June 29, 2015

Screening Report: Nurses for Sale (6/28/15 Alamo Drafthouse, Yonkers, NY)

If there is one thing to be thankful for, it is discovering screenings of old, cult, classic, obscure, and forgotten films. Over the past five or six years I have been able to see some great and some not so great movies in a theater projected from original, or at least older 35mm sources. There is just something about seeing these things on the big screen, there is history to these prints and that adds to an experience that cannot be replaced. The latest film I had the opportunity to see was a little known film called Nurses for Sale, better known in its original form as Käpt'n Rauhbein aus St. Pauli and then as Captain Typhoon.

The film, primarily directed by Rolf Olsen, has had a crazy history and has never been released on DVD, VHS, or any home video format. Well, this is true, at least, for the version that played in the US, I believe you can find the original complete German film on DVD somewhere. There have been a few different versions released in different countries. It is believed this screening was the first it has had since a run in NYC back in 1982. With this kind of unseen status, who am I to turn down the opportunity?

The screening, at the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, was hosted by Temple of Schlock's Chris Poggiali, and prior to the show gave us a little history lesson on the film. We learned how it was used to shelter money for a group of dentists and doctors. Problems arose when the 1971 movie was viewed for release in the States in 1976, it was discovered that the film was really not all that good. So, they had director Al Adamson film twenty-minutes of new footage. They found some actors and actresses who sort of (but not really) resembled those in the movie and shot some new footage and sex scenes that were then edited into the movie, replacing what was apparently the plot of the film.

The original movie had something to do with a sea captain and a shipment of a vaccine to a South American country to help an epidemic, but gets caught up in a plot by local military and government officials to steal it and sell it for profit. It was not very exciting, so, along with the new footage to spice things up a little, the title was changed to try and cash in on the then recent run of similarly title Roger Corman productions, like The Student Nurses, Private Duty Nurses, and Candy Stripe Nurses (see a trend?). With the title and added nudity in the new footage, it could be released as drive in fare.

As for the movie itself? It is certainly a historical curiosity but it is not a good movie. The new footage splices in surprisingly well, it definitely sticks out but, I was surprised by the blending. The story makes no sense. We start off with nurses getting ready to help with the epidemic before joining up with Captain Jolly (Curd Jurgens, who was also the villain in The Spy Who Loved Me) and his adventure of dumping grain alcohol into the ocean as the vaccine is driven off. He is arrested, only to have a silly escape and a journey to try and meet back with his ship.

Meanwhile, the nurses are intercepted by bandits, kidnapped, and held for ransom. There are some shenanigans along the way, but they are single-handedly rescued by good old Captain Jolly, who had faked being a steward on a yacht to catch up with everyone. It is all rather ridiculous and spoilers probably don't mean much considering the slapdash way the whole thing is put together.

The Nurses for Sale screening went pretty well. It was a small crowd, which I believe was mostly made up of friends and acquaintances of mine that I have made over the years going to screenings like this. Still, seeing something like this is special, even when the movie isn't that good I can say that I saw it and was probably made with better intentions than many of today's mainstream movies. The print itself was faded and had some marks, but overall was in pretty good shape.

The bottom line on this one is a watchable mess of a movie that has a pretty interesting, although not exactly unique, history, a decent print, and friends make it a trip well worth taking. What should your takeaway from this be? Be on look out and search out screenings of movies like these, you will meet cool people and see a little bit of history that flies well below the mainstream radar.

Oh yeah, it does have a pretty cool poster.... that's something, right?

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