You may be shocked to learn that, in addition to boobs, winky thermometer jokes, and covert quickies in laundry closets, the sexy nurse subgenre was once a hotbed of mob intrigue, car chases, sordid criminal cover-ups, and revolutionary social action. That’s because many of the most memorable sexy nurse movies from the ‘70s were produced by legendary exploitationist and distributor Roger Corman, and thanks to Shout Factory, four of these choice cut, Corman-produced nurse movies are now available on DVD in a 2-disc marathon pack, The Nurses Collection.
Disc one includes Candy Stripe Nurses and Night Call Nurses, which are both highly entertaining and well-paced erotic action comedies by any measuring stick. Auxilliary offerings Private Duty Nurses and The Young Nurses still play as above-par exploitation films, but are not in quite the same weight class as the featured headliners. Both Night Call Nurses and Private Duty Nurses were scripted by future Hollywood heavyweight George Armitage (Grosse Point Blank), and Night Call Nurses, the strongest movie in the collection, was the directorial debut of Jonathan Kaplan, later responsible for White Line Fever, The Accused, and Brokedown Palace.
All four films rely on a similar story structure, with action divided between three female protagonists, and with at least one romantic subplot, one political subplot, and one “kinky” subplot, as per Corman’s standard formula. Corman is, and was, a proudly bleeding-heart liberal, and he explains in a featurette on Shout Factory’s disc that he always took pains to include at least one Black or Latina main character in his nurse movies, way before such practices were par for the course (in fact, as Corman says, the inclusion of Black characters often made sex movies difficult or impossible to distribute in the southern US).
In Private Duty Nurses, it’s actually kind of amazing how heavily the theme of racial integration predominates, with a hardline black power group’s fight to integrate a stodgy corporate hospital climaxing in a mediagenic sit-in that grinds the hospital’s activities to a complete halt. Similar subplots in Young Nurses and Candy Stripe Nurses have racial overtones but focus on broader issues like drug trafficking and racial profiling on the part of the police force. In addition to social consciousness, The Nurses Collection features all the bra-busting softcore action you’d expect, with occasional forays into rougher and kinkier fetish play. Corman also goes the extra mile and includes action sequences in all four films, from car chases to knife fights to dramatic motorcycle races ending in semi-serious injury. This something-for-everyone approach, alongside shrewd business sense and a genuine eye for talent, goes a long way toward explaining why Corman’s films were so successful in their time and remain so beloved today.
Shout Factory shelled out for two separate interview featurettes, featuring Roger Corman, his wife and colleague Julie, director Kaplan, and others, both of which are entertaining and provide a lot of insight into the production of the films and the social climate surrounding their production. All four films in the collection are solid, Candy Stripe Nurses and Night Call Nurses are truly great, and even the weaker installments are great, cheap, sexy entertainment with enough action and story in the interim to dominate the most fickle attention span.