It’s fairly common among aficionados of cult and exploitation cinema: despite regular television exposure throughout the 80’s and a fairly decent presence on VHS, one of the very last directors we begrudgingly begin to appreciate is Al Adamson.
The Western version of Hong Kong’s Godfrey Ho, Adamson was best known for a propensity towards splice and dice efforts combining unrelated films and footage shot years apart into one presumably cohesive whole.* Even a biography/filmography of his bore the title of “Shlockmeister” (or some close variant thereof)…hardly a badge of merit for a long running director and partner in a film company (yes, folks, that’s how he got all these films out there and onto syndication packages…)
* well, that, his status as a Joe Franklin show regular…why no extra of one of those, I ask? – and the circumstances of his unfortunate and grisly demise, but that’s another story…
Even so, there inevitably comes a point where you start to appreciate the pure junk entertainment value of folks like Lewis, Wishman, Milligan…and Al Adamson. It’s like hitting rock bottom, in a way – falling in love with the most slapdash and inept cinema has to offer. Then you know you’re a true cult film connoisseur…
One of the very last films Adamson lensed (followed by the weirdly amusing and quite entertaining Carnival Magic), Nurse Sherri is a weird and somewhat disjointed tale of a huckster faith healer/cult leader (Bill Roy) who seems to have drunk his own Kool-Aid. When he tries to revive a dead acolyte, his partner (J.C. Wells) pushes back, but he goes on with the ritual, and winds up dying of a heart attack as a result.
But not before he manages to make enemies with a few emergency room doctors and staff nurses, one of whom becomes the instrument of his vengeance, the titular possessed Nurse Sherri (Jill Jacobson).
Our would be Robert Schuller cum Jim Jones must be a real Trumpian snowflake, as there’s really no one in the cast deserving of “vengeance” of any sort…his partner merely wants to pull the reins in to keep the hustle running; the doctors and nurses certainly don’t deserve this, and why the fuck is he going after subplot romance and blinded pro football player Marcus Washington (Prentiss Moulden)?!?
Even so, there’s some weird fun to be had with Wells turning into a drunken hobo and pursuing stiffie “hero” Dr. Peter Desmond (Geoffrey Land) in a ridiculous high speed chase that nearly ends in a poliziotteschi-style fatal finale, the sourpuss bit player nurse (Carole Briscoe) who bangs nebbishy hypochondriac patients to clam them down before procedures and Sherri’s sub-Beyond the Door “speaking with a male voice” scenes.
In other words, It’s just as stupid as it sounds…but funny.
This one had a prior DVD release under Retro Shock-O-Rama alongside Adamson’s rather dull western Five Bloody Graves, and came in two prints, a theatrical running 1:27:54 (as “the Possession of Nurse Sherri”) and in a “lost” alternate edit (1:24:13, as “Nurse Sherri”), complete with a Marilyn Joi interview.
The theatrical print was in pretty rough shape (though not unusual for an Adamson film, many of which have not fared well over the years in terms of restoration), but the Nurse Sherri print was in pretty damn good shape by comparison – colors were bright, clarity and contrast much improved…hell, even sound was more powerful.
Vinegar Syndrome brings the film to Blu-Ray in an extended 1:29:04 version of the “Nurse Sherri” version* with reversible cover art showing a poster for an alternate titling as “Killer’s Curse”. The new version, in addition to a 2k widescreen presentation, improves on the vibrancy of Retro Shock-O-Rama’s print, but at the cost of some pronounced grain in the bright outdoor desert scenes. Even so, there’s no question whatsoever that this is the version to get for ardent videophiles – for an Adamson film, it looks quite nice indeed.
* Independent International producer Sam Sherman re-edited the film (complete with later re-shoot sequences) multiple times, presumably for different markets, as was his wont.
Extras include a commentary track with Sherman for those so inclined, a quick and silent “locations then and now” sequence (2:34) and a new interview with both Joi and Jill Jacobson (20:47), where the latter (looking a damn sight more attractive these days than her awkward appearance in the film!) admits to falling into character a whole lot more than the role in this cheapie merited (gotta love Strasberg and The Method…)
If you, like yours truly and many other cult film fans around the world, have fallen for the peculiar charms of Adamson (for all his ineptitude), you really can’t go wrong with this one, and it looks better than it ever has.