|Night Call Nurses (1972)|
|Writers:||George Armitage and Danny Opatoshu|
|Starring:||Patty Byrne, Alana Stewart and Mittie Lawrence|
|The Plot: Our story revolves around three girls who work as nurses at a mental health institution. Barbara (Patty Byrne) is the free spirit of the group, and we watch as she becomes involved with a strange hippie commune. All seems to be going well, with free love and bizarre new-age philosophy flying in the air, but things eventually take a darker turn when Barbara walks into a room with a two-way receiver that is broadcasting the “guru” of this commune spreading lies about her while she is out of the room. This nearly drives Barbara insane and pushes her to areas that she never expected to go. Next up is Janis (Alana Stewart), who isn’t looking for love on the job, but she is soon wrapped up in a relationship with one of her patients who is currently undergoing rehab treatment. A cowboy with a drug addiction, would could wrong? Finally, we have Sandra (Mittie Lawrence), who is drawn into the political struggles of the world when she meets a prisoner on her ward. It turns out that this prisoner started a massive riot, and Sandra believes that his struggle is her own. Will she commit to helping him even though it means risking her entire career, or will she play it safe?
The “ethnic” lead is once again relegated to the socially conscious subplot, and our story follows the plight of a young man who is searching for his friend who has been hidden within the hospital bureaucracy. Made in the seventies, with the civil rights movement still fresh and the Attica prison riots still fresh in the mind of all potential viewers, this story can seem a bit shoehorned. The movie inevitably makes it work through the general vibe of counter culture being in full swing throughout all three of our main stories. Although it has its silly moments, Night Call Nurses certainly delivers a great deal of things for them to chew on. Even if most of this subtext is fairly plain. Patty Byrne’s character, who falls in love with a wandering cowboy, makes reference to the hippie culture by name, and the movie gives a clear glimpse into the early seventies. With lots of sex and hippy mumbo jumbo psychobabble, the movie oozes with a swinging sixties style. Made in 1972, it seems obvious that the general sense of rebellion from the sixties had not fully wore out its welcome.
Jonathan Kaplan, our director, is actually an intriguing filmmaker within the world of exploitation cinema. Sure, he later went on to direct The Accused with Jodie Foster, but before that he made a string of exploitation titles. Amongst these, we of course have this film, Night Call Nurses, but he also directed The Student Teachers, The Slams (with Jim Brown), and one of the best blaxploitation films ever made: Truck Turner. Still, this first film of his shows both his confidence as a director and a slightly amateurish hand when dealing with so much content. There is no ignoring the fact that Roger Corman’s school of hard knocks rarely allowed for extra time or money, so many aspects of Night Call Nurses can be forgiven, but occasionally the movie simply gets lazy. Featuring very few sets, a loosely tied together plot, and some very cheap expositional scenes (will get to this in a moment), the movie doesn’t show Kaplan at his very best. Sure, the movie was undeniably cheap in its creation, but there are multiple sequences throughout the movie that rely heavily on two characters walking around during “date scene” montages that are accompanied by voiceover narration. These scenes are relatively boring in their setup, but they functionally serve a purpose.