling nude and least I forget, Chuck Norris as a karate instructor. His screen time may make for all of about four seconds but they are four seconds you wouldn’t want to mess with. Charles Dierkop also shows up as a mob boss who gets taken by Jody and her crew. Charles looks right at home here, as well he should considering all of his scenes appear to take place on the same ghost town set used in ANGELS HARD AS THEY COME, for which he starred in two years prior.
CANDY STRIPE NURSES (76 minutes) After jacking up a teacher in the school yard, young Marisa (Maria Rojo) is ordered by the school's principal (Bill Erwin) to complete charity work as a candy stripe nurse. Reporting for duty, Marisa’s first patient turns out to be somewhat notorious as he is considered the lead suspect in a gas station robbery. He of course claims his innocence and is able to persuade Marisa to the fact that he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Taking her new responsibilities as a volunteer caregiver above and beyond the call of duty, Marisa sets out to clear her new beau’s name, leading herself into a number of precarious situations. Meanwhile fellow candy striper Sandy (Candice Rialson, PETS) passes herself off as sex therapist in an attempt to get close to rock n’ roller Owen Boles (Kendrew Lascelles). Meeting Owen at his home it quickly becomes apparent that Mr. Boles' condition may be beyond hope. As the country’s number one musical draw however, Owen isn’t about to let Sandy treat him as any less than rock and roll royalty. Then there is Dianne (Robin Mattson, BONNIE’S KIDS), who takes a shine to a drugged up jock and in the process of trying to help him through recovery uncovers a plot to keep top athletes winning games no matter what.
CANDY STRIPE NURSES is right up there with NIGHT CALL NURSES in terms of entertainment value. Maria Rojo is spot on as the feisty Marisa. The way she turns the tide on a would-be rapist is exploitation gold. Candice Rialson is engaging as the flirtatious Sandy and while Robin Mattson’s character carries the brunt of the film's drama, her love scenes also prove to be the most energetic and athletic of the bunch. Kimberly Hyde shows up again to grace us with her talents, sharing almost every scene with Elana Casey (THE BOOB TUBE). Director Alan Holleb stepped away from the camera after CANDY STRIPE NURSES, returning only once a decade later to lens the 1980s comedy SCHOOL SPIRIT.
I reviewed SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS (84 minutes) as part of Secret Key’s SKIN IN THE 70S collection and my opinion of the film hasn’t changed since. Candice Rialson + gratuitous nudity = a winner just about every time. Throw in Dick Miller and Pat Anderson all under the watchful eye of director Barbara Peters and what’s not to like? If anything, I found the picture more enjoyable upon repeat viewings.
While THE STUDENT TEACHERS makes its DVD debut with this set, all seven films included have previously been available for home viewing in one format or another. Charter Entertainment released NIGHT CALL NURSES, THE YOUNG NURSES and SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS on VHS. PRIVATE DUTY NURSES saw a VHS release under the title "Young L.A. Nurses 3", both THE STUDENT TEACHERS and CANDY STRIPE NURSES were released on VHS by Embassy Home Entertainment and all five “Nurse” films saw DVD releases back in 2002/2003 through New Concorde.
All seven films, save for THE STUDENT NURSES which is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, are presented fullframe with each accompanied by an affixed “Hollywood Select Video” watermark located in the lower right corner. The watermark varies in size from feature to feature, sometimes hardly noticeable, other times it appears as if it’s going to devour the bottom right side of the screen. All transfers appear to be taken from either rough looking video sources (PRIVATE DUTY NURSES, THE STUDENT TEACHERS) or previous DVD releases (THE STUDENT NURSES, CANDY STRIPE NURSES). As such their visual quality ranges from fair to “Did somebody turn out the lights? I can’t tell what in the hell is going on”. I will give Infinity credit, there are a lot less tape rolls present than in their initial Best of the B’s collection. Mono audio tracks fair well enough to follow but not always fair enough to understand what is being said. Each feature bares its own chapter selection menu and synopsis title screen, most of which display the feature's original tagline along with runtime information, which is most often inaccurate. Trailers for NIGHT CALL NURSES, THE STUDENT NURSES, THE YOUNG NURSES and CANDY STRIPE NURSES can be found on disc 4, with each baring the New Concorde logo.
While it’s nice to have the entire "Nurse” series in one collection, it would have been even nicer to have them presented in a condition that wasn’t dead on arrival. All I have to say is, Thank God for Shout! Factory. (Jason McElreath)
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