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AMBULANCE, THE(director/writer: Larry Cohen; cinematographer: Jacques Haitkin; editors: Claudia Finkle/Armond Lebowitz; music: Jay Chattaway; cast: Eric Roberts (Josh Baker), Megan Gallagher (Sandra Malloy), James Earl Jones (Lieutenant Spencer), Red Buttons (Elias Zacharai), RichardBright (Detective McClosky), Eric Braeden (The Doctor), Janine Turner (Cheryl), Stan Lee (Himself), Richard Bright (McClosky), James Dixon (Detective ‘Jughead’ Ryan), Matt Norklun (Ambulance Driver), Rudy Jones (Ambulance Driver), Deborah Hedwall (Nurse Feinstein), Jill Gatsby (Jerilyn); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Robert Katz/Moctesuma Esparasa; Columbia Tristar Home Video; 1990)
“An absurd comical thriller that rocks.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An absurd comical thriller that rocks. It’s written and directed by Larry Cohen (“Original Gangstas”/”Q: The Winged Serpent”/”God Told Me To”).

Josh Baker (Eric Roberts) is a quirky comic-book illustrator for Marvel’s Stan Lee, who aggressively tries to pickup a beautiful girl on Manhattan’s busy 5th Avenue with some corny lines but while rebuffing his advances she faints and is whisked away in an ambulance. He only knows her first name is Cheryl (Janine Turner) and that she’s a diabetic, and when she never arrives at the designated St. Francis hospital he becomes obsessed to find her thinking she’s his dream girl. Josh reports Cheryl as missing to the manic gum-chewing Lieutenant Spencer (James Earl Jones), who thinks he got a screw loose and offers no help. But Josh, at the site of the kidnapping, distributes flyers of the sketch he made of her and thereby meets her untrusting roommate (Jill Gatsby). The roommate while in the process of helping him is kidnapped in the same ambulance that took Cheryl. While Josh carries on his investigation of these mysterious disappearances by himself, since the police are ready to cart him off to Bellevue, he is hurt in an attempt by the bogus ambulance drivers to snatch him after they poisoned him and he escapes them only to be taken to a real hospital where his roommate is a talkative grouchy elderly former NY Post reporter/photographer Elias Zacharai (Red Buttons) who wants to help Josh in order to get this big crazy story for a possible Pulitzer prize. Elias saves Josh from being taken from the hospital in the middle of the night by the phony ambulance team, but then Elias gets kidnapped and is taken to the makeshift hospital where there are many other victims. We learn that a psychopathic research doctor (Eric Braeden) kidnaps diabetics in the city to perform implants on them and if they die sells for big money their bodies for spare parts to research centers. When Lt. Spencer turns up missing when he was supposed to meet Josh, his female police partner Sandra Malloy (Megan Gallagher) partners with Josh to try and track down the mysterious ambulance, all the missing people and find out what’s going on.

It’s a devilishly amusing satire, that has a great cast in place and has non-stop action, suspense and thrills. Amazingly, this outrageous premise almost seems believable.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”