“In many countries, the coveted title of ‘Doctor of Medicine’ is the highest prize, but not in Italy where it is only the first step toward the shining goal: a professorship on a medical school faculty. This accolade leads to fame and riches and feudal power so great that the most successful of the professors are called ‘The Barons.’”
Anyone who bought a ticket for a Senta Berger movie called SECRETS OF A NURSE circa 1976 was probably expecting something other than a talky drama exposing the greed and corruption that plagues Italy’s public health care system, starring Enrico Maria Salerno and Gabrielle Ferzetti. The lovely Ms. Berger gets about 10 minutes of screen time as Sister Maria, a nurse who no doubt has a few secrets but isn’t about to reveal them to beer-swilling yahoos at a drive-in (WHEN NURSES HAD TAILS, this ain’t). Stateside interest in a movie of this ilk would be microscopic to nonexistent otherwise, so American distributor Samuel Sherman gets an e for effort. Story of honest but boozy burnout Dottore Giordani (Salerno) challenging the unethical and downright criminal behavior of first-class s.o.b. Professore Valiotti (Ferzetti) and the stranglehold of the Barons has almost no forward momentum -- despite a script by the usually energetic Massimo De Rita and Arduino Maiuri (THE FAMILY, COMPANEROS, REVOLVER, STREET LAW) -- leaving the heavy lifting to leads Salerno and Ferzetti, who are both terrific, and director Luigi Zampa. Nice score by Riz Ortolani also. A more recent film, the similarly titled documentary THE MAFIA IS WHITE, specifically tackles the Sicilian health care racket.