This film represents the end of the early era of New World Pictures. Candy Stripe Nurses wasn’t the last film about nurses they would release (that was Don Edmonds’ Tender Loving Care) but it was the last nurse film that was produced by Julie Corman, who had made a lengthy and successful series out of this highly specific exploitation film subgenre for New World. Thankfully for her and the audience, Candy Stripe Nurses is a snappy, engaging affair that ends this cinematic cycle on a good note.
As is usually the case with a New World nurse flick, Candy Stripe Nurses is built around the adventures and heartaches of three young nurses. This time the hook is given a new coat of paint by making the trio high school-age and putting them in candy striper positions.
Each of the three young ladies also follows series tradition by representing a different social type. Sandy (Candace Rialson) is an overachiever with an overactive libido who finds herself ditching a doctor boyfriend to pursue Cliff (Rod Haase), a British rocker suffering from libido burnout. Dianne (Robin Mattson) is an eclectic intellectual who hopes to become a doctor and wanders over to the other side of the social tracks to romance a jock with a pill addiction problem. Finally, Marisa (Maria Rojo) is a school troublemaker who finds a mission when she falls for a patient who has been framed for a gas station robbery.
Candy Stripe Nurses shapes up as one of the best entries in the Corman nurse flick cycle because it brings fresh energy to a familiar formula. Alan Holleb served as both writer and director here and he brings a charming lightheartedness to both pursuits. His approach puts a stronger focus on humor and his direction has a suitably madcap, energetic tone to support that focus.
He’s also confident in his approach to the sexy elements of the film (this has some of the most stylish nude scenes in the series) and also proves capable with action during the finale, which uses a junkyard to atmospheric effect. The style of his work is nicely supported by a keyboard-driven rock store: exploitation fans should note that one of the composers was Eron Tabor, who would years later play the lead rapist in I Spit On Your Grave.
Also important to the success of Candy Stripe Nurses are the performances. Fan favorite Rialson had natural skills as a comedienne and she puts them good use here, particularly during her scenes with Haase. Mattson is better known as a soap opera actress but her 1970’s-era film work shows a skill for quirky characterizations. That skill is put to good use here, with Mattson showing some nice deadpan comic timing while making her pseudo-intellectual character believable. Rojo was a one-shot in exploitation flicks: her line delivery is rough in spots but she’s good at conveying a hot-headed, smart-alecky sense of humor.
In short, Candy Stripe Nurses shapes up as one of the best New World nurse epics, showing off the wit and energy that define the best films from this studio. If you want to get into this series, it’s a great place to start.