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The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! Blu-ray Review

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) movie poster The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!

Theatrical Release: December 2, 1988 / Running Time: 84 Minutes / Rating: PG-13 / Songs List

Director: David Zucker / Writers: Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Pat Proft

Cast: Leslie Nielsen (Lt. Frank Drebin), Priscilla Presley (Jane Spencer), Ricardo Montalban (Vincent Ludwig), George Kennedy (Capt. Ed Hocken), O.J. Simpson (Nordberg), Susan Beaubian (Mrs. Nordberg), Nancy Marchand (Mayor), Raye Birk (Pahpshmir), Jeannette Charles (Queen Elizabeth II), Ed Williams (Ted Olsen), Tiny Ron (Al), "Weird Al" Yankovic (Himself), Leslie Maier ("Weird Leslie"), Winifred Freeman (Stephie), Joe Grifasi (Foreman), Tony Brafa (Enrico Pallazzo)

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By Aaron Wallace

Airplane! changed Leslie Nielsen's career. He'd starred in dozens of films as a dramatic actor before the smash hit 1980 comedy sent up his serious demeanor for laughs, turning him into a deadpan icon and a Hollywood legend.

Capitalizing on its success, he reunited with Airplane's creative team of Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker in 1982 for a TV series in its same parodic style, "Police Squad!" It was cancelled after just six episodes were produced and a mere four aired. ABC said the show was too smart and demanded too much engagement from its viewers in order to be funny. Fortunately, Paramount, which produced the series, had more faith in the public.

Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) plays it cool after being responsible for his car's downhill roll. While Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban) spouts villainy in the foreground, Frank Drebin clowns around with a fishtank piranha out of focus.

In 1988, they sent The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! to theaters, a feature-length spin-off of the short-lived television show. With critics and audiences alike, the movie was a hit,
raking in more than $78 million on a tiny budget and launching a three-film franchise.

Nielsen returns as Sergeant Frank Drebin, an officer in a special law enforcement division known as the Police Squad. His absurdly varied duties range from exposing international terrorist conspiracies to investigating a routine drug bust carried out by one of his partners, Officer Nordberg (O.J. Simpson -- yes, that O.J. Simpson).

When Nordberg winds up in the hospital, Frank is hot on the druggies' trail, but he has an even bigger assignment: protecting Queen Elizabeth II from an assassination plot during her ambassadorial visit to the United States. It is most unfortunate for Her Majesty that Frank is on the case. Meanwhile, through his investigation, he becomes suspicious of big business fiend Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalbαn) but also smitten with Ludwig's beautiful but not always gracious assistant, Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley).

Priscilla Presley plays femme fatale Jane Spencer, whose allegiances are cause for concern. Frank (Leslie Nielsen) gets caught in a scandalous position with Queen Elizabeth II (Jeannette Charles).

The Naked Gun is less funny than Airplane!, relying more heavily on visual slapstick and of-the-day allusions that now feel foreign and dated. Nevertheless, the writing is sharp and Leslie Nielsen is a dry-humored parody powerhouse.

Today, it's hard to tell if the Ludwig character is himself a parody -- that is, a caricature of the decade's archetypal corporate villain -- or if he's just part of the clichι. The film's clever spoofing is otherwise lucid and tight. With his Magoo-like propensity to blunder, Frank Drebin is an absolutely terrible policeman, and that makes his inexplicable success a delight to follow. The script's abundant wordplay is edgy and acute, and Nielsen's unflappable demeanor in reciting the screwiest of lines is nothing short of hilarious.

The Naked Gun came to DVD in 2002 and was later bundled in several trilogy sets before getting reissued on its own with "I Love the '80s" packaging and a CD sampler. At the end of September of this year, it made its Blu-ray debut as a Best Buy exclusive. Paramount will likely make a wide release available in the future, but you can go ahead and read all about this disc below!

Watch a clip from The Naked Gun -- Frank and Ed eat pistachio nuts on stakeout:

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! Blu-ray cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.78:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 (French, Spanish, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: September 25, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Lenticular Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Amazon Instant Video
Previously released as DVD (2002), Trilogy DVD Gift Set (2002), Trilogy DVD Triple Feature (2007), and I love the '80s DVD with CD (2009)

VIDEO and AUDIO

The 1080p 1.78:1 transfer is pretty pleasing, surpassing Paramount's concurrent Airplane! Blu-ray. There is a consistent and usually welcome layer of film grain -- some shots go soft, but not so severely as you might expect on a low-budget '80s comedy. Detail is excellent, and in fact there's an impressive moment in the audio commentary track (recorded for the first DVD) where the filmmakers complain that audiences can't read the words on a lapel pin. Well, they can now!

The lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is surprisingly strong, delivering lots of depth and volume. Directionality is average at best, as the rear channels and bass are active but rarely noticeable. Still, it exceeds expectations.

In a shot exclusive to the theatrical trailer, Leslie Nielsen smiles and waves while a dog gets personal and credits are displayed. The Blu-ray's menu resembles the cover artwork, minus lenticular effect.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

There are two bonus features, the first a Group Commentary by director David Zucker, producer Robert K. Weiss, and Peter Tilden (a writer who's collaborated with Zucker in the past but wasn't involved in The Naked Gun -- they never bother to introduce themselves, but he's apparently here as a host of sorts).
I like a funny commentary as much as the next guy, but this track often errs toward excessive sarcasm. Their conversation is fun, and they do reveal some interesting facts about production, but one doesn't get the sense that the participants feel a great sense of pride in the movie or its legacy.

The theatrical trailer (2:24, HD) spoils far too many of the movie's best lines and gags, but it does a good job of appealing to potential viewers and includes some original footage with Nielsen.

The commentary reveals that something like 90 minutes of additional footage were shot for the film, and yet not one second of that turns up as a bonus feature here. Apparently, some television airings actually add in some of the cut material, so it's clearly available and usable. Paramount misses yet another opportunity to put it on home video here.

The disc is housed inside a standard, eco-friendly keepcase with a lenticular slipcover around it. The rather plain stagnant main menu screen just repeats the cover art.

Things get serious in the finale as Capt. Hocken (George Kennedy) and Lt. Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) try to stop a royal assassination attempt at Anaheim Stadium. Something tells Frank and Jane they're into something good in this goofy romantic montage.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

ABC was right about one thing: The Naked Gun needs your attention. If you tune in closely to the jokes, you're sure to laugh plenty, and it's a movie that most people will likely enjoy. Paramount's Blu-ray is far from the definitive release of such a widely recognized film, but a better-than-expected A/V presentation helps to make up for the meager menu of extras.

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Also available from Amazon.com on: DVD • Triple Feature DVD • Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
1980s Movies New to Blu-ray: Airplane! • Planes, Trains & Automobiles • Scrooged • Footloose
Leslie Nielsen: Walt Disney Treasures: The Swamp Fox | Directed by Jerry Zucker: Ghost
Ricardo Montalban: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan • On an Island with You & Neptune's Daughter • The Best of Star Trek: Volume 2
Ricardo Montalban Voiceover: Freakazoid!: Season 1 • Kim Possible: The Villain Files
Cops: The Other Guys • COPS: 20th Anniversary Edition • No Deposit, No Return • Never a Dull Moment
1980s Comedies: Ferris Bueller's Day Off • Caddyshack • Back to School • Big
New to Blu-ray: Rushmore (Criterion Collection) • It's a Wonderful Life (Gift Set) • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

The Naked Gun Songs List: Peter Noone - "I'm Into Something Good", Stephen Oliver - "Trumpet Fanfare", Rice University Marching Owl Band - "Louie, Louie", Randy Newman - "I Love L.A."

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Reviewed November 17, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1988 Paramount Pictures and 2011 Paramount Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.