A Touch of Genie

Color, 1978, 89 mins. 4 secs. / 88 mins. 10 secs. / 84 mins. 6 secs.
Directed by Al Adamson
Starring Jill Jacobson, Geoffrey Land, Marilyn Joi, Mary Kay Pass, Prentiss Mouldon, Bill Roy
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Shock-o-Rama Cinema (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

Nurse SherriNurse SherriA name that strikes either fear or adoration in the hearts of horror fans, the late Al Adamson is an example of how a sincere love of monster movies can transcend any artistic or technical limitations if you just make a movie with enough gusto. His ultra-cheap and very personal mini-epics like Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Satan's Sadists, and Blood of Dracula's Castle proved to be extremely long-lived staples on double and triple bills for years, but for some reason after 1971 he tended to drift away from horror until 1978 when he directed some new scenes for a tweaked version of Doctor Dracula and directed the odd Nurse Sherri, a kind of hybrid between the Roger Corman nurse series and The Exorcist that was prepared in two cuts, a standard horror version and a shortened, sexier cut with added nudity.

After trying to literally raise a dead guru named William in a desert "planet alignment" ceremony with his counterculture followers, occult evangelist Reanhauer (Roy) is taken to the hospital suffering slowly from a fatal heart attack. Before finally expiring, he manages to pass his evil life essence on as a blob of starry green protoplasm that invades the nubile form of the titular Nurse Sherri (Jacobson), who becomes a vehicle to Nurse Sherriseek vengeance against those on Reanhauer's hit list starting off with the Nurse Sherridoctor who couldn't save him. Soon her fetching co-workers including Marilyn Joe and Mary Kay Pass figure out something's definitely wrong with poor Sherri, and they have to race against the clock to cast the evil out of her before its bloodthirsty mission is completed.

Also known under a baffling roster of alternate titles on the big and small screens over the years like Beyond the Living, Hospital of Terror, Killer's Curse, and Black Voodoo, this film was the last collaboration between Adamson and longtime producer Sam Sherman, who ran Independent-International Pictures together. The film feels like it was made much earlier than 1978, which may account for why it proved to be a lucrative catalog title but didn't cut through to the popular consciousness when moviegoers were flocking in droves to see Halloween instead. It's great fun though in a retro kind of way, and Joi is a treat to watch in anything, especially with her soapy subplot here involving a blind football player patient; in fact, the heavy reshoots and atrocious, halting line deliveries give it a kind of dreamlike feel at times as the film tries to smash nursesploitation and possession horror into one truly strange beast.

Nurse Sherri first bowed on DVD in 2005 as Nurse Sherria standalone release from Shock-o-Rama, retitled in typical Sherman fashion as The Possession of Nurse Sherri. The film itself was pulled from a very dated full frame Nurse Sherrimaster that didn't look so hot, but it did feature a new Sherman commentary (going into great deal about the production including his own uncredited story contributions and the reshot material, including the entire opening), Even more notable was the premiere of the "alternative cut" with the added sexploitation scenes complete with extra Jacobson and Joi nudity as well as less cult padding. Also included on that release are the theatrical trailer, TV spot, and bonus promos for the label's various brands like Seduction Cinema and Video Outlaw. The same material was later repackaged as a double-disc set with Five Bloody Graves in 2007, which adds a 13-minute interview with Joi as well.

In 2017, Vinegar Syndrome gave the title a revisit as a dual-format Blu-ray and DVD release, and you'll want to keep both discs handy as they aren't quite the same. The Blu-ray sports a new 1080p presentation of the theatrical version, and as an opening disclaimer notes, the film was originally shot on 16mm with reshoots on 35mm so the final edited product is a hybrid between the two formats with the inevitable inconsistencies in grain structure and color resolution evident here. The appearance here looks pretty Nurse Sherrisatisfying when you take that into consideration, grainy and chunky but certainly light years better than the DVD and, thanks to better print elements with less damage, running almost a minute longer as Nurse Sherriwell (89 mins. versus 88). The DTS-HD MA English mono track (with optional English SDH subtitles) is obviously limited by the very tinny quality of the original recording, but it seems to be an accurate replication. The previous Sherman commentary is carried over, and Jacobson and Joi are present for the surprisingly eye-opening "Nurses' Confessions" (20m47s), a sort of career overview and retrospective of the film with stories about burlesque performance, growing up in Texas, working with Adamson, lack of sexual chemistry, demonic method acting, and family responses to nude scenes. Also included are a "Then and Now" location featurette (2m34s), a gallery of promotional material (including the incredibly misleading Killer's Curse action art), and two trailers. The DVD version carries over the main feature and all of the extras while also adding the alternate version from the same master (evidently the film elements no longer exist or are accessible), which is great to have for comparison and extra titillation value. Definitely check out both versions for an illuminating example of how manipulating the amount of skin in a horror film could drastically alter its commercial prospects once the theatrical sexploitation trend was on a downswing.

Reviewed on June 24, 2017