Excuse me, Mrs. Andress... Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger couldn't help but notice that you dropped your white bikini.
Ursula Andress will melt your thermometer!
There are two things you need to know about The Sensuous Nurse: (1) It stars two Bond girls, and (2) it is a four-star inductee into the Mr. Skin Hall of Fame. Put one and two together, and you begin to see the appeal.
Facts of the Case
The Sensuous Nurse follows a family of oddballs (including Luciana Paluzzi, who played Fiona Volpe in Thunderball) as they scheme to obtain the rights to wine distribution from dying patriarch Giovanni (Lino Toffolo, I, Vitelloni). The plot is hatched by uptight heir Benito (Duilio Del Prete, Dagger Eyes), who recruits the sensuous Swiss nurse Anna (Ursula Andress, Honey Ryder in Dr. No) to hasten Giovanni's demise.
The plot is a gaunt skeleton onto which director Nello Rossati piles heaps of sexy frolics, zany situations, and an undercurrent of nasty (but hysterical) racial barbs and ribald dialogue. The Sensuous Nurse is a campy sex romp in the same ballpark as Buford's Beach Bunnies or Meatballs, only Italian and with high production values.
Surprisingly, The Sensuous Nurse has more to offer than illicit peeks at Mmes Paluzzi and Andress. This is one time that the comedy side of "sex comedy" actually amounts to something. I typically deplore antics or zaniness, and can barely tolerate wacky hijinks. But Rossati imbues his antics with an extra measure of snark, and the humor is delivered with such unexpected crackle that it continually caught me off guard. To use one of the milder examples, so as not to spoil the juicier bits, Benito visits the Swiss clinic and comes upon a German in a full body cast. Benito sneers and says he trusts the man is comfortable, to which the man wheezes "I hope you get cancer!" This is a followup to a similar exchange, in which Benito calls a patient a "miserable Kraut" under his breath behind a sunny smile.
In fact, Del Prete carries Benito through an unending series of hysterical, farcical moments. He does snappy comebacks. He does physical comedy, such as when he demonstrates to Anna the proper body language to use in her bedside manner. He sneaks in these outrageous barbs, and then resets himself to greasy schemer so fast that we forget to look for his next zinger. The other characters are almost as amusing, each bringing a different note of quirky, bawdy humor to the table. The result is a constant give and take between the characters behind the blithe mask of the plot. This is the note that all sex romps probably aim for, but most (at least the ones I've seen on cable TV) fail to achieve.
Even so, the sex trumps the comedy. How many men on this planet were ensnared by Honey Ryder's Venus-like emergence from the sea? How many longed for that blasted white bikini and knife belt to slip? Years later, Andress is still able to exploit the stark sensuality of that scene. Whether clothed or unclothed (and she splits her screen time about fifty-fifty between the two) she sends dizzying waves of lust through the screen. Nello's brother/costume designer Tony Rossati redefines the nurse fetish with his revealing-but-classy array of nursing uniforms. The pairing of these costumes with Ursula's fierce magnetism works magic. Should you tire of the nurse fantasy, practically every other woman in the cast manages to lose her clothing—and the camera doesn't embarrass easily.
To top it all off, The Sensuous Nurse features a bit role by Jack Palance, who uses his intimidating screen presence to craft a memorably depraved American businessman. It sounds like Jack's voice was used in both the English and Italian tracks, so his character has the same note of menace.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Is The Sensuous Nurse DVD a surefire winner? Yes, and no.
The video transfer is clean, but not particularly detailed. There is a pronounced grain, which I never mind because it means excessive smoothing has not been applied. The colors are washed out, though contrast remains strong and hues remain true. Interlacing leads to a slight shimmer, most noticeable in the opening credits. Even with these minor annoyances, the image is in the original aspect ratio and looks good enough. Most importantly, the film is uncut. This is probably the best condition we'll ever see for The Sensuous Nurse, and it gets the job done.
The audio fares worse. Even for a mono track, the Italian 2.0 mono was exceedingly tinny and hollow, with little dynamic range and harshness around the edges. Nonetheless, you'll want to stick with the Italian track—the English dub features some of the reediest, cheesiest, smarmiest hams I've ever heard.
NoShame supplies a handful of nice extras. Richard Harland Smith provides detailed liner notes that provide a back story for how The Sensuous Nurse fits into the personal history of the noteworthy actors involved. In an era where liner notes are becoming extinct, it is nice to see such a simple, but powerful, detail attended to. The interview with brothers Nellor and Tony Rossati is amusing and informative, laced with healthy pride without crossing into excessive back-patting. It would have been more effective without the endless repetition of a shot where Anna closes a door, which was used to mark the transition between one brother's words to the next. In some cases, the snippets of discussion seemed shorter than the door closing. A spoiler-filled trailer and gallery round out the extras.
Though the plot is not the main feature here, I must delve into spoiler territory and comment on the ending. Many people feel that the predictable ending is ironic, that sweet Anna falls in love with Giovanni only to lose him on their wedding night. I'd agree that the ending was predictable, but I find it neither ironic nor sweet. It seems clear to me that Anna assessed the situation clearly: Giovanni is in frail health, and the family wants to knock him off to get the dough. She ostensibly nurses Giovanni back to health and exposes their treachery, ousting the bad apples. Were her actions noble? Hardly. Anna had already slept indiscriminately with people we know she doesn't like all that much. She'd shown a masterful command of her body to get desired reactions out of people. The closing scenes depict a carefully scripted seduction on Anna's part, a deliberate attempt to frustrate Giovanni to the point of collapse. Look at the spectacular sheer gown she wears, the way she combs her hair so sensuously. I have long hair myself, and trust me, when you're trying to get the job done you don't brush it that way. Look how she carefully exposes each nipple and buttock, the feigned chastity when called out. Anna is the perfect embodiment of the gold digger stereotype.
All NoShame had to do was say "Naked Bond Girls!" to sell this DVD, which they basically do with the four-star endorsement by Mr. Skin. But they also provided a clean, uncut transfer of the film and with some nice extras. It's a fitting treatment for a sex comedy that also takes extra care, resulting in a movie that is better than you'd expect.
Naked Bond Girls!
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Studio: NoShame Films
• "Calling the Nurse": Interviews with director Nellor Rossati and costume designer Tony Rossati
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