In 1970, Roger Corman broke from James Nicholson and Sam Arkoff's American-International Pictures and formed his own production company, New World Pictures. The company kicked off their assault on drive-in audiences of the 70s with THE STUDENT NURSES, surrounded by a heavy marketing campaign accenting the easy free love attitudes of the nurses and how they often sleep around with their patients and peers. I can't imagine what drive-in patrons thought when confronted with a character-driven soap opera instead?!
Meet THE STUDENT NURSES, Sharon (Elaine Giftos), Phred (Karen Carlson), Lynn (Brioni Farrell), and Priscilla (Barbara Leigh). While toiling through medical school, they all become involved in their own personal dillemas: Sharon is assigned to care for a terminally ill teenager and soon falls in love; Phred begins sleeping with one of the hospital's doctors, who is more liberated than she is; Lynn becomes involved with a Hispanic political group; and Priscilla gets knocked up by a biker who runs out on her.
More of a social drama than an exploitation film, those diving into THE STUDENT NURSES expecting tits 'n' ass will be sorely disappointed. There is only a smattering of nudity (by only three of the four nurses) and the sex isn't exactly scorching, either. Writer/director Stephanie Rothman, one of few female exploiteers, instead opts to create a tale of four liberated women, working to break into the medical profession and overcoming obstacles in their personal lives. Sound like fun? It didn't to me, either, until I looked back and found myself glad I had gone along for the ride. All of the girls are pretty and interesting, even if they can't all act, so it isn't hard to be sucked into their individual dramas. Barbara Leigh and Elaine Giftos would both continue for a few years in the exploitation field (Leigh would work with Rothman again in TERMINAL ISLAND, Giftos would play the concerned counselor in ANGEL). Points of interest: the LSD sex scene on the beach, Priscilla's best friends performing her abortion (she experiences more LSD-induced hallucinations!), a Hispanic protest being busted by the cops, but the best part of the movie is the excellent Guess Who sound-alike theme song "We Can Make It if We Try"!! Plus there's a love-in, a political shoot-out, dated dialogue ("Peace" and "Groovy"!), and references to Vietnam, womens' lib, and protest groups. I guess the film can't be made more interesting by a review, so I won't try to convert the skeptical, but anyone who was at least intrigued by the title and ad campaign should check it out. It doesn't live up to its sexy reputation, but that's typical of 70s exploitation; STUDENT NURSES still manages to be an interesting political statement on the youthful environment of the early 70s, as the 60s came to a close, and that is reason enough for it to exist.
After a series of misfire discs in 2002, New Concorde shot back with their Nurses Collection (CANDY STRIPE NURSES had previously been released, in a fullscreen barebones edition). The first in the collection, THE STUDENT NURSES, is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, which comes as a pleasant surprise as the company seemed to have taken a fullframe only approach to their releases. The transfer is nothing to scream about, but it's the best the film has ever looked, especially compared to the Charter tape. The film's color palette is dull to begin with, but the few glaring yellows and reds don't bleed and look great. The mono audio is serviceable, nothing more or less. The extras are limited to the original theatrical trailer (looking much fuzzier and dark than the feature) and previews for NIGHT CALL NURSES and THE YOUNG NURSES, both of which are also on DVD. I wish Stephanie Rothman had been approached for an audio commentary, if only to allow a woman's perspective of the exploitation scene of the time.
While I can't come up with outrageous
scenes in this film to recommend viewing it, I can recommend this film and the
disc. It marks the beginning of the reign of New World at the drive-in in the
1970s and is an important exploitation title worth adding to your collection
for historical purposes. Whether you'll find yourself taking it down from your
shelf often is questionable. (Casey Scott)
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