Friday, September 3, 2010

A Cinematic Thalidomide Baby

Day three of the Exploitation September challenge...

D. Doug Collins (Constantine Zuba)/ Shaun Costello
Video X Pix
16mm Full Frame

This is among the weirdest movies I have ever seen, not only in the XXX field but in any genre. Thankfully SHAUN COSTELLO forwarded me an article he had written that gave me some history into the making of this monstrosity which shines a lot of light on the mind set that created it. But make no mistake there are no other movies quite like TEENAGE NURSES, it is a genre unto itself. And truly rewarding viewing for those who like to travel to the out most edges of cinematic weirdness.

The completely wrong-headed plot deals with the Bethesda Veterans Hospital during the waning years of the Vietnam war and the logical concerns of the craptastic entertainment for the suffering maimed soldiers there. A suitably insane Dr. Stein has brought in a group of horny Nurses to satisfy the needs of said patients. But he is also not happy about the USO shows that have been put on in the past so he has brought in a number of, well, frankly insane vaudeville styled acts for the pleasure of the suffering.

So between the bouts of up close and personal fucking we get jugglers, unicyclists, a snake charmer dressed in vinyl, a singing woman comedian, a lounge singer/ tap dancer and a ventriloquist comedian with a black dummy.  All of this book ended with a crack reporter in Groucho Marx glasses (played by Costello himself) giving us the rundown on the story, and screwing up his lines.  If you pay close attention you can spot HARRY REAMS, FRED LINCOLN and JAMIE GILLIS in blink and you miss them supporting roles. 

"Shaun Costello Himself as Groucho Marx"

Ultimately a through line plot finally emerges in the last reel about a soldier who has lost his leg in battle who feels he will not ever be whole again and one of the nurses tends to his sexual needs irregardless of his amputee status. Once again this character is played by Costello himself and the nurse is played by Laura Cannon who was in Shaun Costello’s classic FORCED ENTRY.  This last act sex scene is what makes the whole movie worthwhile as it actually manages to be quite touching, tender even amidst all the insane and moral chaos around it. While the movie at large is clearly a farce, designed to at once frustrate, or even thumb its nose at the audience to a degree (or maybe it is just a product drugs of the time period) this final scenes becomes even more effective because of it. Of course once the poor soldier is released and hit by a car it sort of negates the beauty of the scene preceding it...

"If the Republicans only knew this was part of the new Health Care Bill..."

The history of this involves director Doug Collins putting this together as a XXX comedy with lofty ambitions to involve musical numbers and the vaudeville bits. Naturally it did not sell. Years later after some legal trouble the movie was sold to Shaun Costello who shot more sex footage, the wrap around stuff and added some other things to make it more coherent and commercially viable to the adult crowd and unleashed it to the rain coat crowds. It only recently resurfaced on this dvd. 

 "Costello as the Amputee Soldier and Laura Cannon as Nurse Scarlett who tends to his needs in 
a surprisingly effective and tender scene."

Shaun Costello calls it his cinematic Thalidomide Baby. That about fits the bill as it is as twisted a porn film as you could imagine. It really doesn’t function as a porn film should as the sex scenes are edited and interrupted by the comedy and vaudeville acts. But the comedy doesn’t quite succeed because it is interrupted by the sloppy sex and blow job  close ups. The whole thing has a weird laugh track even though it is about Vietnam Veterans being hospitalized during the war giving it a bit of the same kind of feel the incest scene during NATURAL BORN KILLERS had (but twenty years earlier). But, and this is important, the movie is NEVER boring. there is always something weird and wacky going on. And the climactic sex scene is shot with a lot of care, and even some distance which shows that they were thinking about it at least a little bit. With the acting in that scene really selling it as well.

TEENAGE NURSES (which was originally called AN AMERICAN IN BETHESDA) is a bizarre curiosity item well worth checking out. The Video X Pix dvd looks about what you would expect for this kind of fly by night grab a stray print and dump it to dvd deal. Maybe one day a more impressive dvd will surface. 

Review © Andy Copp

1 comment:

  1. Nice job, Andy. Pretty accurate describes this cinematic oddity.
    Shaun Costello