Review Date: May 23, 2002
Released by: Retro Shock-O-Rama
Release date: 2/19/2002
Region 1, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1
Don't let the slick softcore, direct-to-video cover art fool you, this is authentic '70's schlock at its most entertaining. Though known in it's various releases under several different titles (including Beyond the Living
and Black Voo Doo
), most are familiar with this bargain basement Al Adamson film simply as Nurse Sherri
. A bizarre mix of horror and sexploitation, Sherri is one of the last great examples of drive-in circuit programming - and one of the most absurdly compelling.
While attempting to raise the body of a dead disciple, an enigmatic cult leader named Reinhour has a heart attack. He is quickly transported from some vague California desert location to a (decidedly eastern) small town hospital. After an awkwardly cut together emergency room scene, said cult leader dies on the operating table. An important plot point, one that comes much later in the film, is that our heart attack victim did not want the surgery. (This bit of information comes about much later and hurts the continuity of a film that has very little to begin with). Immediately after the operation, the title character (played by the pretty but vacuous Jill Jacobson) seems to feel a slight chill (or seems mildly irritated) while busying herself with her duties. Catalogue horror music cleverly clues the audience in that something diabolical is in the air. A bloodied, gloved hand from\u2026 out of frame almost touches the touchy nurse. Sweet relief! It's just Dr. Peter (Geoffrey Land), still a little messy from the failed operation. Though a patient in his care has just passed away, life must go on - so he flirts with Sherri (his girlfriend). The two make plans to see each other later that night.
The film's main subplot concerns Nurse Tara (played by the vivacious Marylin Joi of Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks
) and a football star named Marcus Washington (Bill Roy). It seems Washington has been blinded somehow and is comforted by the caring nurse. It also happens that the athlete's grandmother was versed in all things supernatural and gave him a handy bracelet to ward off evil. The two African American actors (who both appeared in Adamson's Black Samurai
two years previously) give the most convincing performances - which is faint praise indeed. After a quickie in Nurse Sherri's apartment, Dr. Peter leaves our heroine alone in her bedroom. Lying in post-coital bliss, Sherri suddenly becomes agitated - then confused. An absurd piece of animation, a green blob, then enters from her bedroom door, enveloping her body. More catalogue music and a wide-eyed expression from our pretty thespian tell us that she is possessed. It turns out that the cult leader was extremely upset about being operated upon (either way he would have died!), and sets out to kill the cracker-jack surgical team responsible. Using Sherri as his demonic vehicle he haphazardly begins a revenge scheme that includes death by pitchfork and other sharp objects.
The film is opened up somewhat by some extra footage shot with Adamson regular J. C. Wells. Originally only appearing in the opening desert sequence (which was also not in the first cut of the film), Wells' part is greatly expanded. An ex-cult member and con man, he is haunted by Reinhour (on short breaks from possessing Sherri) and sets out on a mission to destroy his evil spirit. Telekinetic mayhem, a car chase with ubiquitous vehicle explosion and some nicely shot exteriors are the "bonuses" of this extra footage. Though these sequences add nothing to the central plot, they greatly enhance the production value. This is appreciated even more once the original cut of the film is viewed.
Ultimately, it's up to Dr. Peter and Sherri's fellow nurse confidants (Joi and Mary Kay Pass) to help her exorcise the evil spirit. Though the special "voo doo bracelet" introduced previously in the film turns out to be a red herring - blind football player Washington (owner of the magical device) does end up providing key information in the battle against the irritating dead cult leader. What Wells spent much of his screen time attempting to do (burn Reinhour's body) - Washington stresses as well. While the sexy nurses head for the cemetery, Dr. Peter rushes to Sherri's apartment where another nurse looks after her. Suspense ensues.
Basically, Nurse Sherri is an awkward variation of the film Carrie and the nurse sexploitation sub genre. In fact, producer Sam Sherman (listed in the credits as Mark Sherwood) offers a candid audio commentary where he credits Carrie and the Roger Corman film Student Nurses as inspiration. The final result is probably the most coherent of all of Sherman's collaborations with the late director. It's also one of the more compelling pieces of low budget schlock released at the time. (The climax of the film is actually edited quite nicely and does hold a modicum of suspense). What makes this film more than just a "so-bad-it's-good" experience is a combination of elements.
Often Nurse Sherri
feels like an Ovidio Assonitis production. The jarring editing and poor continuity frequently found in his Italian/ American releases (which include Beyond the Door
and The Visitor
) tend to give them an eerie, otherworldly quality. In this respect, Sherri's budget limitations and numerous re-shoots often work in its favor. There is also a claustrophobic uneasiness that permeates the film as well. Practical locations (no studio sets) and its 16 millimeter you-are-there documentary aesthetic certainly give it an edge. It's the perfect companion piece to William Sachs' The Incredible Melting Man
from '77. Both films are micro-budgeted, claustrophobic horror films that work because of their obvious limitations. Though certainly no classic, Nurse Sherri can be immensely entertaining for those who appreciate the sub-genre.
was originally shot in 16mm, then transferred to 35mm. High color contrast and severe grain on the release print are often the result. Sherri's additional footage was shot on 35mm film stock, which only adds to its inconsistent presentation. The original release probably looked much like the image on this DVD - lots of minor wear with heavy contrast and grain. The night scenes are also extremely dark on the original cut of the film. There is an alternate, sexed-up version of Sherri included as well. This cut has even more wear and high contrast but, oddly enough, the night scenes are much brighter. The image is not letterboxed, but the 16mm aspect ratio remains intact. Al Adamson was not known for his mise-en-scene as a director - so even the 35mm scenes don't seem to lose much information in the framing. For the record, most the film was shot by Roger Michaels - who does an adequate job. There are no awkward boom mics in the frame or major technical gaffes.
Sound quality on the DVD is merely adequate. The original film transfer had audio problems and these are even more prominent in the digital presentation. The groovy catalogue music (all provided by the same television composer) comes in quite clear. Most of the sound problems come from post-production dubbing (or maybe the lack of) but really add to the drive-in experience. You don't purchase a grind house film like this expecting much in terms of technical quality. However, compared to Something Weird's DVD releases of the H. G. Lewis films (all 16mm), this is vastly inferior on all levels. Also, the film's audio during the commentary track is off slightly - and is a bit distracting.
This disc is a must for all fans of '70's drive-in films for the audio commentary alone. Sam Sherman has provided numerous commentaries for other DVD releases and he's got the system down. As stated previously, the audio of the film is out of sync during his voice-over, but he rarely stops to take a breath. His candid comments about the genesis of the film, behind-the-scenes struggles and reedits make it even more interesting. Originally Nurse Sherri
was intended as a sex film with horror elements. The original cut is provided and is a fascinating look at the making and remaking of an exploitation film. Also included is the theatrical trailer and a TV spot - both great pieces of schlock advertising. Shock-O-Rama and Seduction Cinema trailers (mainly '90's direct-to-video titles) are also part of the package.
This DVD is a must-have for fans of '70's drive-in fare. Though a fully-remastered, letterboxed print would have greatly improved the package, this is the best Nurse Sherri
has appeared since its release and the commentary alone is worth the (inexpensive) retail price. Certainly not for every taste, especially those who prefer the "intentionally campy" horror films that permeated the multiplexes in the mid-'80's. But if you prefer your exploitation with honest absurdity and eager-to-please schlock, then run to your nearest retailer for this long forgotten gem.
Movie - B
Image Quality - B-
Sound - C
Supplements - A
- Running Time - Feature Film - 1 hour 28 minutes
- Running Time - Alternate Cut - 1 hour 25 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- 20 Chapter Stops
- Dolby Mono
- Bonus Feature Film (Alternate Cut)
- Producer Commentary
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spot
- Additional Shock-O-Rama Coming Attractions