Viking Night: The Naked Gun
By Bruce Hall
May 10, 2016
Here’s a little known fact about Viking Night - we take requests. And that’s not all. While I consider myself immune to bribery, for a paltry sum I could be convinced never to mention Blues Brothers 2000 again. That’s kind of a big deal, because every time those words are spoken, a baby panda dies. Even if you’re not a panda person, we do indeed welcome suggestions. This week, we are privileged to have received one from our very own David Mumpower, who recommended I revisit 1988’s most underappreciated gem, The Naked Gun. My initial response was to wince - I hadn’t seen the film in many years, and my gut told me I hadn’t enjoyed it.
Normally, when this happens, my instincts are correct. Buckaroo Banzai and the aforementioned Blues Brothers 2000 (oh shit...sorry, Ling Ling…) were just as terrible as I’d remembered. The smug sense of vindication I felt almost offset the acute nausea both films are known to cause. So it was with more than a little trepidation that I took on The Naked Gun. The hardest part would be waiting for the inevitable jumping of the shark. The second hardest part would be the race against time to the bathroom. I knew I’d best keep a bucket nearby. I didn’t want another “Krull” on my hands.
Or on my new area rug.
David has been gamely silent since I wrote back, admitting that I was not just wrong, but completely, utterly and delusionally so. For the first time ever, my gut was off, but my inexplicably distorted recollection of this film actually enhanced my renewed enjoyment of it. As nauseating as it would have been to have my suspicions confirmed, it was equally wondrous to have them squashed. Bottom line is, The Naked Gun is a freaking riot. My inability to remember that is no doubt evidence that however long I may live, my mind is apparently going to be the first thing to go. Great.
But first, it is obligatory that I mention for any newcomers that this film is based on the short-lived television show Police Squad. Brought to you by the same people who brought you the aforementioned adventures of Ted Striker, Police Squad was a sendup of old school police dramas like Dragnet. It starred Leslie Nielsen, and was also a freaking riot. I also remembered not enjoying it. I was, again, quite stupidly wrong. I can’t say this kind of humor is something I’d tune in for on a weekly basis, but in occasional doses not exceeding say, 90 minutes - I am golden.
So to recap - the guys who made Airplane also made a cop show with the same sense of humor starring Leslie Nielsen, and this is the movie version of that show. Got it? Good.
We open in Beirut, where a vacationing Detective Frank Drebin (Nielsen) is breaking up a meeting of international terrorist masterminds. They’d been planning a major attack on American soil and unbeknownst to Drebin, only the mysterious Mr. Papshmir (Raye Birk) escapes. Back in Los Angeles, Drebin’s partner Nordberg (OJ Simpson) stumbles upon a heroin smuggling ring at the dockyard. Nordberg sees too much and is shot for his trouble - but not before he collects enough evidence to point Drebin toward shipping magnate Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban). Ludwig is a distinguished community leader who happens to be in charge of festivities for the upcoming visit of Queen Elizabeth. This makes it necessary to tread lightly, which is what makes it funny when Drebin totally doesn’t.