Concepts are often repeated in movies to clarify an idea, stress the significance of something, or because it’s cool or dramatic. A staple of the Hellraiser series is that Pinhead and his gang of Cenobites are almost always preceded by the sight of a brilliant, blue haze spilling through slatted wood. In Blood Feast 2, a snippet of a Butthole Surfers song (“Sweat Loaf”) that goes “Satan! Satan! Satan!” plays every time the hoity-toity mom walks on screen.
For me, repetition is most effective when used as a plot device to bring everything full circle by connecting the beginning and end of a story somehow. Dario Argento is a bona fide master of this.
There are moments, though, when an instance of repetition serves no purpose at all. And that’s the case in Nick Millard’s Death Nurse. Edith the Death Nurse repeats not one, but two lines of dialogue back to back for what seems like no reason.
She does this for the first time at around the forty-five minute mark.
Septuagenarian social worker and patient Faith Chandler sneaks down the stairs of the Shady Palms Clinic in search of her two missing clients, who are also patients (oh, and unbeknownst to her, long-deceased).
Edith heads her off with an icy look. “Get back in bed, you nosy old bitch.”
“If you don’t take me to Mr. Davis and Mr. Bedowski, I’ll call social services.”
Edith repeats herself. “Get back in bed, you nosy old bitch.”
“All right, I’m going to phone.”
Usually, when people repeat themselves, they preface it with an “I said…” or “Didn’t you hear me?” Not Edith. She doesn’t roll that way. Below is an oscillating comparison of the first frames of each utterance, proving they were in fact from two different takes.
Why does it matter? Well, if auteur Nick Millard had used one take twice, I would have thought, ok, maybe this guy forgot to film some other line of dialogue and was forced to reuse it. Knowing he had the foresight, however, to shoot the same sentence two different times leads me to believe he intended the conversation to play out as awkwardly and nonsensically as it did from the get-go.
The worst part is that Edith’s approach doesn’t work. It was all for naught. Faith Chandler ignores her and has to be stabbed to be silenced. I can’t help but wonder, would Edith’s tactics have been more successful in other movie situations?
Edith repeats herself for a second time at around the fifty-six minute mark.
At that point, she peeks through her living room blinds to see a policeman snooping outside her garage. “Son of a bitch.” she remarks, tiptoeing the “son of a”, punching the “bitch”. The policeman walks up her drive to the front door. “Son of a bitch.” she repeats in the same exact tone of voice.
As hilarious as it is, what’s the significance? Why were these lines so important that Mr. Millard felt the need to repeat them? Is there even a rhyme or reason to his mad genius? All I know is that I could revisit these scenes a thousand times each and they’d still crack me up. Maybe that’s what Millard was going for.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Death Nurse, and it probably won’t be the last. The deeper I dig, the more I find, and the farther I stray from reality. Investigating one of this movie’s mysteries leads to another. Questions are only answered with more questions. Nothing adds up.
Has anyone out there seen this? What are your favorite moments from Death Nurse or its equally madcap sequel?