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  Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, The Protection Racket
Year: 1988
Director: David Zucker
Stars: Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, Ricardo Montalban, George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson, Susan Beaubian, Nancy Marchand, Raye Birk, Jeannette Charles, Ed Williams, Tiny Ron, Weird Al Yankovic, Nicholas Worth, Joe Grifasi, John Houseman, Lawrence Tierney
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: A group of world leaders who count themselves as enemies of "The Great Satan" - the United States of America - have assembled in Beirut to discuss their next move. Even Mikhail Gorbachev is there, having fooled the Americans into thinking he was a nice guy. They decide that there's one thing to do: orchestrate one big terrorist attack on the country, but before they get a chance to settle on what that might be, they are interrupted by the man serving tea. He is none other that Lt Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen), and he makes quick work of the schemers, but how successful will he be when he returns to Los Angeles and the most important case of his career?

The Naked Gun started life as a 1982 comedy series called Police Squad!, which is what the men behind Airplane! - Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and David Zucker - did after that film was a hit. Unfortunately for them, their endlessly irreverent humour didn't translate to the small screen as well as the big, and the series was quickly cancelled after six episodes. But they knew they had a good idea, and teaming up with co-writer Pat Proft they adapted the adventures of bumbling cop Drebin into a movie.

The series had enjoyed at least cult success, as if to prove that they were onto something with this character, and sure enough not only did the audience from television show up to see it, but the unconverted did as well, making it a hit. There were still all the recognisable elements from the original in there, with Alan North's Captain Ed Hocken recast as George Kennedy (he was reputedly annoyed he hadn't had the opportunity to spoof his Airport characters in Airplane!, so jumped at the chance to appear in this), and various supporting characters returning like the towering Al (Tiny Ron) or mad scientist Olsen (Ed Williams).

But of course the most recognisable element of the original was the determinedly idiotic humour, with no target treated with even a modicum of respect. Nielsen, having spent most of his career playing straightlaced men of authority, or at least smooth villains, was in his ideal role as the capable in his own mind Drebin, a man who thinks he's the best at what he does but actually succeeds more through luck, or the need of reaching the next gag, than any skill. The film is even shot like one of those TV movies that Nielsen made a wealth of throughout the seventies.

As for the plot, when detective Nordberg (O.J. Simpson) is almost fatally wounded while investigating a heroin smuggling operation (and those who believe that Simpson is less than innocent in real life can amuse themselves when Nordberg is comically brought down), but this is part of the business of the man behind it, Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban, a good sport like the rest of the cast). His secretary is Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley) who is ordered to get to know Drebin for information and a romance develops (cue ridiculous montage with them running along the beach, laughing heartily after going to see Platoon, etc). But what is Ludwig really up to? Could it be something to do with mind control and the upcoming visit to the city of the Queen (Jeanette Charles)? Needless to say, if you have no tolerance for relentlessly silly humour, then avoid this, but the rest of us will be be laughing; this was certainly miles better than the host of similar spoofs that tiresomely spread like a rash across cinema screens for decades to come. Music by Ira Newborn.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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