NURSE SHERRI (1978) Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: Al Adamson
Vinegar Syndrome

Just what the world needed: more Al Adamson on Blu-ray, and Vinegar Syndrome give the nurseploitation possession film NURSE SHERRI the red carpet treatment on Blu-ray/DVD combo.

Making a living as a guru bilking rich and gullible Los Angeles housewives, Reanhauer (Bill Roy, BLACK SAMURAI) truly believes in his powers of conquering death. When a diabetic boy dies after Reanhaur convinces his mother that he does not need insulin to survive, the guru rallies his disciples to two strenuous days of around-the-clock chanting to use their spiritual energy to bring him back. A physically taxed Reanhaur has a heart attack and is rushed to the hospital. He refuses treatment, convinced that Satan is on his side, but the medical staff operate on him without his consent. When Reanhauer dies on the operating table, a demonic entity possesses young nurse Sherri (Jill Jacabson, BABY SISTER) and compels her to take revenge on everyone who was involved with the operation, including her own boyfriend Peter (Geoffrey Land, DEATH JOURNEY). Unable to explain Sherri's bizarre behavior, Peter consults a psychiatrist (John Goff, DRIVE-IN MASSACRE) who suggests committing her, but Peter starts to believe that his girlfriend is indeed possessed when Brother Stevens (J.C. Wells, BLACK HEAT) accosts him to discover the whereabouts of Reanhauer's remains. Advised by blind basketball player Marcus Washington (Prentiss Moulden) who learned about the supernatural from his Haitian grandmother, Sherri's colleagues Tara (Marilyn Joi, THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE) and Beth (Katherine Pass, HELTER SKELTER) endeavor to destroy Reanhauer's remains to save Sherri's soul.

Although the trailer and advertising materials for the film namecheck THE EXORCIST, CARRIE, and RUBY, NURSE SHERRI from Independent-International's Sam Sherman is just as heavily-influenced by the Roger Corman's New World Pictures nurse film cycle initiated by Stephanie Rothman's THE STUDENT NURSES. The mashup of hospital-set sex comedy and possession thriller is quite incongruous to say the least; but perhaps the greatest fault of the film is not revealing the circumstances of Reanhauer's death until a flashback late in the film. Not only do we have no idea why Sherri is possessed and makes her first kill, but the resulting lack of apparent momentum and listlessness is exacerbated by the subplots involving Sherri and Peter, Tara and Marcus, along with Beth and hypochondriac Charlie (Erwin Fuller, CINDERELLA 2000) which is played for comedy. The ugly 16mm photography relies on long takes and zooms for scares, while the possession effects include some poorly-executed telekinetic havoc, superimpositions, and some atypically-absurd Bob LeBar green animation to illustrate Sherri's demonic rape and possession. The story is further padded out by Stevens' separate efforts to destroy Reanhauer who tries to kill him in an endless car chase and crash (set to library music from Adamson's BLOOD OF DRACULA'S CASTLE), while the intercutting between Peter in danger as Tara and Beth search for Reanhauer's grave in the cemetery is so drawn out as to tax what little patience the viewer may have left.

When Sherman launched his Super Video label in the early 1980s, NURSE SHERRI was retitled HOSPITAL OF TERROR for a clamshell release housing a so-so fullscreen transfer. The same master was utilized for Retro Shock-o-Rama's DVD titled THE POSSESSION OF NURSE SHERRI which included a commentary by Sherman and an entire alternate cut of the film (see below). This edition was reissued in a two-disc set that moved the alternate cut to a second single-layer disc to create a double feature of the theatrical cut of NURSE SHERRI with a similarly poor-looking print of Adamson's western FIVE BLOODY GRAVES – with the Techniscope photography of future award winner Vilmos Zgismond (McCABE AND MRS. MILLER) brutally cropped to fullscreen – outfitted with a commentary by Sherman and star Robert Dix.

Vinegar Syndrome's new Blu-ray/DVD combo of the film does wonders with the original 35mm elements, a composite of a 35mm blow-up of the 16mm original and 35mm negative of footage from the reshoot. The jump between the 35mm and the blow-up footage is more apparent than ever in the Blu-ray's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen. Colors are richer in well-exposed shots (particularly reds), interiors are no longer murky, and detail is improved. It is still a poorly-photographed, cheap film but it is at least on its best behavior here. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track give a bit more umph to the library tracks but the mono mix was always pretty basic. Optional English SDH subtitles are also included.

The audio commentary by Sherman from the DVD is carried over here, and he concedes the influence of the Corman nurse films but also reveals that the concept of an I-I nurse sex comedy had been stalled for a couple years until the release of CARRIE provided them with a story idea. Sherman reveals that he and Adamson worked on opposite coasts over the phone, and that he knew the film would require some of the company's requisite reshoots after the workprint was laughed at by the sales team. He reveals that the opening with Reanhauer's cult was added by him after he read a newspaper story about a cult that was trying to bring back a dead member, and that production manager Steven Jacobson (THE BLAZING STEWARDESSES) shot some additional footage on the East Coast to add to the film. He reveals his dislike for the 16mm format despite the economical benefits for a low-budget production but does note that the AB-style editing of the gauge allowed for the production to superimpose the animation effects without the use of an optical printer.

Sherman notes the inclusion on the DVD release of the first version of the film, and that cut – also included on the Vinegar Syndrome edition on the DVD side only – is not the workprint but the first full edit (84:06 versus the theatrical cut's 88:57). The difference in the running times may amount to roughly five minutes, but the differences are substantial. It does include the desert cult prologue but it does not include the scenes with Brother Stevens: the telekinetic attack in his apartment, his confrontation with Peter, the car chase, and his attempt to destroy Reanhauer's body. In place of these bits are more sex scenes and nudity that was jettisoned by Sherman when he felt that they no longer suited the tone of the film (in spite of the comic bits that remained in the theatrical cuts). In the theatrical cut, we see the aftermath of a sex scene between Peter and Sherri before her possession while this earlier cut features an earlier sex scene between the two in which they reminisce on their first times in the aftermath complete with flashbacks: Peter receiving a blowjob under a podium while giving a paper in a college class, and a lesbian sunbathing interlude between Sherri and a classmate. The sex scene between Beth and Charlie unfolds as it does in the theatrical cut while Joi gets an additional opportunity to disrobe to hop into the hospital bed with Marcus. Unlike the theatrical cut, the earlier cut features a closing credits sequence with floating opticals of the cast members. The Retro Shock-o-Rama DVD sourced this earlier cut from a tape master, and that is also the case with Vinegar Syndrome's version of this bonus feature. Vinegar Syndrome's encode is a tad darker and less colorful, but the Retro transfer likely had its colors and contrast boosted going by the hot highlights.

"Nurses' Confessions" (20:46) is an interview with actresses Jacobson and Joi that offers some contrasting recollections. Jacobson discusses her schooling in acting and production in Texas and her impulsive move to Los Angeles. She is frank about her lack of chemistry with Land as well as feeling intimidated by Adamson feeling that she needed his approval, perhaps not realizing as Joi states that he cast actors that he felt were able to do what was required of them. Whereas Joi approached her exploitation rules as "flaunt it while you've got it" Jacobson recalls being devastated when her mother and sister saw the film and called it pornography. She has grown more confident since then and happily "owns" the role and her performance. Also included is a short "Locations: Then and Now" (2:34) featurette, a theatrical trailer and TV spot (3:01), as well as a stills gallery. The cover is reversible with NURSE SHERRI art on the front and the artwork for an alternate release under the title KILLER'S CURSE on the inside. (Eric Cotenas)