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Larry Cohen has not been known for coherence in his pictures. As a writer, he is often excellent with creative twists and turns for every story. As a director, he is often sloppy and mostly leaves you disappointed, thinking that a great opportunity has been lost. In his movies major characters disappear without explaination and whole chunks of plot often seem to be missing. All the while you are thinking "what a shame on such a good story!". To my surprise, I found that "Ambulance" actually is held together quite neatly. No chop-chop editing this time. The plot runs amok here and there, but not damagingly so. It is amusing and suspenseful with spunky performances by Gallagher and Roberts and a really good one by Red Buttons. Some effort have been put into the action sequences and interiors. This movie, unlike many other Cohen-directed, actually looks like it had a budget. The pace never flags and even if the ending is no great shakes, it's satisfying. Nice score too.
The Ambulance actually turned out to be a pretty funny, yet bizarre
thriller. Sarcastic extrovert, Josh Baker (Eric Roberts in a hilarious
role), probably regrets the day he talked to a woman that he felt
compelled to introduce himself to, having always seen her on his lunch
break. The woman, a diabetic, suddenly collapses in the street, and he
is there as she is carried away in a hearse-turned-ambulance with a
mysterious green glowing light in the back. She gets in the ambulance,
and as Josh later discovers, she never arrives at any of the local
Josh is convinced something is awry, but doesn't pay too much attention to it at first (in fact, as bizarre as the story becomes, he's so matter-of-fact about everything. Him and everyone else). The more people he confronts about the strange ambulance that conveniently seems to arrive when he's talking to them but never seems to be around when he needs to prove it exists, the more likely those people are going to wind up dead because of the ambulance (actually, because of the people driving it, who are the goons for a strange doctor who is using his victims for a strange medical experiment).
Josh's only hope, besides himself (a guy who will soon be quite immune to pain as he gets hit by cars, jumps through barred doors, is drugged, and finally beat by a junkyard gang), is the red head cop Sandra Malloy who turns up after her boss, Spencer (James Earl Jones in an even funnier part as the disbeliever), turns up missing. And if they don't act fast, the ambulance will show up for them, and the only chance of stopping it will be lost.
All in all, the story is bizarre, but the movie is much more of a comedy than a thriller in sort of that 'After Hours' style of comedy. Josh appears to be absolutely crazy to those around him, babbling about some weird ambulance that is out to murder people. But he seems to dismiss the seriousness of it, just hoping to save the girl and get through the day, and not much else. Eric Roberts and Red Buttons, too, made a good team, albeit a brief one with Red Buttons as Elias Zacharai, the fast-talking newspaper reporter who befriends Josh and has similar convictions about the hospital staff trying to drug up patients and keep them against his will, but in that senile old man kind of way. He plays the reporter that wants the exclusive story on the ambulance.
Loosen up and give it a try. Though cheap, it's got some good action sequences, a decent plot, and is just overall, pretty funny. Except, for maybe the ending. It was just too easy.
"The ambulance" is perhaps not what people call a great movie.But it's sure much fun to watch!Its black humor is priceless.All the male actors overplay,Eric Roberts ,James Earl Jones and Eric Braeden camp it up and give the viewer the feeling of watching a cartoon (Roberts' escape from the ambulance) or reading a comic strip :anyway ,Roberts makes comic books ("They are not what they used to be "says cop Jones ).The director knows only one tempo:accelerated and ,for lack of subtlety ,there's never a dull moment.And the villain (Braeden) does believe he works for the greater good of humanity !And anyway won't his patient be in perfect health when he dies?
Saw it last night, this film has it all! From the interesting start, which grabs our attention, to the eerie score of the music, to a fascinating insight into the world of comics, romance, suspense, intrigue and humour! Eric Roberts like always gives an outstanding performance as the poor guy who is caught up in this world of danger. Great fun, and such twists! Just when you think the movie is going one way, it takes a completely different direction! I loved it, and reccomend it to anyone who loves a good thriller!
I hadn't seen "The Ambulance" for quite awhile, but I had a good time re-visiting it and this was one of the first works I had seen of filmmaker Larry Cohen. It might not be one of Cohen's highly regarded pieces, but "The Ambulance" is a fun, gripping slice of paranoia with an injection of black humour. The concept is audaciously ludicrous and Eric Roberts' ham-fisted lead performance is full of energy (and lets not forget that hypnotic mullet when in motion), along with James Earl Jones small, but cynically meaty role as a rundown detective on the edge. Moving at a fast, uniformed tempo, Cohen's boldly tight direction never lets up (where he knows how to shoot on location for maximum effect) and his writing manages to stay one step ahead as you get pulled along for the dangerous ride with its engineered thrills. There always seems to be some sort of threat at every turn for Robert's character and this keeps it excitingly intense, if daftly over-the-top with comedic results. Especially its cheesy climax in a night club with some berserk ambulance driving and of course its irony-laced revelation that you won't see coming. Roberts' character sure didn't. The plot takes on a modern approach to its mad doctor formula, staying quite dark and full of mystery in the chase/or race to uncover the truth while also trying to convince people of the threat. Roberts' plays Josh Baker a comic book artist who one day goes about asking out the women of his dreams (a stunning Janine Turner) who he sees everyday out on the streets of New York. An incident sees her collapsing with Josh by her side and then a mysterious vintage ambulance appears and whisks her off. So he goes to one hospital after another with no such luck. He thinks there might just be more to it, as he uncovers and now he's running for his life with no one believing him there's a phantom ambulance kidnapping people. Eric Braeden is suitably clinical as "the doctor" that's behind the kidnappings and Megan Gallagher offers good support as a police officer we can trust. Red Buttons is enjoyably snappy and Cohen regular James Dixon shows up too.
You can always count on at least one thing going into a Larry Cohen
movie - and that's a good time. Cohen had already tackled rogue police
officers before it came to this film with Maniac Cop, and thus he
decided to make a film about a rogue ambulance. The Ambulance may not
be Cohen's finest achievement; but its great lightweight entertainment,
and I'm sure very few people that watch this film will regret doing so.
Naturally, there's not a great deal of point to the proceedings, and
Cohen seems keen to focus as much on entertainment value as possible,
which is no problem if you ask me. The plot focuses on Josh Baker; a
humble cartoonist who, one day, decides to try and charm a woman on the
street. Tragedy strikes when she passes out, but everyone is reassured
when an ambulance turns up. However, upon going to check on her at the
local hospital, Josh finds that she isn't there - and further
investigation makes him realise that there has been several people
going missing, and it turns out that a fake ambulance with fake doctors
and nurses is abducting people!
The idea behind this movie is actually quite frightening; ambulances are a service that we rely on and so having one going rogue and abducting people is a frightening idea. Cohen doesn't capitalise on this, however, which is rather odd; and despite a few scenes with the maniacal doctor, there really isn't all that much horror on display. Others ideas that aren't capitalised on include the moral perspective of whether sacrificing a few people to cure millions is a righteous exorcise. But really, none of this is particularly important as I didn't want an Ingmar Bergman film anyway. Cohen has rounded up a good cast of cult actors to populate his film with. Eric Roberts is entertaining in the lead, and receives good feedback from the likes of James Earl Jones, Megan Gallagher, the amusingly named Red Buttons and the sadly underused Eric Braeden. The plot is a little choppy at times, but it generally flows well and I don't remember being bored at any time during the film. The ironic ending is a blast, and although I don't doubt that this film could have been better; it's still fun enough and I won't hesitate to recommend The Ambulance to anyone!
Though Larry Cohen isn't a great director, this movie (which is his best film) is a surprisingly exciting thriller full-filled with humor and suspense. The acting is great and the plot is pretty good. One of the rare higher-quality action/thriller movies you can find on these days.
More and more I love the work of writer/director Larry Cohen and I can only encourage people to check out his versatile imagination. "The Ambulance" is less ambitious, comical and outrageous than some of Cohen's more famous achievements (like "God Told me To", "It's Alive" or "Q the Winged Serpent") but it definitely is a well-elaborated and entertaining B-movie. Once again, Cohen succeeds in turning a familiar and every-day topic into an exciting and rather suspenseful thriller. Inconspicuously and well organized, a group of fake nurses and doctors drive around New York in an old-type of ambulance, picking up diabetics that suffer from a 'sudden attack'. After they're brought into the cool conveyance, they disappear and no one ever hears from them again. The womanizing comic-book artist Josh Baker coincidentally stumbles upon this suspicious organization when a broad he's been stalking for a long time is taken away in front of him. His search for the girl results in a tense and involving movie, filled with ingenious plot-twists and adorably eccentric New York-characters. The screenplay is very clever, the dialogues are well written and there isn't a dull moment in the entire movie. 'The Ambulance' isn't a horror film so the deaths aren't as sadistic as in other Cohen films and there's also the lack of pungent social criticism. Still, this is a truly cool movie that deserves a wider audience. Judging by his performance here, I'd say it's unjust that Eric Roberts' career went to waste so badly. He looks a little goofy but his lines are exhilarating and his bad-boy charisma definitely works for the character he plays. Even more amusing are the supporting roles like, for example, James Earl Jones as the weird and over-stressed copper and Red Buttons as the persistent journalist. Check it out!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You might think it absurd that I rated this unknown low-budget movie
with a 10/10, but it's a black comedy and it succeeds in being one of
the funniest things I've seen in a long time. Basically the plot
follows a comic book artist (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Cy
Curnin, the lead singer in The Fixx), as he tries to solve the mystery
of an ambulance that abducts New Yorkers off the streets to operate on
and use in place of animals by selling them to laboratories and
factories around the world. With the help of a senile but street-smart
news reporter and a powerful and smart female cop, the comic artist
fights for his own life while trying to prove to the police that the
ambulance is doing some dark things to people.
What can I say, I loved it! It's got some mild crude humor but most of the hilarious moments are unexpected and not at all in the dialogue, such as a sheriff dying but continuing to munch on his popcorn while he shoots at the freaky ambulance, and the reporter pulling the fire alarm and beating people up to rescue the artist. There are too many moments, even funnier, to list. Don't pass it by just because it looks like a basic medical thriller, because it's much more than that!
I was never really censored as a child. It was part of growing up as
the typical latch-key kid of the era, and part growing up with a father
that loved movies and took me just about everywhere he went.
So, when it comes to movies like "The Ambulance" it was a "you stay home, at 10, watch your little sister and I'll go rent a movie for us." Today leaving someone that age at home and in charge would be neglect, back then it was common...and of course dad came home with a B-Movie Gem.
Why not? He always treated my sister and I like little adults and not children and his taste in movies always came down to: "I haven't seen something like this before." It's an attitude that stuck with me over the years. If it's entertaining I like it, if it's original, I like it even more.
The Ambulance, especially if you are a 10 year-old in 1990 was awesome. I mean, it had Stan Lee in it and that was BEFORE he made cameos in all the Marvel movies. AND, it was a movie about a guy that made comic books. It was like crack for a 10 year-old, I couldn't get enough if it.
Plus, it's campy as all get-out. Everything is just a little too earnest, a little too over-done and it makes for just a fun movie to watch. Right down to Darth Vader chomping on his gum in every seen.
I know, I know, it's James Earl Jones, but when you are 10, it doesn't matter, he is still Darth Vader.
It should be a cult hit and I am sure it has a little following out there somewhere. It's far from a great film, but it's still unique and campy enough to have that cult love behind it.
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