The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad
Movies have a lot of functions within our society. They can inform us of dire problems that our culture faces. It can also bring us to times and places that otherwise we might never consider. Of all these lofty purposes it is important not to forget the primary function of movies is to entertain. Even with a consideration of just that one aspect of film it has to be remembered that not all movies are going to be ones that can be taken seriously. With comedies all you really want to do is to get people to laugh and forget their troubles for a couple of hours. While some comedies take the high road with sophisticated humor there are those that a outright silly. The level of humor they contain is about that of a grade school kid who can make his classmates roar with laughter by shooting milk out of his noses. Adults may state in public that they would never condescend to such nonsense but might be the first to roll on the floor while watching such a flick. One prime example of such a movie is ‘’The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad’. This movie is juvenile to the extreme. It depends on puerile sight gags, third grade humor and foolish puns. It is also one of the funniest flicks around. A movie like this strikes a chord with the audience. Deep within us all is the school age kid that still wants to laugh at comedy like this. Let’s face it; we spend enough of our lives being responsible and serious so this is a little much needed reprieve from the drudgery of reality. This film was part of a franchise that lasted for three movies but this was without a doubt the best of the lot. There have been a number of DVD releases over the years but a new edition is now here. This is part of an ongoing series of films released by Paramount under the banner of ‘I Love the 80s Edition’. They happen to have some of the best films of that pivotal decade and it is a good time to add them to your collection. So when you are tired of watching the stock market reports and seeing your investments disappear just pop this one into your DVD player and treat yourself to a very funny movie.
The film was the creation of one of the best comedy teams ever to grace the silver screen; David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker. Basically they are men who never let go of that inner child and built a very successful career out of that fact. From the mid eighties to early nineties they set the bar for comedies like this. Now it seems that too many comedies are just plain stupid. They have that grade school humor down but they lack the panache that these men infused in their movies. It takes an intelligent person to present low brow humor properly and in this case we get three such individuals. The film was an expansion of a cult classic series on television; ‘Police Squad’ which delighted audiences with the wacky adventures of the most inept police detective since the ‘Pink Panther’, Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen). Nielsen already had a long career in serious movies when it changed his life and the direction of comedy forever with his appearance in one of the earliest works for this creative team ‘Airplane’. Nielsen went from an actor who typically played the heavy to a brilliant comedian and he brought his ‘A’ game to play here. Nielsen has a dead pan delivery that sells the jokes to the audience. This is the hallmark of an amazingly talented actor. Nielsen is able to get so deep into his role that you forget that you are watching him act. He embodies Drebin in all his craziness.
Directing the film is David Zucker who has founded his career on giving audiences films like this. Prior to heading up this movie he also sat in the big chair for ‘Airplane’. He would continue his trend with ‘Top Secret’ and ‘Ruthless People’ going on to a couple of the ‘Scary Movie’ franchise. I envision him more as a ringmaster at some circus whose performers are recruited from a local mental institution. He had to keep this brilliant cast focused yet provide enough leeway for them to shine. He succeeded far better than anyone else could have. There story is filled with sight gags that are frequently snuck into the corners of the shot. I have seen this film dozens of time and there are still surprises each time I view it. The dialogue requires perfect timing and Zucker has a way to get his actors to nail it. Some of the film is so firmly rooted in the decade that younger viewers may not get the gags. Even with that said there is not an instant in this film that is not funny.
The film opens in Beirut where Drebin is on an undercover assignment. The Ayatollah Khomeini (Charles Gherardi) is holding a summit of other terrorist leaders including Idi Amin (Prince Hughes) and Yassar Arafat (David Katz). They want to humiliate the Americans and drive them out of their lands. Okay, maybe not everything has changed in the last couple of decades. As they continue with their diabolical plans the man serving coffee unmasks and it is Drebin who single handedly beats them all up in a fist fight. There is a little homage to the Three Stooges that is fun to watch. In the course of the film there are many nods to great movies; you can make a game of trying to catch them all. Back in the States there is a plot afoot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II (Jeannette Charles) during her state visit to our country. Drebin stumbles on to this while investigating who tried to kill his partner Nordberg (O.J. Simpson). He winds up running it to everything from a criminal mastermind to post hypnotic suggestions which all leads too one of the strangest portrayals of baseball ever filmed.
This is film that has some much comedy packed into it that you might think it would explode. The jokes come at you fast; sweeping you away into this mad house world. I have never been disappointed with any of the ‘I Love the Eighties’ series and this is not an exception. When I opened the latest box of discs to preview and saw this one on top I admit that I started laughing right there in anticipation of what I knew I was in for. The video is an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer and it has held up very well over the years. The audio is Dolby 5.1 although the rear speakers are under utilized. There is a group commentary track featuring David Zucker and producer Robert Weiss which is hosted by Peter Tilden. In all the discs in this batch of eighties movies there is an extra CD with a few songs from the decade. You simply have no excuse for not owning this film.