Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More dark humor from the rescue services

At 8:00 PM ET tonight, the Fox Movie Channel is showing Mother, Jugs, and Speed. Like The Firemen's Ball, it's a black comedy involving the emergency services. But that's about where the similarity ends.

Bill Cosby stars (even though he only gets second billing) as "Mother", an ambulance driver working in a less affluent part of Los Angeles in the mid-1970s for a struggling private firm. The company isn't getting paid enough by the county for its services, and they have to compete with another ambulance company. This leads Mother and his colleagues to do everything they can to get patients -- by hook or by crook -- as well as to become very cynical. Mother, for example, likes to drink on the job, keeping a cooler next to the driver's seat; he also likes to frighten the local nuns by stopping while they cross the street, and then turn the siren on in the middle of their crossing the street, frightening the bejeezus out of them.

In the midst of all this is "Jugs", played by Raquel Welch. She's the dispatcher for the company, and the object of most of the EMTs' affections. Jugs, however, has been fairly assiduous about refusing their advances, to the point that they all wonder what she's doing in her spare time. (It turns out she's taking courses learning how to become an EMT herself.) Finally, there's "Speed", played by Harvey Keitel; Speed is a cop who has been put on suspension for allegedly selling drugs to minors. He was an ambulance driver in the Vietnam War, and figures that this is the only way he can make a living while his legal issues are resolved.

Together and separately, the three principals, and an interesting cast of crazies, through the tough world that was the lower-class Los Angeles of the 1970s. It's at times funny, such as when an overweight older lady fractures a hip falling off a chair, and the EMTs have to get her on the gurney and haul her down several flights of stairs. You can imagine what happens next. However, there are also calls such as the drug-addled woman who comes out of her bungalow carrying a shotgun, and seemingly prepared to use it.

Among the crazies are Larry Hagman as a sex-starved blowhard colleague of the EMTs; Dick Butkus as another EMT; and singer Toni Basil as one of the patients. Mother, Jugs, and Speed has been released to DVD, and is apparently even available as part of a box set of Welch's work which includes One Million Years B.C..

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