Saturday, May 28, 2016

Candy Stripe Nurses


Such noble professions, teaching and nursing.  Ah, but for Roger Corman, opportunities to make series of low budget time wasters to fill grindhouse and drive-in theater screens.  Films that were often quite profitable.  Corman's New World studios cranked out dozens of exploitation epics in the 1970s, some helmed by the likes of Jonathan Demme and Martin Scorsese in their salad days.  Some were films about nubile young teachers.   The "Nurse" cycle included five silly, generally harmless comedy/dramas centered around a trio of lovelies who did actually attend to patients in between illicit trysts - sometimes this act was one in the same.

1974's CANDY STRIPE NURSES was the final entry in the series, this one featuring high schoolers who volunteer as candy stripers in their local hospital.  Exploitation starlet Candice Rialson plays Sandy,  an easy with her virtues, crafty young lady who juggles several affairs (one with a doctor) and eventually tries to help a famous rock star with his potency problems; this is of great importance as the Englishman hasn't written any hits since he last, well, you know.  This despite the constant presence of two scantily clad groupies. Future soap opera star Robin Mattson is the intellectual Dianne, who aspires to be a doctor and finds herself involved with a high school basketball star with a drug problem.  Maria Rojo portrays Marissa, a delinquent who plays detective in attempts to prove a young patient's innocence in a gas station robbery.

That's a fair amount of plot for this type of film, though the NURSE pictures often had subplots with political overtones.  Efforts to shoehorn more serious subject matter amongst lascivious liaisons didn't always come off but you had to give the filmmakers some props.  Many were downright feminist (ref. films of Stephanie Rothman).   Trashy '70s movies like these were much wiser than their trailers would suggest, and for all of their embarrassing moments still seem like art compared to the genre offerings of recent days.

CANDY STRIPE NURSES is primarily recommended for students of this era's cinema, albeit a very specific type: the moderately intelligent softcore.  This one doesn't quite cut it - with its unevenness it feels long despite a running time of only eighty minutes.  The title sequence illustrations are unbelievably cheesy.   The score is hilariously repetitious.   But....the atmosphere of 1970s Los Angeles is really vivid.  Director Allen Holeb does a nice job of capturing the scenery and the vibe.   And yes, buffs, B-movie character actor extraordinaire Dick Miller once again has a cameo.

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