• Death Nurse

    Released by: Slasher // Video
    Released on: April 2012.
    Director: Nick Millard
    Cast: Priscilla Alden, Albert Askinazi, Irmgard Millard, Francis Millard
    Year: 1987
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    The Movie:

    One of many collaborations between filmmaker Nick Millard (better known in certain circles as Nick Phillips among quite a few other alias’) and the late, great Priscilla Alden, 1987’s Death Nurse is far from their best work. Shot on video at a time when shot on video stuff rarely looked good, the movie recycles plenty of footage from the pair’s most famous collaborations, Criminally Insane (a.k.a. Crazy Fat Ethel) and splices it in with some newly shot camcorder content for an hour long barrage of head scratchingly questionably storytelling and goofy gore.

    The movie tells the story of a heavyset nurse named Edith Mortley (Alden) who, along with some help from her brother Gordon (Albert Askinazi), runs The Shady Palms Clinic out of the family home. Gordon is a doctor of some sort, but we don’t really know a whole lot more about him than that. Patients sort of seem to drift in and out of the place at random, but mostly in – out… not so much. See, Edith has a knack for knocking them off for the insurance money in fairly creative ways. Not content only with stabbing and slashing, she’s also into smothering them and using her sizable frame as the murder weapon.

    That’s really all that there is to it. Millard’s mother plays an insurance inspector looking in on a missing patient who died in the clinic played by Nick himself. There’s a great old lady in the movie who answers the phone in a strange voice and Edith has nightmares, oh, those horrible nightmares – each time she has them it’s an excuse for Millard to recycle the footage from Criminally Insane, and that recycled footage takes up a good twenty five percent of the movie’s running time. Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time Millard would reuse that footage as it’s plentiful in Criminally Insane II made a few months prior. It also wouldn’t be the last, as it also shows up in Death Nurse II, made a year or two later. Dude got a LOT of mileage out of that stuff.

    And in the middle of all of this is Alden, reportedly a very nice and intelligent woman, giving the role her all and seemingly doing the best job with this rock bottom material that she can. She’s the reason it’s all as puzzlingly watchable as it is, her large size making for a rather unorthodox screen presence, her maw grimacing and growling into the camera and her penchant for wielding a butcher’s knife a perverse ballet of sorts.

    Random zooms, dialogue that means nothing, a cat, the worst surgeons outfit ever, a dead body getting washed in the backyard in the middle of the day by a guy with a hose – all of these things and more happen in the newly shot footage which, oddly enough, was at least shot in the same house as Criminally Insane, giving the two different shoots some sort of continuity, though I use that word in the loosest of terms. Edith gets drunk and rambles about things that don’t appear to have much to do with anything, lots of people out of frame make strange noises that they probably shouldn’t have been making and one chick almost gets naked. The acting is amateur hour in the best/worst way possible but say what you will, the movie is something. Exactly what, it’s hard to say but as far as slashers go, this one ranks down there with the cheapest of the cheap, the worst of the worse. As such, it’s easy to love if you’re in the right frame of mind for it. You’d be foolish to take any of it seriously, it’s obvious that those making the picture weren’t. How can you not love a movie like this, a movie uses ‘Weekend At Bernie’s’ style ‘honest he’s not dead’ tactics to fool officials into turning a blind eye to the heinous practices that go in within the confines of the clinic that does not look at all like a clinic?


    Death Nurse was shot on VHS and so it looks like a VHS tape - which is fine and all, just know that going in so you're not scratching your head anymore than you will be based on the movie's qualities alone. Inserts from Criminally Insane were shot on film but appear to have been transferred to tape. So with that said, the image here is only going to look so good - expect it to be soft, expect colors to fade a bit, and expect detail to waver accordingly - but overall the whole thing is perfectly watchable. There aren't any compression issues to note nor are there any problems with tape roll or tracking lines. The source used for the transfer was obviously in pretty good shape and the movie winds up looking about as good as you can realistically expect it to.

    The English language Dolby Digital Mono sound mix is on par with the video transfer in that it's probably about as good as it's going to get. Some background hiss is present and levels occasionally shuffle around a bit but the horrible score comes through loud and clear, so there's that. Generally the dialogue is pretty clear and there aren't any major problems here, but again, keep in mind that the source for this release is what it is and as such, isn't on par with anything aside from the tape on which it was originally made. There are no subtitles or alternate language options provided.

    It’s fairly shocking how much effort Slasher // Video have put into the extra features on this release, a testament to their dedication to the preservation of low budget oddities such as this. Supplements kick off with a commentary track with input from director Nick Millard and actress/producer Irmi Millard. Jesus Tehran of Slasher // Video acts as moderator here as the Millards cover the history of the film, noting that this is the first DVD release for the picture. Nick does most of the talking here, as he talks about locations, who did what, and what it was like working with the various cast and crew members on this picture. The movie turns out to have been shot just outside of San Francisco, something Millard elaborates on as he details Alden’s involvement, where the ideas for the story came from and more. Millard notes that pretty much everything he writes in his scripts goes into his movies, discusses the use of footage from Criminally Insane and how it was used to give the nurse her nightmares, and much more. It’s seriously a very active track and quite informative.

    From there we move on to the fourteen minute featurette Remembering Priscilla Alden in which Millard talks about the movies that he made with the late actress including .357 Magnum, Blue Angel, Death Nurse, Criminally Insane and more. Millard talks about the fun he had on set on his collaborations with Alden. Clips from some of their collaborations are used here to nice effect – here’s hoping we get some of these movies out on DVD sooner or later, .357 Magnum looks AWESOME. Millard notes that contrary to what you see on screen, Alden was an intellectual and had a genuine love for the arts. He talks about her quite kindly and obviously had a lot of love for his late collaborator.

    The Shady Palms Waiting Room clip is a quick, goofy 28 second clip of the Millards on their couch chugging wine while Nick coughs incessantly. It’s odd. From there, check out the movie for Death Nurse that comes courtesy of Paul Zamarelli at VHScollector.com. He speaks for fourteen minutes or so about the movie after eating some ice cream. Standing in front of an impressive shelf of tapes, Zamarelli elaborates on Millard’s films and Death Nurse in particular.

    We also get a fifteen minute question and answer session with Millard in which he’s interviewed by Slasher // Video’s Jesus Tehran about such subjects as where he got the inspiration from for this movie, why he wrote the script with Priscilla Alden in mind, when and where the movie was made, casting Albert Askinazi as the doctor, how he got his wife to play Louise, why he cast his mom as Faith Chandler and more. Millard is a pretty great interviewee, answering with complete honesty and also a sense of humor.

    Rounding out the extras is a still gallery, a list of DVD credits, menus and chapter selection for the feature. Inside the red keepcase is an insert card with original promotional artwork on one side and a chapter listing for the feature on the other side.

    The Final Word:

    As horrible as it is, and make no mistake about it, this movie is horrible, Death Nurse is fascinatingly watchable. Slasher // Video has kind of gone above and beyond with this one, presenting the movie in as good a condition as it’s ever likely to be and accompanied by a pretty solid array of extras. Not a movie for all tastes but those out there who thrive on this type of movie will want to check this one out.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Ian Miller's Avatar
      Ian Miller -
      I'm dying to see .357 MAGNUM as well, but the prices I've seen for the tape are a little more than I can abide, hopefully these guys will put it out.