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Paramount Studios presents
"Wilma, I promise you, whatever scum did this, not one man on this force will rest for one minute until he's behind bars. Now, let's go grab a bite to eat."
DVD ReviewIn the 1970's, brothers David and Jerry Zucker teamed up with Jim Abrahams at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to write and produce a stage show entitled Kentucky Fried Theater. This unique brand of comedy that they perfected carried them into the world of feature film with 1977's Kentucky Fried Movie, directed by John Landis. This film, while not a blockbuster, was the start of a genuine Hollywood success story. In 1980, the three of them co-wrote and co-directed the smash hit comedy Airplane!, and they haven't looked back since. The list of titles this team has created together and separately since then is long and distinguished, including Top Secret!, Hot Shots! and its sequel, Ruthless People, Ghost, My Best Friend's Wedding, and many others.
Based on characters from their short-lived television series "Police Squad!," The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! was their first comedy franchise, spawning two sequels. It also marked the first time that the trio added writer Pat Proft into their fold. Proft was himself an accomplished comedy writer, previously part of the writing team that brought us Police Academy, Bachelor Party, and Real Genius. The Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker comedic style is distinctive, relying heavily on verbal puns, visual sight gags, satire and slapstick. Plot, while present, is almost included as an afterthought.
Since they went through the trouble of actually writing a plot, I will go ahead and outline it. Lt. Frank Drebin is a member of "Police Squad," an elite unit of the Los Angeles Police Department. After one of his fellow officers is critically wounded under mysterious circumstances, Drebin uncovers a sinister plot hatched by local businessman Vincent Ludwig to assassinate the Queen of England on her upcoming trip to Los Angeles. While investigating Ludwig, Drebin falls in love with Jane Spencer, one of Ludwig's assistants. Does she really love him back, or is she just seeing him on Ludwig's orders? Can he uncover the assassination plot in time to save the Queen's life and his job?
Part of Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker's distinctive comedic style is to not cast experienced comedic players, but rather accomplished dramatic actors in the primary roles. It is their philosophy to let the "writing do the work." The actors themselves need only be able to deliver their dialogue without cracking up (easier said than done, to be sure). Leslie Nielsen, a veteran of almost countless dramatic television shows and films, stars as Lt. Drebin. He also had a small role in Airplane!. Priscilla Presley, former wife of Elvis and a longtime "Dallas" regular, plays the seductive Jane Spencer. George Kennedy, who won the Best-supporting Actor Oscar for 1968's Cool Hand Luke, plays Drebin's friend and boss, Captain Ed Hocken. The now-notorious ex-football star O.J. Simpson plays Officer Nordberg. Lastly, film-veteran and "Fantasy Island" star Ricardo Montalban plays Ludwig. The Naked Gun also gets a lot of mileage from its cameos. Walk-on roles are filled by everyone from "Weird Al" Yankovic to baseball great Reggie Jackson to sportscasters Dick Vitale and Curt Gowdy. In one hilarious bit of casting, film-great John Houseman sneaks in a performance as a driving instructor. Sadly, Houseman would not live to see this film hit the big screen.
The comedy in The Naked Gun is vintage Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker. Much of it is bawdy, if not downright disgusting. You will almost certainly spend most of the film chuckling, if not shooting milk from your nose. Lastly, there are so many subtle but hilarious sight gags slipped in (such as the baggage handler at the airport or the "snot" scene at the hospital) that repeated viewings may be necessary to catch them all.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: The Naked Gun is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is anamophically enhanced. While the transfer is solid, it is not possible to hide the fact that this is a twelve-year-old film. The images presented are not particularly crisp. There is a fine, but virtually omnipresent graininess throughout. You may have to peer intently to notice it on smaller TVs, and even on larger sets it shouldn't be particularly distracting. The colors are generally rich, but are perhaps a little over-saturated in places. Black levels are adequate but unexceptional.
In the commentary track, it is mentioned that some theaters matted the picture improperly, allowing the very top of the tube top that Presley wears in the sex scene to be seen (she is supposed to be nude so this top should not be visible). Ironically, it is also visible in this transfer. This is a rather notable framing gaffe.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: While the disc advertises this as 5.1, an overwhelming majority of the audio originates from the front three channels. The surrounds are only used for subtle enhancement of the music (and then only sometimes) and, on two occasions, for surround effects. Both of these occasions revolve around the use of a public address system in the film. The first occurs when Drebin gets off the airplane early in the film and addresses reporters from a press conference podium. The second appears during the final baseball game sequences, where the public address announcer can also be heard from the surrounds. There are several other instances (such as the hilarious press conference/urination scene) where the surrounds could have been put to good use but were, sadly, not.
Generally, the sound is solid and adequate for the film with good distinction between dialogue, sound effects, and Ira Newborn's original music. I didn't notice any specific low frequency effects, but your subwoofer will see occasional and light use in support of the front channels.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Writer/Director David Zucker, Producer Robert Weiss, and host Peter Tilden
Extras Review: The Naked Gun is not strong in the extras department. Only a feature-length commentary and a theatrical trailer are included. However, I was not too terribly disappointed since the commentary track is not only very informative for fans of the film, it is also hilarious. David Zucker, Robert K. Weiss (who has a cameo in this film as the hotdog vendor) and "host" Peter Tilden have very good rapport. I have no idea who Peter Tilden actually is (imdb.com does list one actor of this name), but he seems to have a very good familiarity not only with Zucker and Weiss, but with the film as well.
I feel compelled to mention that I was rather disappointed with the English subtitles on this disc. The actual spoken dialogue and the subtitles quite often disagree significantly, with words consistently left out of the printed sentences. It certainly does not appear to be an act of censorship, but of carelessness (or some other reason unbeknownst to me).
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsEven if you have never seen any of the Naked Gun films, chances are very good you have seen some of the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker team's other work, be it Airplane!, Top Secret!, or Kentucky Fried Movie. If you liked any of those, you will probably like The Naked Gun as well. If you haven't, give it a look. You will likely find it impossible not to laugh.
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