The Sensuous Nurse/Secrets of a Sensuous Nurse/I Will If You Will/ L’Infermiera (1975/1979) **½
For most people, or so I imagine, the main attraction of The Sensuous Nurse will be the prospect of two Connery-era Bond Girls collectively spending practically the entire movie either naked or in imminent danger of falling out of whatever clothes they are wearing— the Bond Girls in question being Dr. No’s Ursula Andress and Thunderball’s Luciana Paluzzi. Personally, however, I don’t give a rat’s ass about James Bond, and I tend to think of Ursula Andress primarily as that big, Teutonic blonde with too much tan and not enough eyebrows. Consequently, for my purposes, The Sensuous Nurse is all about Jack Palance paying the rent by appearing in another smarmy Italian sexploitation flick, and getting to see what the censors of the 60’s forbade is merely the prize at the bottom of the cereal box.
Leonide Bottacin (Mario Pisu, of Naked and Lustful and Sex Machine) is one of Italy’s foremost traditional vintners, and remains quite a wealthy man even if his family company is beginning to lose market share to others using new-fangled industrial farming methods developed in the United States. That “even if” is a perennial sore point between Bottacin and his heirs, who think Leonide is cheating them out of a fortune (that is to say, an even bigger fortune than the one they’ve already got) by insistently sticking to the old ways. Leonide Bottacin is also one of Italy’s foremost dirty old men, however, and he has a heart attack one afternoon following his thrice-weekly visit to his wife’s grave— and in the midst of the accompanying thrice-weekly visit to the cemetery caretaker’s wife’s bedroom. The distraught woman immediately summons Bottacin’s nephew, Benito Varotto (Duilio Del Prete, from A Spiral of Mist and The Divine Nymph), to deal with the situation (and to deal with it before her husband comes home). Thus begins a long succession of family intrigues.
Dr. Pavan (Attilio Duse, from The Humanoid and Emanuelle in Bangkok) offers his prognosis that Leonide has, at best, 36 hours to live, and that he is unlikely to emerge from his coma at any point during those hours. When he hears that, Benito gets on the phone at once to a man named Kitch (Palance, whose comparable cinematic abasements include Black Cobra and Deadly Sanctuary), an American businessman looking to invest in an Italian vineyard. Leonide would surely not approve of the modernizations that Kitch’s involvement would bring, but with the old man on death’s doorstep, Benito figures this is his chance at last to push the Bottacin winery into a profitable 20th-century paradigm. The rest of the family— Benito’s wife, Italia (Marina Confalone); Leonide’s sister-in-law, Jole (Luciana Paluzzi, also of The Green Slime and The Two Faces of Fear), and brother-in-law, Gustavo (Daniele Vargas, from The Devil Has Seven Faces and The Arena); Adone (Stefano Sabelli), Italia’s son from a previous coupling— are for the most part just as enthusiastic as Benito about having Leonide out of the way, not so much because of personal animosity (although there certainly is some of that) as because of the impediment his scruples were posing to the amassment of even greater riches. Adone is the major exception; despite having no blood kinship to Leonide, he’s too devoted to the old man to think of anything beyond his impending death just now.
Consequently, everybody but Adone greets it with more frustration than anything else when Leonide’s condition stabilizes, and he hangs on well after the day and a half that Dr. Pavan initially gave him. Although the doctor counsels great care and wariness, there now seems to be a distinct possibility of Bottacin recovering— provided nothing stressful occurs to precipitate a second heart attack. That isn’t at all what the adult relatives want to hear, and it wouldn’t be much to Kitch’s liking, either. Benito therefore tries to stall, fobbing Kitch off with vague assurances, and hoping for a fatal relapse. It keeps not happening, though, even if Leonide also doesn’t show any sign of coming out of his coma, and the greedy heirs (Adone again excepted) soon become despondent enough to do something drastic. They allow Benito to hire a live-in nurse.
What’s that you say? Hiring a nurse isn’t quite the drastic action you were expecting? Well, it just so happens that Anna (Ursula Andress, whose other credits that didn’t involve shaking her ass at Agent 007 include Clash of the Titans and The Mountain of the Cannibal God) is no ordinary nurse. Benito met her in Switzerland, during a hospital stay of his own, and he knows very well that she is remarkably deficient in conscience for somebody who heals the sick for a living. He also knows that the only thing she likes better than money is fucking. Given Bottacin’s long-established proclivities, it shouldn’t take long for nature to take its course with Anna in constant attendance upon him. And given Anna’s character, Benito doesn’t even have to pretend that he’s hired her for anything other than to give the old man an irresistible opportunity to screw his way into the family mausoleum. The only delicate thing is that Leonide isn’t even capable of responding to Anna in his present condition. She’ll have to do enough actual nursing to return him to both consciousness and a certain degree of health before she can carry out her main mission. That in turn creates the potential for a lot of complications and entanglements, for not only might Anna get second thoughts about joining Irina of Karlstein in the fatal fellatio business if she has a chance to get to know Leonide, but it also turns out that every male in the household instantly develops the hots for her, the guileless Adone especially. Then Anna and Benito begin to suspect that Adone has discovered his elders’ conspiracy, and “complications and entanglements” ceases to be remotely strong enough a term.
Like a lot of European sex farces, The Sensuous Nurse doesn’t have quite enough story or quite enough genuine jokes to fill up the running time (a surprisingly long 105 minutes in this case), so it is forced to fall back on a mix of random zaniness and sex scenes unconnected to the main plot in order to make up the difference. There’s actually one character— Tosca the Bottacin family maid (Some Like It Cool’s Carla Romelli)— who serves absolutely no other purpose than to climb into bed with one or another of the men (but only the men— The Sensuous Nurse is startlingly free of lesbianism) whenever the movie looks like it’s in danger of going more than about ten minutes without a display of naked flesh. Or maybe that isn’t quite fair; one might also say that Tosca, together with an equally irrelevant Bottacin hanger-on named Giovanni Garbin (Lino Toffolo), also provides the movie with someone who can safely enjoy a happy ending without seeming to justify or endorse the heirs’ shady behavior throughout. Having such characters around is of some importance, since director Nello Rossati and his three fellow screenwriters have something a bit different from a conventional happily-ever-after in mind for Leonide, while Adone is too young to wind up plausibly coupled with any of the women in the film. Either way, Carla Romelli is nice to have around as B-team eye-candy, and her presence helps to take some of the edge off of the more annoying antics of Daniele Vargas and Lino Toffolo. Fortunately, not all of the comedy in The Sensuous Nurse is of the zany variety, and when the movie focuses on the potential for laughs inherent in its premise, it usually manages to be fairly amusing. The scenes between Benito Varotto and Mr. Kitch are almost always good for a chuckle or two, as the least cool and collected character in the whole film is forced to fake perfect confidence and control in front of an utterly stereotypical Jack Palance heavy. Picture a shorter, more Latin Basil Fawlty, and you’ll get the general idea. Meanwhile, the mere fact of Palance doing his old steely-eyed gunslinger shtick in the what is supposed to be the role of a completely above-board venture capitalist is pretty entertaining all by itself. Another charming moment, this one more in the expected mode of the Italian sex comedy, comes when Anna totally misreads the significance of Adone’s behavior after he has a massive nervous breakdown, and she ends up ministering to him, too. The real reason for his collapse is that he caught the nurse (with whom he is by now infatuated) banging his stepfather in the attic, and the real reason he refuses to look at Anna, instead defiantly holding the book he’s reading up in front of his face, is that he’s in a jealous rage because of it. Anna, however, observes that the book in question is a giallo paperback called The Strategy of the Crime, and works herself up into a state of quiet panic over the idea that the boy has caught on to the plot against Leonide— which she was already starting to want out of. In general, I’d have liked to see more of that stuff, and less of (for example) the increasingly elaborate rigmarole whereby Gustavo attempts to engineer war flashbacks (without which he is impotent) while taking Tosca to bed, but given the scatterbrained nature of nearly all movies of this sort, I’m willing to give The Sensuous Nurse a passing grade nevertheless.