Think what you might, but there’s something entirely fascinating about skin films. For better or worse, they tend to tap into the culture of their time period, examining the sexual mores of a certain era and then serving up a kind of social commentary on human interpersonal behavior. Not all of them are effective, those typically tending to be ones either more experimental in nature or one that embrace what their writers and/or directors believe to be a true art-house mentality of saying something about their characters instead of the greater society they inhabit.
Then there are ones like NURSE DIARY: WICKED FINGER. Despite whatever bells and whistles it tries to sound, it sadly ends up being little more than comedy – bad comedy at that – perhaps better left to the vaults of history as they don’t offer up anything significant worth a second look.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Ryoko (played by a mousey Etsuko Hara) is a big city nurse who’s finally saved up enough to abandon the nurses’ dormitory in favor of her own little place. This only serves as a source of conflict between her and her fellow nurses, as well as putting a crimp in her love life with the philandering Dr. Edagawa. But, lo and behold, fate throws her a bone as she’s delighted to find she has a Peeping Tom admirer across the way who’s more than willing to give her the attention she so craves!
Impulse Pictures’ supplied advertising materials state that WICKED FINGER is only the first in a three-picture anthology under the NURSE DIARY heading, and I can only hope that the next two films have more to offer than some zany sex antics. It isn’t that it’s an unsatisfying experience; rather, WICKED might be worth a few benign laughs. But trust me when I say that’s about all it’s worth. The picture tries to be entirely playful with every aspect of sexuality explored here – clearly it pokes fun at the nurse fetish and the whole ‘playing doctor’ fetish, but there’s moments of obvious voyeurism and even exhibitionism tied up amply in subplots too hammy to be anything but farcical. There’s even a series of moments wherein the nurse has to instruct her new lover in the art of making love, and I’ve no doubt that’s a turn-on to many viewers.
What does work is the narrative device of the diary: Ryoko follows the calendar precisely as she recounts the events of a particular day and even her hopes and dreams for the future. It’s clear that she’s intended to be the narrator to these adventures in amorousness; sadly, she doesn’t take part in all of them. And because so much of what’s captured in here is clearly played so over-the-top, I don’t question whether or not it was all intended to be funny: the issue is that it isn’t – or, at least, it wasn’t to me – or that really puts the story on a narrow path to success or lack thereof.
As a one-off film, WICKED might be to your tastes. It didn’t do much for me – as I’ve often maintained, I like to “talk” about, think about, and/or even analyze the message(s) hidden in there. I didn’t see that this one had all that much worth exploring.
NURSE DIARY: WICKED FINGER is produced Yoshiyuki Umino and directed by Shinichi Shiratori. DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled through Impulse Pictures under their Nakkatsu Erotic Films Collection. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a Japanese spoken language film with English subtitles. As for the technical specifications, it actually all looks and sounds quite well for a 1979 kinda/sorta skin flick obviously shot on film; the Japanese 2.0 mono track is fairly solid, though there was an odd instance of ‘muddled’ dialogue at one point (not that I could’ve understood the native language anyway). These releases are traditionally slim on special features, and WICKED is no exception: there’s only the original theatrical trailer and some liner notes (a brief essay) from Japanese film scholar Jasper Sharp (these are a very nice touch).
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. NURSE DIARY: WICKED FINGER is far from the most impressive Pinku films I’ve seen; but, in many ways, it kinda/sorta might end up being one of the strangest (which is why I’d give it more than a single star). Parts of it play out as convention comedy while other parts clearly are reaching into the territory of all-out sexual farce but the slapstick presentation of sexual assault is handled so lampoon-ish it’s honestly hard to figure what to make of all of it. Plus – as Pinku films go – this one is inordinately tame: there’s very, very little action, and what there is is so weirdly photographed and/or choreographed it’s almost as if director Shinichi Shiratori wanted his audience to feel as if they were reduced to voyeurs for his grand exhibitionists up on the silver screen. That’s a bit too ‘thematic’ for my tastes.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Impulse Pictures provided me with a DVD copy of NURSE DIARY: WICKED FINGER by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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