Thursday, December 2, 2010

Candy Stripe Nurses (1974)

Directed by Alan Holleb
Starring Candice Rialson, Robin Mattson, María Rojo
Rated R

The last of the Roger Corman-produced “nurse” films -- a series of five sexploitation romps of the early ’70s -- Candy Stripe Nurses contains a bit more plot and characterization than one generally expects to find in such fare. More coherence, too, as the various storylines do all resolve, even if they don’t have a lot of depth, nor to they have a lot to do with each other.

But hey, what are we here for -- to be edified or entertained? The latter, of course. And while hardly the best example of low-budgeted sex comedy of the era, Candy Stripe Nurses does, for the most part, entertain.

The opening credits roll over a grin-producing, mildly-bawdy animated sequence that sets a light, drive-in-fun-kinda mood.

Soon we meet the film’s three leading ladies, all of three of whom we’ll see working as “candy stripers,” a nick that comes from the red-and-white striped uniforms such volunteers typically used to wear.

We begin with Marisa (María Rojo). Silently carving a phallic-looking block of wood with a switchblade, Marisa wordlessly spurns a boy’s invite to the big Owen Boles concert. Then school official takes the knife from her, prompting her to attack him with the block of wood. A trip to the principal’s office follows, during which Marisa is told she’s going to have to volunteer over at the Oakwood Hospital.

Cut to the same sap from before, now asking the fetching Diane (Robin Mattson), a short-haired beauty in a leotard, if she wants to go to the show. But she turns him down as well. Her subsequent conversation with a friend reveals that she, too, has signed up a candy striper down at Oakwood, motivated by a desire to enter the medical profession some day.

(Some trivia: Diane’s friend is played by Tara Strohmeier, not so memorable for her bit part here, but much more so for her role as in the film-ending segment “Eyewitness News” in 1977’s The Kentucky Fried Movie, as well as for appearing in a few other drive-in classics of the period, including Truck Turner.)

Cut to the hospital, where candy striper Sandy, played by the sleepy-eyed, blonde-haired, exploitation goddess Candice Rialson (Pets, Summer School Teachers, Chatterbox), is getting it on with a doctor -- Wally (Richard Gates) -- in the linen closet. As they dress, Sandy explains how she has been given tickets to the aforementioned Owen Boles concert.

Her doctor boyfriend gives Sandy her homework that he’s done for her. She then goes home, where her mother and aunt discuss how she’s become a “quite a little woman.” Mom brags on her, noting how she gets top grades, is president of the social club, and volunteers at the hospital. Indeed, Sandy keeps busy all right, as demonstrated by her having to copy her homework while getting ready to go out.

Next comes a hold-up at a gas station that ends in one of the robbers getting shot. Then we go to the hospital, where all three of the girls are at work. Marisa is shown tending to the accused robber, Carlos (Roger Cruz). Diane is tagging along with a doctor, trying to learn more about medicine. And Sandy goes to help another patient, though once again swiftly ends up between the sheets.

We continue to follow the three in their escapades. Diane gets involved with a patient, a basketball player from the local college, Cliff (Rod Hasse), brought in after a manic episode of uncertain (and perhaps nefarious) cause. Her interest in him is apparently academic, though her study quickly takes a more intimate turn.

Marisa develops a relationship with Carlos, who explains to her he was actually an innocent bystander who got shot and then wrongly blamed. He tells her about a witness, and she takes off in an effort to help prove his innocence. Unfortunately, the gas station attendant is of no help, his racism against Latinos (“you’re all alike!”) preventing him from reconsidering his inaccurate fingering of Carlos.

Meanwhile, Sandy gets to fill in as a receptionist over in the “sex clinic,” where she takes a phone call: “Are you serious? With a duck? Three ducks...? Well, who would do it? Your sister? With Scotch tape...? But I thought you said your husband...? Oh, with pictures.... I really wouldn’t know about that.”

Much to Sandy’s surprise, the famous Owen Boles (Kendrew Lescelles) is brought in to see Dr. Kramer, the sex therapist. He has a problem, which his manager describes to the doctor as “nothing less than a national disaster.” He hasn’t written a new song in months, and apparently -- much to the dismay of his two groupies, the barely-clothed April (Kimberly Hyde) and ZouZou (Elana Casey) -- is entirely impotent as well.

The manager is convinced the two problems are related, and since the youth of America depend on Boles so greatly, the matter has become quite urgent.

Dr. Kramer suggests the abuse of drugs could be the cause of Boles’ problems, something which the whacked-out Boles seems to have hard time comprehending.

The doctor asks Sandy to call a nurse to go out to stay with Boles, but seizing the chance to get closer to the rock star, she goes out to try to “nurse” him instead.

By the pool, Sandy tells the star “You’re my all-time favorite. I have every record you ever made.” “Most people do,” he lifelessly answers. When he doesn’t respond to her advances, she can’t help but wonder “What’s the matter with you? Don’t you ever get turned on?” “Too much trouble,” exhales Boles.

Sandy decides to adopt a different strategy, playing hard-to-get and challenging his manhood. Meanwhile, Diane and Cliff go to a ballet, watch some hang-gliding, and she helps him with a term paper. Sort of.

We switch back to Marisa, still on her quest to absolve Carlos, but she runs into trouble when some attempt to thwart her efforts. She even has to fend off an attempted rape.

She manages to escape that spot, then finds the witness, though he’s strangely saying Carlos was the leader of the hold-up. After she leaves, we discover he was being held at gunpoint during her visit, and thus had to lie.

As the film draws near its conclusion, there’s still much to be determined. Will Marisa be able to absolve Carlos? Will Sandy cure Owen Boles? Will Diane find out about the true cause of Cliff’s manic episodes?

All of these storylines converge at the film’s conclusion -- literally, in fact, with hospital beds running into each other at an intersection of hallways in the hospital. Along the way there is more sex, a bit of gunplay, some reckless driving, an emergency room visit, and a basketball game with the Corman-staple Dick Miller (Starhops) in the bleachers.

While probably not the most inspired of the “nurse” films, Candy Stripe Nurses does mostly deliver when it comes to the usual genre expectations, with the three leads all earning plenty of exposure (Rialson and Mattson more so). Although the stories don’t really amount to a heckuva lot, there’s enough suspense to keep the viewer engaged. And there’s a number of grins, too, to be had here, which help get us through the shade-over-75-minute running time.

Worth checking out, then, especially for fans of Rialson, nurses, Roger Corman, or ’70s schlock.

- Triple S

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