“There are many things in medicine that are brutal.”
Four sexy young women deal with various dramas while studying to be nurses: Sharon (Elaine Giftos) attempts to befriend an embittered, terminally ill patient (Darrell Larson); Phred (Karen Carlson) falls for an OB-GYN student (Lawrence P. Casey); Lynn (Brioni Farrell) accidentally becomes involved with a group of Chicano activists (led by Reni Santoni); and Priscilla (Barbara Leigh) gets together with a drug-dealing motorcyclist (Richard Rust) who impregnates her.
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that this “first of New World’s R-rated ‘nursing cycle'” — which earned Roger Corman a bundle of money — “is perhaps director Stephanie Rothman’s most solid work, effectively blending sex, comedy, action, and drama, and advancing a strong feminist viewpoint.” He notes that the four female leads “are all convincing”, and “set the pattern for future Rothman females”; and he points out that they “help and root for each other, without petty rivalries over men or careers”, while “mak[ing] all their own decisions, right and wrong”. He notes that “Rothman sets up personal and professional roadblocks for each, and makes it clear that for the women to triumph, they must earn their nursing diplomas”. Though it’s undeniably an exploitation film — primary emphasis is placed on the sex appeal of the four young nurses, and much of the silly narrative is soap opera-worthy — it nonetheless respectfully tackles a surprising number of socially relevant topics, including political activism, drugs, and a woman’s right to have an abortion. It’s interesting to note that Rothman wrote a rejected script for New World’s later release, The Student Teachers (1973), given what an abject mess this later flick turned out to be; indeed, watching the two films side by side clearly reveals what a difference an invested sensibility behind the scenes can make. The Student Nurses was followed up by four additional (non-Rothman-directed) entries in the “series”; check out DVD Talk’s review for a chuckle-worthy overview of how all five of the films are “thematically linked”.
Note: Click here to read a fascinating interview with Rothman.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- An interesting cinema verite depiction of various counterculture social milieus
- A refreshing infusion of a social, political, and feminist sensibility into an exploitation flick
No; I’m recommending Rothman’s Group Marriage as must-see, and all-purpose film fanatics need only check out one of her films. But of course this one will be of interest to fans of Rothman’s work and/or exploitation flicks.