06 March 2009

DVD: "Mother, Jugs & Speed"

Mother, Jugs & Speed
Directed by Peter Yates
Screenplay by Tom Mankiewicz
Story by Stephen Manes and Tom Mankiewicz
Starring: Bill Cosby, Raquel Welch, Harvey Keitel, Allen Garfield, Dick Butkus, L.Q. Jones, Bruce Davison and Larry Hagman
DVD Release Date: 9 March 2004
MPAA Rating: PG
List Price: $9.98

The Film
In late 1970s Los Angeles, two independent ambulance companies vie for the coveted, lucrative, county contract.  This story follows the antics--mostly comedic, some particularly dramatic--of the titular trio.  "Mother" (Cosby) is the best driver in the whole county, and he has elected to work not for a better paying company, but one that indulges his desire to play his own taped music and drink beer during his shift.  "Jugs" (Welch) is F&B's secretary, who has secretly been working toward being certified as a medic.  "Speed" (Keitel) is a suspended police officer who needs a source of income pending his hearing and comes to F&B because being a medic is the only other skill he has, learned in Vietnam.

Aside from the film itself, this DVD only includes trailers.  There are four for Mother, Jugs & Speed: the teaser, the theatrical trailer, the theatrical trailer with Spanish subtitles and a TV spot.  It's curious to note that only the teaser includes a line about "transporting dead bodies to the morgue," and in all my years of watching DVD's, this is the only one I know of that includes a subtitled trailer.  This DVD was also released in a boxed set, the Raquel Welch Collection, and so there are trailers for its other titles: Bandolero!, Fathom, Myra Breckinridge and One Million Years B.C.

The Recommendation
Fans might recognize the screenwriter (Mankiewicz) from his work on other 70s films such as Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die and Superman.  It's easy to see his storytelling sensibilities at work in this release; there is a comedic car chase sequence, and the characters tell jokes at the least opportune moments.  I first saw this film on TV many years ago, not in its entirety; rewatching it with my former EMT wife made it very different.  Most of today's audiences will content themselves to believe that the darker and sexist side of the ambulance world existed last at the time of this film; from my wife's experiences I sadly know this not to be true.  Perhaps that's what lends significance to the characters's desperate search for comedy in the face of such circumstances.  This is lighter than, say, Bringing Out the Dead, but there are still several moments (many involving a truly immoral performance by Larry Hagman) that make one question the labeling of this as a "comedy."

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