The Student Nurses (Stephanie Rothman / U.S., 1970):

Counterculture, heal thyself. Lumet’s The Group is the useful model, Los Angeles at the beginning of the new decade is a feminine consciousness split four ways, all in tight starched scrubs. Assigned to the psychiatry division, the blonde coed (Karen Carlson) takes up with the affable gynecologist (Lawrence Casey) and finds herself questioning the limits of her own liberation. Meanwhile, the defiantly braless bohemian (Barbara Leigh) zings with a granola biker (Richard Rust) on a ruddy-tinted beachfront and experiences the world’s gentlest LSD freakout. Over at the terminal ward, the winsome caretaker (Elaine Giftos) faces the ailing young poet (Darrell Larson), the last leaf drops off after she enhances her bedside manner. Finally, the compassion of the public-health intern (Brioni Farrell) is put to the test in the oppressed barrio, where the activist leader (Reni Santoni) forever collides with uptight officers. "Give men the chance to play inquisitor, and it’s thumbs down for women every time!" Corman’s New World Pictures wanted another template for drive-in titillation, Stephanie Rothman supplied it plus also a flavorsome chunk of 1970 compressed into a strong-minded snapshot. The hippie’s abortion-clinic interview is filmed with a pitch of early Truffaut (cf. Doinel’s psychiatric evaluation in Les Quatre Cents Coups), the surgery itself is an inquisitive woman’s kaleidoscopic fever, De Palma in Sisters elaborates on it. Love-ins and shootouts, folk ballads and confrontational pamphlets, Florence Nightingale and Chairman Mao, the whole megillah of contemporary upheavals dressed up as softcore exploitation. The series pushes on with George Armitage and Jonathan Kaplan, but the original grungy-tender sensibility is Rothman's. With Richard Stahl, Paul Carmen, Pepe Serna, and Scottie MacGregor.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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