Perhaps 'Police Squad!' was too ahead of its time in 1982. The spoof cop show on ABC lasted less than its initial six episode order, with one of the weirdest cancellation explanations possibly in television history. Though it earned two Emmy nominations (a canceled show earning award nominations...that doesn't happen every day!), the series would not see the light of day again until six years later when the lead actor -- the great Leslie Nielsen -- along with Jim Abrahams, and Jerry and David Zucker would revisit the serie in 'The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!.'
I know, that's way too bland an opening for a film as utterly insane as this one. It's quite difficult to put into words the effectiveness of this witty, sometimes crude little comedy staple. Two dozen years after its release, it's still a damn funny, albeit short ride through tons of sight gags, puns, and toilet humor, and it hasn't lost its edge. While not the best spoof film of its decade, 'The Naked Gun' is capable of mixing tangential and non sequitur humor that ages with grace, putting the modern films masquerading as being in the same genre to utter shame, while their "gags" become outdated within months, if not weeks. Never a dull moment, nary a missed joke or opportunity, packed wall to wall with hilarious sequences, and, dare I say it, an actual plot to boot, films like this just don't get made anymore.
With his partner (O.J. Simpson) put in the hospital, barely surviving a failed drug raid, detective Frank Drebin (Nielsen) is given twenty four hours to clear his friend of his involvement in some peculiar extenuating circumstances. The police force is spread thin due to the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II, so Frank's alone on the case, though his bumbling methods put him in the papers for all the wrong reasons, drawing the ire of many. As the respected businessman Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban) gets ever closer to assassinating the Queen, it's up to the disgraced gumshoe and Ludwig's leggy assistant Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley) to uncover the deadly plot and foil it, before tragedy strikes.
'The Naked Gun' has a stupid premise. Even in 1980's money, the idea of a murder for hire plot involving a well-to-do on the outside but crooked as sin on the inside businessman for a mere twenty million is a bit silly. The guy traffics heroin, for crying out loud, so why put oneself further at risk other than for pride, for the thrill of the hunt? The assassination weapon makes for some entertaining sequences, unbelievable as they may be, through post-hypnotic suggestion allowing nearly anyone to carry out the fiendish plot, leaving the identity of the would-be killer a fun mystery with a great payoff.
Quite honestly, I didn't want to say a single bad word about this film, but that minor aspect just seemed too off in a film so smart, even if it's in a tongue-in-cheek manner. 'The Naked Gun' is one-liner heaven, the place where the rude, crude, or lewd become immortalized by the white haired funny man in his prime, and the mixture of witty dialogue and constant sight gags prove to be a powerful combination when placed in the right hands, as they are here. The pace of the film is beyond rapid fire, burning through the short runtime like it were a marathon, as successful jokes pile on, making for an entertaining experience that unfortunately has to run its course.
This is a film that really can't be made anymore. For one, it tries to maintain its place in the time, the zeitgeist as it were, and doesn't try to parody every single thing under the sun. It maintains humor and plot advancement. It has a politically incorrect tone that isn't quite 'Blazing Saddles,' but still can get a little edgy. There's a zen-like harmony between body jokes (both naughty bits and bodily functions) and dry puns, wry delivery and play on words. Shots are prolonged, jokes held to the longest possible moment...and then a few more seconds are thrown in for effect, to further sell the already sold joke. Nowadays, holding a joke for more than two seconds is a crime, as there's no MTV personality crammed in those precious nanoseconds to keep the ignorant masses engaged on a level that they can understand. Characters in a parody film with actual character, that sure as hell can't be made these days, that's for sure. The great jokes have their appeal, the stupid ones sometimes working just as well, on a lowest common denominator-type level. Who knew baseball and stuffed beavers could be so funny? Apparently, some people who made a lot of money.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!' comes to Blu-ray on a BD50 disc, as a Best Buy store exclusive with no announced window for wide release. This set is housed in a very nice (though, per Paramount standard, a tad too short) lenticular slipcover, and artwork varying from the DVD editions. There is no annoying jibber-jabber pre-menu, though the plain Jane static shot with no audio is a bit too dry for this particular film. Spice it up, Paramount. Loop the urine joke, or the O.J. getting shot bit. That's a real highlight!
Presented in 1080p, 'The Naked Gun' isn't exactly high def eye candy. It isn't the minor dirt blips or minor scratches or hairs, as the film is actually much cleaner than many of its ilk. It isn't the complete lack of depth in many shots, the hit or miss textures, the slight black crush in any night sequence, or the sometimes defined, sometimes blobby hair that is a problem as much as the "here one minute, gone the next" detail levels. The film is randomly hazy, then really, really quite sharp (the car chase interior shots are, by far, the best looking in the film), with facial features sometimes blurry (not from DNR or any tampering), then sharp as a tack. The high def transfer means that one can see more to the film, like the chalky makeup in the opening, or the somewhat poor compositing of shots in the baseball game, and grain levels, though sometimes a little odd, are never wiped or scrubbed, with a few small spikes mixed in.
This is just an ordinary catalog title. It's a little frustrating at times, too inconsistent for its own good, but when bright red or tightly checkered clothing comes through without the obvious issues that plague said items in other formats, it can't be all that bad. Just approach with caution, and don't expect some miracle.
"I'm sorry, I can't hear you. Don't fire the gun while talking!"
The audio for 'The Naked Gun' is presented with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that made me about as indifferent to it as any track ever has. I didn't have any expectations for the rear channels due to the age of the film, so the fact that only musical elements hit it (sometimes too faintly) isn't that much of a letdown. There's some tiny bass in the world leader beat down opening sequence, but this element of the mix disappears fast, with even multiple explosions having no depth or bump. Dialogue is always understandable, though a few lines fade in and out in volume around the midpoint. This is just a no frills, nothing special track. Can't expect miracles on each and every Blu-ray.
Of the three Best Buy exclusive Paramount comedies that just debuted, this one is definitely the least loaded in terms of supplements.
'The Naked Gun' is a parody film the likes of which don't exist today: it's both funny and smart, two things sorely lacking in the genre's recent pickings. Sure, the filmmakers went on to make some pretty poor films, but with Nielsen at the top of his inane game, and the script loaded with fun surprises that are a delight with each replay, this is one film that will never get old. That segues nicely into a comment about the Blu-ray looking old, sounding its age, and featuring DVD-era extras. Fans, even if this isn't a top notch disc, you have to check it out. The release of the other films may depend on it.