I watched Ticks at a Halloween party in seventh grade, an event that led to my legitimate, lifelong phobia of ticks. To this day, I literally shudder at the mere word and heaven help me if my dog dares to bare one of the bloodsucking little monsters beneath her fluff. You guys, I will freak the fuck out. I’m not even kidding—I am shuddering right now. Even in seventh grade, I watched as many horror movies as I could get my hot little hands on, and I’ve always been a bit of an outdoorsy tomboy-type when it comes to insects and arachnids. I once realized my legs were covered in tiny leeches and I merely responded with mild dismay, so my intensely visceral reaction to this film can only be explained by the fact that it is pure, unadulterated awesome.
But the title, right? This title repels me and I’m the one ostensibly recommending it. Some suit must have felt the same way, because at one point the movie’s name was changed to the less offensive and far less interesting Infested. That movie could be about anything, right? But Ticks, or as I like to call it, TICKS!, well, that movie can only be about one thing. One horrifying, sucky, gross, prehistorically hideous, steroid-enhanced thing. (shudder)
Wait, steroids? Okay, here’s what I remember about this deliciously campy yet surprisingly effective fright flick. Some backwoods farmer is beefing up his marijuana crop with steroids. By the by, I like the idea of dosing one’s drugs with drugs. Marijuana, your ass is weak. I’m gonna juice you up! The backwoods farmer is played by the charming Clint Howard, and his name is Jarvis. I mean, obviously. That’s what you name backwoods farmers.
So Jarvis isn’t careful with his juice and it drips onto the tick-infested (blurgh!) floor, and the creeps start growing in these big, wet, pulsing, translucent sacs (ack! I hate writing this review!) until they explode out of the sacs into THIS:
AUGHH! Enter disposable teenagers, played by some girls, some guy, and Seth Green!
True story: Ticks not only established my lifelong irrational fear of ticks, but also my lifelong, totally rational crush on even pre-Oz Seth Green!
My memory of this film is getting fuzzy, but I do also clearly recall a street tough Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And also that the hormones radiating off the ticks caused hilariously-performed hallucinations, and also that the manual effects were fully, fully rad. So ignore the creepy, campy title that should totally be in all-caps and ending with an exclamation point and rent Ticks today! If you can find it ANYWHERE, that is, and if so, let me know. It’s time I faced my fear.
Mother, Jugs and Speed (Yates, 1976) - April Swartz’ Selection
I need to preface my capsulized review of this suspiciously titled gem by admitting when a friend of mine, Stephanie, recommended it my internal monologue probably read something like, “Does her husband kn—oh, wait. It can’t be an “adult film” starring Bill Cosby. Wait, can it?” I still watched it with that query in mind, whatever that might say about me.
The feature poster suggests a slapstick comedy revolving around three handsome, amusingly nicknamed EMT’s. Read a bit further about the film and you’d find the backdrop - present day (at the time) mean streets of Los Angeles, where two privately owned, ragtag, struggling ambulance companies are competing for the highest body count and subsequent sole control over the territory in the form of a city contract. Sure, it’s sprinkled with hearty laugh inducing ribald banter and hijinks, but you’d be surprised at how all of that doesn’t play out as humor and takes a much less safe, darker detour instead.
Mother, Jugs, and Speed are consecutively Bill Cosby, Raquel Welch, and Harvey Keitel. The supporting cast is nothing to balk at, either. Larry Hagman (Dallas) even rears his ugly head as severely uncouth perv, Murdoch, a character that jars and destroys on some too spoiler-y to get into levels. Each is an employee under proprietor, Harry Fishbine, who’s really more like the head coach of F&B Ambulance Co. Two things of note: he can’t hold a conversation with the bunch without fondling a pigskin or using a volume of voice that wouldn’t activate a modern day glass break sensor. However, the team certainly doesn’t make it easy to be dealt with in any milder manner.
Mother’s last name is Tucker, and that’s a blink and you might miss it chuckle tucked away and revealed but once or twice throughout the film. Morally sound, he is not. The man cozies up to a cooler full of beer behind the wheel (of an ambulance, people), eats peanut butter on cheeseburgers, and receives his ultimate kicks by routinely plowing a siren blaring ambulance rig through a gaggle of nuns at the crosswalk. Had I just shown this photo without explaining, you probably would’ve taken it for a porno, too, right? Rest easy, that was just a pit stop at the Institute of Sexual Awareness where Mother trades the ladies B12 shots in the hindquarters for uh, “hands-free” massages.
Jugs’ (aka Jennifer) wits are far more impressive than her you know what’s. Out from behind the switchboard and into the cutthroat man’s world she goes - middle finger a’swingin’! I wish I could say she inhabits said world unscathed, but what she lacks in thick skin she no doubt makes up for in the somewhat miraculous feat of crying beautifully at this cruel, cruel world without smearing her mascara.
Speed, a recently suspended cop, also doubles as Jugs’ love interest and their back of the Cadillac Miller-Meteor style ambulance romp rivals emergency/safety technician love scenes I’ve only discovered in… Backdraft. As outlandish as it sounds, the rumor is he was let go from the force for selling cocaine to children, hence the name. He exhibits wrongfully accused and disgraced quite well, but it didn’t distract me from making the connection between this film, Bad Lieutenant, and Sister Act. Bad cop? Check. Nuns? Check. What the hell did I just stumble upon here?
It’s certainly not a perfect film, and the sudden shifts in tone are executed in such a way that you might be inspired to shout obscenities into ether. Hey, sometimes that’s not necessarily a bad thing. That being said, it’s definitely a highly entertaining artifact deserving of a more well-known cult status.