And our award goes to . . .

Lots of spots for screen’s good sports

Published: Jan 09 2022, 01:01:am

Sunday, March 20, 1994.

NAKED GUN 33⅓: THE FINAL INSULT. Co-written by Jerry Zucker , Pat Proft and Jerry LoCash. Based on characters created by David Zucker for the 1982 TV series Police Squad!. Music by Ira Newborn. Directed by Peter Segal. Running time: 82 minutes. Rated Mature with the  B.C. Classifier's warning:  "occasional suggestive scenes and language, swearing and violence."
PIA ZADORA'S NAME IS in the credits.
    Raquel Welch is unbilled.
    The matter of their contractual arrangements aside, both actresses appear as themselves in the knockabout comedy Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult.
    We always knew that Welch was a good sport. As long ago as 1972, the Chicago-born beauty was taking her lumps with good grace and demonstrating real acting ability as the roller derby queen in Kansas City Bomber.
    Her comic timing was perfect in Richard Lester's version of The Three Musketeers (1974). So, it was really nice to see her sharing the stage with Police Squad Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) at the 66th Academy Awards.
    We always suspected that Zadora was a good sport. If Welch was a sex kitten, Zadora established herself as our favourite sex gerbil with starring roles in self-aware good-bad movies like Butterfly (1981) and The Lonely Lady (1983).
    Her subsequent career as a Las Vegas headliner proved that she could sing and dance with the best of them. So, it was really nice to see her featured in a musical number with Drebin at the mock Oscars.
    But I'm getting ahead of our story.
    Based on a short-lived television series — 1982's Police Squad! — the Naked Gun movies have created in the deadpan Frank Drebin an American Clouseau. Combining sight gags, topical humour, political satire, good-sport guest stars and punning dialogue with non-stop film and TV parodies, Drebin's Airplane-like adventures are anything- for-a-laugh comedy machines.
    The Final Insult involves an outrage "more embarrassing to the United States than Tonya Harding." Terrorist bomber Rocco Dillon (Fred Ward) plots to nuke the annual Oscars show.
    Newlywed Drebin must abandon his troubled marriage to Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley) and go undercover to save the day. "Like a midget at a urinal," he tells us, "I was going to have to stay on my toes."
    Debuting director Pete Segal maintains the breakneck pace. Regular screenwriters Pat Proft and David Zucker provide the jokes everybody expects, and lots of good-sport performers make it look like more fun than real life.
    If you really can't stand the Oscars, here's your best bet for a movie this Monday night [March 21, 1994].

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1994. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: Among the good sports playing themselves in The Final Insult are Elliot Gould, James Earl Jones, Olympia Dukakis, Florence Henderson, Morgan Fairchild, Mariel Hemingway, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Mary Lou Retton, Shannen Doherty and Vanna White. And, of course, Raquel Welch, returning to the big screen after an absence of some 17 years. Her appearance as an Academy Awards presenter spoke to both her influence as a motion picture icon and to the small appreciation the industry had for her talent.
    Her big screen debut was a bit part — her credit read “Call Girl” — in the 1964 potboiler A House Is Not a Home, and Welch remained set decoration until her breakthrough two years later in director Richard Fleischer’s Fantastic Voyage. Suddenly, Hollywood couldn’t get enough of her, and between 1966 and 1977 Welch starred in 26 features. While she proved to be an able performer in Fleischer’s sci-fi feature, she will forever be remembered as the cave girl in the bunny-fur bikini seen in Don Chaffey’s One Million Years B.C. (also 1966).
     Her image was reproduced on the bestselling pin-up poster of the 1960s, and remains most people’s most vivid memory of her. An exotic brunette, Welch helped redefine big-screen sexuality, doing so without ever filming a nude scene. (Of her 1979 Playboy photo shoot, magazine publisher Hugh Hefner later wrote that “She declined to do complete nudity, and I yielded gracefully.”)
    In the above review, I mentioned her memorable roles in 1972’s Kansas City Bomber and 1973’s The Three Musketeers (a role she reprised in 1974’s The Four Musketeers). I might also have mentioned her interracial pairing with Jim Brown in the boundary-testing Western 100 Rifles, her cameo appearance (as “Priestess of the Whip”) in the satirical fantasy The Magic Christian (both 1969). Due for reassessment is her performance in the title roles of the much reviled Myra Breckenridge (1970), Hannie Caulder (1971), a Western with a strong woman at its centre, and the action-comedy Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976).
    In 1980, the then-40-year-old Welsh had started work on Cannery Row, director David S. Ward’s adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel, when MGM fired her. She sued the production company for breach of contract, winning a $10.8 million settlement five years later. Sore losers, the movie industry blacklisted the actress, and she was not seen again on the big screen until 1994’s The Final Insult.

See also: Today’s five-feature Law Enforcement Appreciation package includes director Abel Ferrera’s 1992 tale of guilt Bad Lieutenant; David Zucker’s 1991 farce The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear; Peter Segal’s 1994 comedy Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult; Sidney Lumet’s 1990 crime drama Q & A; and Jonathan Kaplan’s 1992 suspense thriller Unlawful Entry.