Sunday, 6 March 2016

Rosie Dixon - Night Nurse (1978)

Blimey, it's been a while since I watched some '70s British sexploitation and reviewed it here (just click the 'sexploitation' tag to see some of previous reviews) Will I still be able to review them?

Rosie Dixon Night Nurse was an ill-fated attempt to create a female contemporary of the Confessions series. Like the exploits of Robin Askwith's Timmy Lea from that series of cheap, cheerful and smutty books and films, the creator of Rosie Dixon was the late Christopher Wood who had penned several Rosie novels between 1974 and 1977 before mounting this big screen adaptation set in St Adelaide's Hospital.

Debbie Ash (older sister of Leslie - who has a part in the film as Rosie's kid sister) stars as Rosie Dixon; a wide eyed, naive and virginal young girl who turns to the nursing profession because of her fascination with the TV soap Dr. Kilmore. There's no prizes for guessing what TV series they're poking fun at/referencing there and, if you find that gag funny, then you're in the right place for the next 80 minutes of the film. 

"I've seen a lot of 18-year-old scrubbers in the last eighteen months, but when we found Debbie Ash, I knew she was right!"

That cack-handed compliment comes from producer Davina Belling (right, on sister!) Ash, who was actually twenty at the time, had previously hung around in the background of the hit BBC medical drama Angels a couple of years earlier, so was no stranger to the nurses uniform. The pretty doe-eyed blonde was predicted by many to be 'the next big thing', but those people had clearly not seen her younger sister who overtook Debbie's fame considerably in the years to come. The older Ash would go on to concentrate more on dancing and would join the notorious Arlene Phillips troupe Hot Gossip in the subsequent decade before leaving showbiz altogether. It's a shame as she's not actually a bad little actress going off her performance here, and handles the corny material rather sweetly and effectively. "Are you intimidated?" asks Beryl Reid's stern Scottish matron of Rosie on her first day. "I don't think so, but I've had the flu jab" a remark that comes shortly after matron asks her what she knows of the figure in the painting beside her desk, The Lady With The Lamp, "Is it something to do with power cuts?" Somewhat unexpectedly perhaps, Ash doesn't bare much in the movie; appearing instead in bra and pants, saucy underwear and shot from the back or from the distance in the many communal shower scenes that one imagines must have filled the nudity quota and kept the audience's salacious interest.

Most of the film's nudity comes from her co-star Caroline Argyle as fellow student nurse and well-spoken nympho Penny Green. Like Ash, this was the film debut of Argyle also, and her career was similarly short-lived. Amusingly, she was the daughter of Judge Michael Argyle the man who presided over the infamous Oz obscenity trial in 1971, who pronounced "I will not tolerate filth!" One can only wonder what he thought of his daughter's move into softcore sexploitation comedies!

Both nurses become the focus of the sexual attention of the lecherous junior doctors played by a boring plank of wood you can almost smell the Hai Karate on (Peter Mantle) gthe much missed Jeremy Sinden, son of Donald (not exactly following in the Doctor in the House star's footsteps with this role) Burnside off of The Bill sporting a ridiculous Welsh accent and a helmet of hair that cannot hide the fact he's going extremely bald. But, most irritatingly of all, the quartet is rounded out by Ian Sharp - a Joe Pasquale look-a-like with all the inherent charm and comic appeal to match, slaughtering the Oirish accent and consistently proving the film makers wrong in their belief he'd be a comedic gold mine. He really isn't.

But like many sexploitation films from this era, there isn't just the usual raft of actors who disappeared forever more after shooting concluded, or those captured before they were famous - there is also a smattering of actors you could argue appear here after they were (really) famous, so spare a thought for the likes of Beryl Reid (who, by all accounts, was oblivious to the true nature of the film until the premiere) John Le Mesurier, Liz Fraser (still looking wonderfully attractive with her unmistakable MILF appeal) John Junkin, Bob Todd, Harry Towb, Lance Percival (playing a TV star with a 14-inch cock - honestly, I'm not making this shit up! - which Rosie attempts to 'try out'; watching the 20 year old Ash snog the face off the then 45 year old Percival is a bit awkward, to say the least) and, in his final film role, Arthur Askey. The sight of the bespectacled Liverpudlian 'playmate' zipping around in a motorised wheelchair pinching every bum in sight is quite tragic really, and seems to be the inspiration for The Fast Show's Arthur Atkinson sketch which sees the veteran music hall star appear in a similar low budget smut fest. 

In her small role as Rosie's sister, Leslie Ash shows the talent that would go on to make her a household name before the disastrous trout pout curtailed her career. She gets all the snarky best lines and delivers them with a dry, caustic aplomb. She also looks incredible in tight hot pink spandex hotpants.

Director Justin Cartwright's intention was to create a smuttier Doctor In The House, but it sadly doesn't come off. Granted, it's not as grubby as some sexploitation from this decade, and the ex-commercials director gives the film a surprisingly glossy sheen, unsurprisingly making it look occasionally like a drawn-out advert until some tame comedic shtick or hirsute full frontal nudity crashes into view, but it lacks the peculiar cheery charms of its big brother, the Confessions movies. Ultimately, Rosie Dixon Night Nurse became the last of Columbia Pictures ventures into sexploitation and we never got to see Rosie try her luck in any further career opportunities as was originally planned.

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