When I was a teenager, I used to keep a list of films that I saw on a little corkboard behind my PC’s monitor, and specifically films I wanted to see again. For a while, it consisted entirely of Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens (1979), until a few months later I added Rosie Dixon: Night Nurse. Presumably, at the time, I liked it; looking back on it now, I have very little idea as to why.
Rosie Dixon: Night Nurse (1978)
Director: Justin Cartwright
Starring: Debbie Ash, Carolyne Argyle, Beryl Reid, et al.
ILB’s Trivia Corner: This is apparently based on a novel by Rosie Dixon, framing it as an autobiography, of sorts. You’ll be shocked, I’m sure, to find out that Rosie Dixon doesn’t exist. She is Timothy Wood, who wrote both the novel and the script for this film. He also wrote a glut of Confessions books as Timothy Lea, four of which got turned into their own sex comedy movies… but that’s for another time.
So, yes, anyway. Rosie Dixon stars Debbie Ash as the titular Rosie, who suddenly decides she wants to be a nurse, and INSTANTLY BECOMES ONE because apparently you can do that without three years of training. The general idea is that randy male doctors and characteristic old man patients (there are a lot of old men in British sex comedies, for whatever reason) can’t keep their hands off her. It’s a threadbare idea, but at least it is an idea.
It’s just executed poorly.
As an example, there is a scene where an old man in a motorised wheelchair continuously pinches Rosie’s bum, and then wheels away before she can notice it’s him. This happens a few times and, despite the fact that there’s nobody else around, she still doesn’t realise it’s him. This is, I presume, meant to be funny, but it isn’t – it’s just stupid. There are a few scenes like this, but this sort of stuff belongs in Doctor in the House. This is a sex comedy; there should be more tittilation than this.
So to the sex bits.
This film has a fair amount of inoffensive nudity, including a shower scene, but unless you are a very young teenager, this isn’t really going to arouse. It’s just naked bodies; you’ve seen them before. One of the main plot points of this film, though, is that Rosie is sexually inexperienced – she doesn’t actually have any sex until the very end of the film, and that’s with one of the doctors, Tom Richmond (Peter Mantle). She’s the star, and she spends a lot of the time not getting laid.
To facilitate this, we have the introduction of Penny Green (Carolyne Argyle), who is both sexually active and very physically attractive. She even has some relatively decent lines like
Penny: I used to be a travel courier, but I had to give up.
Penny: One night there were fifteen ski instructors scratching at the door of my room.
Penny: But I wouldn’t let them out!
but those are few and far between. Her main job is to be sexy and sassy, and during both sex scenes she actually has sex and is sassy about it, so I guess that character works, insofar as she is supposed to do what she does.
So, the sex scenes. There are two (two!), and neither is particularly explicit; they always follow a certain pattern, as well, which is:
(i) seduction, although usually very brief
(ii) sex begins happening with Penny
(iii) sex begins happening with Rosie (although in the first scene she’s under a bed with others having sex atop it)
(iv) sex intensifies by way of sped-up footage and overlaid sex noises
(v) quick cuts between Rosie and Penny intermittently implying that this is all happening at the same time
(vi) at some point, the theme tune comes in, so we have “Rosie, my love, don’t change a thing” sung over very unconvincing love-making
(vii) everything ends explosively, in a “humorous” way
The first sex scene is actually pretty okay. Penny is being seduced by (although she actually does more of the seduction herself) Dr Seamus McSweeney (Ian Sharp). Seamus has spent a while trying to get his British end away with anyone who will be receptive, like
Seamus: With your combination of beauty and sensitivity; to be in your presence is to glow.
Rosie: Well, I’ll make you a cup of coffee, and then you can glow away.
and eventually accosts Penny during a night shift, and things go from there at the speed of Billy Whizz on amphetamines… and they have sex on a massage bed. Rosie, meanwhile, almost has sex with one of the abundant old men in the hospital, but he instead ends up having sex with the matron (Beryl Reid… yes, that Beryl Reid), and we don’t even see that, so we cut between Penny humping Seamus (she is on top) and Rosie’s head underneath squeaky springs.
And that’s it.
It’s a humorous, relatively sexy diversion, and it even happens at night, which I guess means we can justify the title of the film after all. The main problem, however, which affects the whole thing, is the second sex scene.
As I’ve said before in this review, Rosie has sex with Tom in the end (in an attic; Rosie assumes he’s brought girls here before, and he says
Tom: I haven’t… but someone else may have!
which poses more questions than it answers). Penny, however, has a thing for a man in traction covered completely in bandages (Jon Lingard-Lane), who can’t move at all, or speak or do anything at all, but allegedly she is enraptured by his eyes. So it happens that, while Rosie and Tom are having cheese-sandwich missionary sex (and end up falling through a ceiling, for the lulz), Penny appears in traction, mounts the patient in plaster, and effectively rapes him.
Well, I say “effectively”; that’s, in fact, exactly what she does, and the final scene (which – spoiler alert but not really – has both main characters getting fired) has her gleefully admitting that she raped a patient – yes, those exact words. That, as you may have gleaned from my words by now, is not funny.
And that is a shame. You see, from looking through this film retrospectively as I have, I can actually see the “comedy” in “sex comedy”. Yes, it’s crass and it’s rude and it’s blunt – they may as well have a stage hand with a neon sign saying “laugh” at certain points – but there are some funny one-liners, and the banter between characters is cheap and cheerful. The physical aspect is a little on the nose, but it’s clearly intended to make you giggle, and all the actors look like they’re having a whale of a time making this.
But the plaster scene, though. I mean, without it, this would probably be my favourite. With it, though, I just can’t get over that mental picture. Penny is naked in it, too… and that’s worse, in a way, as that’s the sort of nudity you want to see!
Overall, then, this is a valiant attempt at making something that’s sexy, funny and inoffensive, good as a distraction at midnight, but more or less completely overshadowed by a very poor decision at the end. Story of my life!