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What do you call a hit movie based upon a failed cult television show? THE NAKED GUN: FROM THE FILES OF POLICE SQUAD! ($30) that what! Actually, POLICE SQUAD! was another brilliant bit television that was TOO GOOD for the boob tube. POLICE SQUAD! was laced with sight gags, which only happen to work, if someone is actually paying attention to the screen. Since watching TV is something most people do in addition to eating, painting their toenails, talking on the phone or laundry, the television viewing public missed the jokes. However, in a darkened movie theater an audience is forced to pay attention to the screen, which is why people saw the gags, people laughed at the gags and THE NAKED GUN became a comedy hit at the box office. THE NAKED GUN also became a hit on home video, which implies watching television- go figure.

In THE NAKED GUN, Leslie Nielsen portrays Lt. Frank Drebin, the same hard boiled (inept and accident prone) cop he played in the six half hour episodes of POLICE SQUAD!. While the plot is little more than a springboard for all the jokes, this outing finds Drebin and the other members of Police Squad assigned to protecting Queen Elizabeth, during a visit to the Los Angeles area. Unfortunately, assassination is in the air and like any good cop, Drebin catches wind of it. Drebin’s investigation leads him to the door of prominent citizen, Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban), who also happens to be mastermind behind the assassination of the Queen. Ludwig wants his beautiful assistant, Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley), to pump Drebin for information on his investigation. However, before you know it, Drebin is the one doing the pumping. Who knew Priscilla Presley could be funny, but her teaming with laugh machine Leslie Nielsen really pays off big time. Heck, the two of them share the film’s best gag, which involves Priscilla on a ladder… Nah, I don’t want to spoil the joke for anyone who hasn’t seen this comedy classic. The cast of THE NAKED GUN also features George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson (giving his second best performance), Raye Birk, Susan Beaubian, Nancy Marchand, Jeannette Charles and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic.

Paramount Home Entertainment has done a very nice job of transcribing THE NAKED GUN to DVD. Finally available in wide screen, THE NAKED GUN has been framed roughly at 1.85:1, which appears properly balanced. However, a bit too much information is revealed at the bottom of the frame, spoiling the effect of Priscilla Presley supposed "nude" scene. The film element used for the transfer does display instances of film grain and occasional blemishes, but is otherwise quite good. The 16:9 enhanced transfer seems a bit soft, when compared to films just coming off theatrical release, however it is perfectly in keeping with the look of other modestly budgeted movies from 1988. Still, the image provides a solid level of detail and pleasing color reproduction. Warmer hues tend to be quite vibrant and flesh tones appear quite healthy. Blacks are a deep inky black and the level of shadow detail is surprisingly good, except for one scene early in the film. Digital compression artifacts rarely make their presence known.

For this release, THE NAKED GUN has been given a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel remix, which is a vast improvement over the flat sounding monaural soundtrack on the Laserdisc. Ira Newborn’s music reaps almost all of the rewards of the re-mix, with his zippy score springing to life and filling out all of the discrete channels, including the split surrounds. There is little by way of overt directional effects, but since this is a comedy that relies upon sight gags and funny dialogue, it really doesn’t mater too much. A French monaural soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles.

The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, plus a couple of extras. THE NAKED GUN includes an audio commentary with director/co-writer David Zucker, producer Robert K. Weiss and host Peter Tilden. If you thought the movie was funny, then this laugh generating commentary runs a close second. Technical comments about the film appear here and there, but one will want to listen to this track primarily for its entertainment value. A theatrical trailer fills out the DVD’s extras.

THE NAKED GUN still generates big laughs and the DVD is a delight. Recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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