In the first ten minutes of The Young Nurses the audience witnesses three nude scenes, including a dream sequence in which a complete loser woos a beautiful woman. Impossibly, he wakes up to find the situation is even better than he dreamed. Sadly, we viewers will not wake up from The Young Nurses to find we are watching a good movie.
The Young Nurses is but one in a short burst of similar movies churned out in a hurry by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. Theoretically a series of pictures about “liberated” women who didn’t look to men to solve their problems, the “Nurses” movies – beginning with The Student Nurses in 1971 – were really more of the same exploitive cinematic crap that Corman had been churning out for decades. These are certainly more brazen and explicit movies than those with which Corman began, but they still ride the edge of respectability and taste as defined by the sensibilities of the time.
This particular picture tells four interweaving tales of nubile medical professionals, each of whom faces her own set of peculiar professional and personal challenges. One seeks to prove herself as a medical professional in a hospital with too few doctors, another falls in love with a patient, a third finds herself embroiled in a drug scandal. Naturally the upshot of these challenges is a good bit of on-screen nudity. This is nothing to complain about, but ordinarily the nudity in “naughty nurse” movies is cut with some lame but inoffensive hijinks. In an outstanding example of the style, these hijinks are even amusing. Young Nurses, by contrast, doesn’t even try for hijinks – the film marks time between skin scenes with dull segments of “social relevance” populated by a surprising number of recognizable and competent ’70s character actors and an unsurprising number of no-talent bimbos. Which is the more difficult aspect of this dichotomy: that the good actors are so unattractive compared to their on-screen partners? Or the fact that the knockout nurses deliver their lines in a monotone that Stephen Hawking’s voicebox might deride?
If you grew up in the ’70s and ’80s – or have simply seen lots of movies and TV from those decades – a fun way to while away the minutes of dialogue might be to place the character actors in their other on-screen appearances without the benefit of references. Sure, one might recognize Dick Miller’s face (he plays the cynical cop in one storyline), but how many of your fellow moviewatchers could correctly place him in such films as X: The Man with X-Ray Eyes or Piranha or even episodes of various Star Trek series? Allan Arbus is even more difficult unless you’re a M*A*S*H fan or watch a lot of dramatic television. With 119 screen credits Nan Martin’s face will certainly ring bells all over the place (she plays the curious reporter in The Young Nurses), but her longest running stint was as Mrs. Louder on The Drew Carey Show. Even Sally Kirkland drops in for a quick cameo.
Don’t get too excited, though. The bevy of familiar faces won’t do much to distract you from the fact that this is a bottom-dollar Corman production that has as little respect for production value as it has for women. I’d be shocked if each scene of dialogue were given more than a single take. (Such considerations for the expense of film take a back seat when the shot involves a naked woman. That is, after all, the point of the film.) The idea of “costuming” becomes a bit of a joke, as each nurse wears the exact same outfit for the duration of the film – when she wears anything at all.
The Young Nurses is most disappointing because it is exactly what you’d expect it to be. At least a film like The Sex Thief (of roughly the same time and sub-genre) strives for something out of the ordinary and provides a good bit of entertainment as it fails. This picture just feels like lazy, flash-a-tit, collect-a-buck filmmaking. Don’t fall for it.