Wednesday, November 9, 2016

#2,245. Night Call Nurses (1972)

Directed By: Jonathan Kaplan

Starring: Patty Byrne, Alana Stewart, Mittie Lawrence

Tag line: "It's always harder at night"

Trivia: Martin Scorsese recommended Jonathan Kaplan to Roger Corman as director for this film

1972’s Night Call Nurses is the third installment in Roger Corman’s “nurse” series (after 1970’s The Student Nurses and ‘71s Private Duty Nurses), and even though I haven’t seen the first two, I'm guessing neither would in any way change my opinion of this movie.

Directed by Jonathan Kaplan, Night Call Nurses follows the exploits of three beautiful caregivers, all of whom work in their hospital’s crisis center. The first is Barbara (Patty Byrne), who, along with her boyfriend Zach (Christopher Law), attends a therapy group in her spare time. When she overhears its instructor talking about her to the others, Barbara experiences a level of paranoia that sets her mind to spinning, and before long she’s acting in ways she never dreamed possible. 

Janis (Alana Hamilton) develops a crush on a patient named Kyle Toby (Richard Young), a long-distance truck driver who became addicted to speed while on the job. Once Kyle is cured, Janis begins to see him socially, and the two fall in love. 

Sandra (Mitti Lawrence), an African-American, is approached by Jude (Felton Perry), a former convict and current militant, who wants her to help spring a radical named Sampson (Stack Pierce) from the hospital. A prisoner who, according to official reports, attempted suicide, Sampson is being held in a secure ward, and is under the watchful eye of the prison’s bigoted warden (Bobby Hall), so getting him out isn’t going to be easy.

What these beauties don’t realizes is that, as they’re dealing with their personal issues, someone is watching them, and sending the occasional threatening note (written in lipstick) their way. None of the girls take this potential threat seriously, but is it really the work of a practical joker (as they believe), or a disturbed psychopath hell-bent on doing them harm?

The three very different storylines that make up Night Call Nurses are, for the most part, intriguing (especially Barbara’s, whose near-mental breakdown results in a few interesting scenes), and, as expected, the leads shed their clothes on a number of occasions (there’s even a scene during a group therapy session where all the female attendees, hoping to prove they aren’t uptight, do a striptease). That said, Night Call Nurses has a few too many superfluous characters; there’s a regular patient named Bathrobe Benny (Martin ashe) who is a serial flasher, and the film opens with a dramatic, albeit confusing sequence in which Cynthia (Lynne Guthrie), another patient, commits suicide (this tragedy is only mentioned in passing afterwards, and is then completely forgotten). Throw in a subplot about a possible stalker, and a fistfight between Kyle Toby and a drunken orderly that seemingly comes out of left field, and you have a movie bursting at the seams with ideas, but with very little time to explore any of them in a meaningful way.

With a cast of pretty young ladies who aren’t afraid to bare it all, Night Call Nurses is not merely a typical early ‘70s nurse film; it’s a typical Roger Corman movie, and while that’s not always a bad thing, there’s nothing here that you haven’t seen from the legendary producer before.

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