Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976)

Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976), directed by Peter Yates.

A dark comedy about ambulance drivers. It's roughly bolted together and ranges from slapstick to tragedy, which is ok: you can laugh it out and cry it out in the same movie.

Bill Cosby is Mother, more or less the designated adult of a seedy ambulance company, even though he drinks Anchor Steam while driving, carries a .357 in the cab, scatters nuns in the crosswalk (they love it), visits the massage parlor and punctures tires of the competition.

Raquel Welch is Jugs, a dispatcher who wants to drive. I have a hard time critiquing her acting; I like looking at her so much I really can't think about anything else.

Harvey Keitel is Speed, a police detective under suspension for suspicion of selling drugs. He clobbers horn-dog driver Larry Hagman who tries to molest a comatose coed in the back of the van.

Is a fat woman on a runaway downhill gurney funny? I laughed. How about dead junkies and pathetic senior citizens? It turns tragic when people are dying. We have a body count even in the driving crew.

Some great dialogue:


Speed: [referring to his driving] They don't call me Speed for nuthin'.

Jugs: Well, let's hope they don't call you Speed for everything.

(Women can be so judgmental sometimes).

Two black men arguing over an injured "client" at a country club golf course:


Albert: Damn, Mother! You ain't gonna shaft this nigga twice in one week!

Mother: Please, Albert. Not in mixed company.

Rival companies appear before the licensing commission:


Warren: I should like to point out that the counsel notes with admiration the efforts Mr Taylor has made to hire minorities.

Fishbine: Oh, yeah? Yeah? What about a woman? Does he have a woman? I do. She's out there somewhere right behind me.

Mother: This, uh -- this is, uh, the woman... and, uh, I feel that she's worth 4 blacks, the future draft rights to 3 Chicanos, and a Chinaman to be named later, sir.


Fishbine: You bet she is.

Taylor: We will get a woman. I mean, as soon as we get separate bunk room facilities.

[Crowd booing]

When being funny, I can't help hearing Cosby's stand-up comedy voice from the 60s. He's better when serious, as when counseling Jugs when she becomes discouraged by the tragedy she sees when driving an ambulance:


It doesn't fit your idea of life. Because people don't suffer the way you want them to. So what you gonna do? Bail out because you can't live your fantasies?

Good contemporary soundtrack.