Part of the label's ongoing and hopefully never-ending "Roger Corman's Cult Classics" line, The Nurses Collection presents a quadruple feature of the sexy, soapy, seriocomic flicks on two DVDs: 1974's Candy Stripe Nurses, 1972's Night Call Nurses, 1971's Private Duty Nurses and 1973's The Young Nurses. As you may have noticed, they're not presented in chronological order, but that's fine, since none are related to the others beyond the loose — in every sense of that word — theme.
You’ll understand once you pop in Candy, whose cartoon credits even show nudity, presumably for those too anxious to wait six minutes until the real deal. The nurses in question are a brunette, a blonde and a member of a minority — respectively played by Robin Mattson, Candice Rialson and María Rojo — and they each land an easy, on-the-job hookup while dispensing some tender loving care.
For Mattson, who was not yet a soap-opera queen, it’s an on-the-mend basketball player who thinks amphetamines “aren't drugs — they're essential nutrients.” For Rialson, a regular linen-closet plaything, it’s an impotent British rock star who visits the sex clinic. And for Rojo, it’s an accused criminal handcuffed to his hospital bed.
Rialson gets the film’s best line in, “Where can a girl throw up around here?” She delivers it so well, no wonder she’s a drive-in legend. Rojo is so bad, no wonder this marks her one and only movie role. Candy is the sweetest and bubbliest of the bunch, with runner-up honors going to the flick with which it shares a disc: Night Call Nurses.
Like Candy, Night focuses on a brunette, a blonde and a member of a minority; here, Patti T. Byrne, Alana Collins (the future ex-Mrs. Rod Stewart) and Mittie Lawrence. Instead of a sex clinic, it's largely set in a psychiatric ward, yet our trio still finds this setting perfect for making love connections. For Lawrence, it’s the BFF of a prison rioter in lockdown. For Collins, it’s a cowboy truck driver who lands in the hospital for taking drugs while driving his rig; he’s a real gentleman: “Janice. Is that your name or the name of your left titty?” This being 1972, she finds this charming.
This Night gets really, really weird, with subplots of a facially disfigured CEO, a senior citizen who’s a serial flasher, threatening letters written in lipstick, gratuitous skydiving, the sleaziest pharmaceutical rep in history, and someone who’s now a famous comedy director appearing in drag. Strange as this may be, it’s nothing compared to its mind-boggling "human machine" sequence, part of an extended, out-of-nowhere group therapy session in which everyone takes off their clothes. That’s not a complaint.
As happy-go-lucky as those two films are, the set’s other pair swing in the opposite direction. Private Duty Nurses get active battling drug traffickers, but also place themselves in situations they shouldn’t. A trippy-dippy, blue-light sex scene at a party plays most uncomfortable as one nurse cavorts with a sleazy, rapey loser who keeps cans of PBR in his bicycle basket.
Writer/director George Armitage, who also penned Night Call and would go on to make the black-comedy crime classic Miami Blues in 1990, tackles some big issues, including racism, which takes a front-and-center role. It’s indicative of his "have you cake and eat it, too" approach: make an exploitation film with a social message; make it feminist, yet feature all the females in undress. Naturally, those don’t always jive, no matter how many sailing and motocross sequences one throws in.
Young Nurses is a smidge less serious, opening as it does with a bikini-clad nurse tending to an accident victim. And these nurses fly kites and romp in the physical-therapy tub, but don’t seem to have the fun that those in Candy and Night had. When one of the nurses starts to enjoy an outdoor shower and says, “Dr. Krebs is right about one thing: You are a fast-rising young surgeon,” you’ll wish she had put some energy into it.
Still, for a collection like this, especially at such a low price, it’s a no-brainer buy for the Corman legion. The extras include two documentary featurettes on the movies’ making, unleashing such nuggets as Night Call Nurses director Jonathan Kaplan (later to lens the hits The Accused, Unlawful Entry and Bad Girls) being ordered to hire a hooker, and Corman analyzing Valley of the Dolls to craft a formula for this series. And there’s definitely a formula.
The only entry missing from this set is 1970's Student Nurses. Perhaps Shout! is saving that for a future release with The Student Teachers? Please? —Rod Lott