I Saw A Film!
I immediately forgot the title of this flick, and it took a process of searching through nurse movies to locate it. I wanted it to be called Night Shift Nurses . . . but that brought up nothing. And I didn’t notice, until now, that it was a Corman product that is said to be the third of three nursing films! I’ll keep my eyes open. I don’t know why there are four ladies featured on the poster, the film is about the three ladies on the left.
What looks like it’s going to be a goofy sex romp soon proves (as soon as you’re treated to a lovely suicide in the opening seconds) to be a complex arrangement that not only includes some sexual freedom, but racial tensions and some Black Panthers (or something close to it), quirky early 70s pop psychological “be-ins”, a threatening-letter thriller-killer (potentially), the usual iconoclastic break-down of the previous generation’s “squareness”, a run-in with bikers, and even a passable trucker get-away featuring a big ole semi rig! Honestly, this little ditty is is played in several keys. And here I thought I was just going to get some fantasy nurses taking their tops off (we do get some of that too!). In all, this film is a mighty collage of tastes and film styles of the era. I was quite surprised by all it attempts to encompass. For what it is it does a fair job!
Our ladies, cute and remarkably patient and sweet (possibly the most fantastic of the fantasy bits), care for some folks at a mental health facility that caters to the kooky and the dispirited. While one old fellow enjoys throwing open his robes for a chance to flash the ladies (who respond in bemused sit-com format), another patient, face entirely wrapped in bandages spits vitriol and almost academic bad manners. Classic bad patients abound. For some reason their ward also winds up housing a recovering Black Panther leader who they’ll eventually help to escape the eyes of the racist and arrogantly generationist cops watching his room. Being that he was recovering from wounds, he really was shoved into the story ad hoc, but it doesn’t suffer due to it.
The meat of the story seems to spoil around a psychology professor and his group of cornball “students” who behave much more like they’re participating in a hilarious drama class rather than anything to do with the study of human psychoses (I could be wrong, maybe advanced psychology is drama class!). The whole point of said course seems to be getting pretty ladies to take their clothes off (to prove their comfort with themselves or some such nonsense), which they readily do while telling one another they’re “cop outs” or “frauds”. We’re also treated to a long sky-diving sequence, and some love-making with a trucker fellow who seems to think his hands became rear-view mirrors. He will figure rather importantly later, but for now cringe as he says he “hates Asians” and his nurse girlfriend chuckles and takes him to bed. We get a hitch-hiker sequence featuring Dick Smith (I mean, I should have guessed a Corman film right there) who complains a bit that our lovely nurse was rough on his tape player. He doesn’t do much, but she still needs to escape him as he keeps asking for her phone number and or offering her drinks.
OK then the film switches into thriller mode, and a cleaver-wielding madman, transvestite (as a “lady” nurse) appears to pull the film off the hippy course it’s been hiking. We are now shown that it’s his hand writing the threatening lipstick letters that the nurses were jealous only one of them was getting.
In a recent discussion with a bunch of strangers on Facebook I found myself wondering about iconoclasm and generational egotism. In the last six months I found myself marveling at how many films of the fifties and early sixties featured incredibly progressive ideas. They had ladies as astronauts and bikers and race car drivers. They had black people leading classrooms and running for public offices. Granted we were talking about fictional entertainment, but just the same people made great strides in what they were willing to invest in even as Bill Cosby (previous to his ship sailing) helped break barriers to offense. It seems like we spend all our time catering to people who cling to outrage and indignation over serving reasonable people throughout. Part of that is the fact they hold power, and until that power is relinquished (through normal means or force) it’s difficult to get past the KKK-like outlook. However, there’s another aspect to this argument that pops up all the time, and that in 2020 has the same old jokes, tools, and recipes circulating over and over again as if a movement were afoot and the children of the children of the children of the people who actually did the footwork to smash the oppression were instead the real iconoclasts as they post memes and arts on social media. It occurs to me that each generation seems to imagine itself the true wild-ones, the iconoclasts when really we’re all too often just seeking out long past offenses to fan indignation into flame. Granted the world is full of real problems, like poverty and homelessness that cause children tremendous harm. But instead of trying to fix that we’re waving flags about the same old gender roles (using the same images over and over) that people choose to portray. Maybe it’s practice and we’ll grow up to get our canons aimed properly. Who knows!
Anyway these nurses and their complicated little film are free on Prime! And it’s quite enjoyable from many perspectives despite some of its more inept features. It was also a surprise that when one of the ladies is referred to as a hippy she rejects it calling it a quaint term (already in 1972!).