Wall-to-wall cop comedy

Clearing a colleague, saving a queen

Published: Jul 09 2017, 01:01:am

Friday, December 2 1988.

THE NAKED GUN: FROM THE FILES OF POLICE SQUAD! Co-written by Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Pat Proft. Music by Ira Newborn. Co-written and directed by David Zucker. Running time: 85 minutes. Rated Mature with the  B.C. Classifier's warning: "occasional suggestive scenes and language."
FRANK DREBIN (LESLIE NIELSEN) is the American Clouseau. A Los Angeles police lieutenant, he serves and protects with single-minded zeal, a singular lack of physical co-ordination and a complete lack of tact.
    ZAZ — Jerry Zucker,  Jim Abrahams and David Zucker — is the closest thing Americans have to Monty Python. The trio of crazies who wrote The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) and gang-directed Airplane! (1980), they're laugh merchants who sell wholesale, peddling their gags in job lots.
    Unlike the Pythons, ZAZ is a lowbrow popular culture phenomenon. Inspired by bad movies and worse television, it's in the spirit of the comics and comic books (most notably Mad Magazine, circa 1954) rather than the classics.
    From those vintage Mad issues, ZAZ borrows its cluttered, wall-to-wall style of comedy, battering audiences into submission with an amalgam of sight, situation and dialogue gags. It worked brilliantly in Airplane!, fell somewhat flat in Top Secret (1984) and rises up again in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
    Based on Police Squad, ZAZ's short-lived 1982 television series, the new movie reintroduces the dedicated Drebin. Adding Pat Proft (co-writer of the original Police Academy) to the screenwriting team, they take off on movie cop shows with manic glee.
    Though Nielsen's Drebin owes much to the late Peter Sellers's bumbling French flic, he's no Clouseau clone. An all-American klutz, Drebin is uniquely upright, incorruptible and unworldly, a loveable Reaganesque dunce that the Regina-born actor plays ultra-straight.
    Arriving back from a vacation in Beirut, the tough cop dives into a sea of comically-charged troubles. His wife has left him for an Olympic gymnast (and, he's told, "the best sex she's ever had.”)
    His partner, Officer Nordberg (O.J. Simpson) lies near death in the hospital. Shot nine times by drug dealers, Nordberg is under suspicion of being a dealer himself.
    With Her Majesty Elizabeth II (Jeannette Charles) scheduled to visit L.A., Drebin learns that an international malcontent named Pahpshmir (Raye Birk) has put out a $20-million contract on the British monarch's Iife.
    The big guy has 24 hours to clear his colleague’s name, save the Queen and, incidentally,  find true love. His adversary is smooth, ruthless Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban), a bad guy with a taste for the finer things.
    Love takes the form of Ludwig's personal assistant Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley), a vision of blonde beauty nearly as clumsy as he is. Support comes from his friend and boss, Captain Ed Hocken (George Kennedy), chief officer of the elite Police Squad.
    Filmed under the direction of Zucker brother David, The Naked Gun is ZAZ's best effort since Airplane! A crazed hit-and-miss burlesque, it hits more often than it misses.

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1988. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: in his first career, San Francisco-born Orenthal James (O.J.) Simpson found fame as a sports hero. A multiple award-winning football player, he was inducted into both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame following his retirement from the game. Like Jim Brown, Joe Namath and Fred Williamson before him, Simpson took up screen acting in a serious way. He was featured prominently in big-budget features such as 1974’s The Towering Inferno and Capricorn One (1977), and found steady work starring in made-for-TV movies.   
    He reprised his Nordberg character in 1991’s The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear. In 1994, three months after the release of The Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult, Simpson was charged with the murder of his wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goodman. The trial that followed was televised and became a broadcast news event of unbelievable proportions. In the years since, Simpson’s story has been the subject of a TV movie and two mini-series, as well as three TV documentary features and a documentary mini-series. Currently serving time in Nevada’s Lovelock Correctional Center, Simpson is looking foreword to a parole hearing on Thursday, July 20 (2017). Famously acquitted of the felony murder of his wife  in 1995, Simpson was convicted of an armed robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas in 2008. It’s been speculated that, if freed, the 70-year-old Simpson could return to the spotlight as a reality TV star.