Certainly there were other films before it, but "Naked Gun" still stands as one of the better slapstick efforts in film history. While the picture was based upon the canceled TV series "Police Squad" (which also starred Leslie Nielsen), the character had greater success on the big screen, as the "Naked Gun" franchise managed to last to the trilogy mark before calling it quits. Although the second and third films started to run out of steam, the first film throws the kitchen sink out, unleashing a near-constant stream of physical gags, one-liners and throwaway bits.
The film starred Leslie Neilsen as bumbling detective Frank Drebin, who falls (literally) into solving many of his cases. The plot does honestly exist mostly to hang a series of sight gags and jokes on, but when they're this funny, the lack of much of a story becomes less of a concern.
Again, the plot: Victor Ludwig (the late Riccardo Montalban) has an evil scheme to assassinate Queen Elizabeth while she's in LA. Frank begins to get to know Ludwig's assistant, Jane (Priscilla Presley) better and the two soon are falling for one another as Frank tries to solve the case.
The film buzzes by at a quick 84 minutes, but at least it does try and pack almost every scene with some sort of creative sight gag. Neilsen isn't quite as solid in the last film, but during this film where the concept was fresh, he shrines in many scenes. I could say "it's not art", but when you do comedy this well...it sort of is.
“Airplane!” writers/directors, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker teamed up four years later to pen another spoof called “Top Secret!”. This time the writers decided to spoof both WWII and Elvis films with great success. While the story is practically non-existent, the gags are nonstop. The story revolves around Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer in his first role), a famous rock-n-roll star who’s invited to Germany to perform at one of their festivals.
He meets Hillary Flammond (Lucy Gutteridge) who’s part of the resistance movement that’s trying to rescue her scientist father who’s being held hostage to make a weapon called the Polaris Mine. Nick joins Hillary on her search to rescue her dad and along the way some silly, no, very silly things happen. Like I said, there’s not much plot here, but then again there doesn’t need to be. Spoofs aren’t made so people leave the theater discussing the complexities of the storyline, but instead how much laughter each joke provided. And “Top Secret!” has enough laughs to keep you entertained.
Since “Top Secret!” was made in 1984, it’s understandable that some of the jokes are cultural references to that time, however that only adds to the enjoyment of the film. With references to “Pac Man” and “Blue Lagoon” , you can’t help but get caught up in what is essentially a hilarious blast from the past. Some of the gags have more staying power such as the scene in the Swedish bookstore that’s played in reverse as well as Agent Cedric (Omar Sherif) returning as practically part of his vehicle after being put in a car compactor. There’s also an endless supply of one-liners that come one after the other, and at times even make you think a little.
“Top Secret!” was at the height of spoofing, and as you watch it you can’t help but wish more recent film spoofs (see “Epic Movie” and “Date Movie”) were up to the challenge of matching its success. The spoofs today seem less about inserting clever jokes and unusually witty situations, but more about mimicking a film with little degree of thought about the comedy. Fortunately, we still have classics like “Airplane!” and “Top Secret!” to return to when all feels lost in the spoof world.
VIDEO: Paramount has done a very good job with this first film of the "Naked Gun" series, which is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The only problem is generally some wear on the film, but other than that, this is a clear and clean picture that will please many. Sharpness and detail are both quite good, and clarity is never lacking, even in a few of the darker sequences.
The print flaws are the main problem, although they really aren't that much of a distraction. They consist of some minor-to-mild marks on the print used and some slight speckles. Nothing major, and generally what I would expect from a film that's now twelve years old. Pixelation is visible in trace amounts a couple of times, but again, nothing too noticable. Colors are solid, looking nicely saturated and clean. The film is never terribly colorful, but a few scenes look nicer than others. All-in-all though, this is a smooth presentation with only a couple of small bumps in the road. "Top Secret" looks a bit more worn than "Naked Gun" (as well as somewhat softer), but the 1984 film still looks reasonably good for its age.
SOUND: As one might expect, "The Naked Gun" isn't a movie that really takes much advantage of sound, but the new Dolby Digital 5.1 audio for the film actually sounds quite good. Surrounds aren't taken advantage of, getting some minor, subtle use here and there (although, given the material and the age of the material, limited surround use is not unexpected.)
Still, audio quality in general is pleasing, with good clarity and never do scenes sound thin or contain any sort of distortion. The score is generally fun as well, and is the main element of the sound that is at all active. The film is still mainly a dialogue-driven comedy, and that remains the focus here as well, with dialogue sounding clear and easily understood. "Top Secret"'s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is largely along the same lines: a few instances of surround use are heard here-and-there, but the audio is largely folded up to the front speakers.
EXTRAS:Commentary: "Naked Gun" offers an extremely funny commentary from producer Robert Weiss, director David Zucker and host Peter Tilden. The three of them frequently goof on the movie and each other; this isn't a technical commentary, but is almost as entertaining as the movie itself. There are so many little comments here and there that cause great laughter, as one point early on, one of them talks about "dailies - where you look at the work that's been ruined the day before".
There is some talk about the production, but it mainly consists of the group talking about what was cut out of the film due to length, or due to a better version of that scene existing. Although it would have been nice to see some outtakes (they probably exist somewhere for a film like this), it's interesting enough to hear about the process of how they came up with the best possible version of some of the film's scenes. The three also are able to get a few good jokes out of OJ Simpson's scenes, as well. Anyways, like the film itself, the commentary for "Naked Gun" is good for more than one listen to catch some of the little comments here and there they may have missed the first time around.
"Top Secret" offers Commentary with directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker & Jerry Zucker, Producers Jon Davison & Hunt Lowry, and Moderator Fred Rubin. I expected a lot from this commentary considering the humorous group that gathered together to talk about the film. They have moments where they don’t say much of anything, but as the film progresses they offer some interesting information that fans will enjoy, as well as some laughs.
Alternate Scenes for "Top Secret"
There are four alternate scenes. While I’m usually not a fan of alternate scenes, mainly because there’s a reason they’re left out in the first place, there are a few here that offer a decent laugh. Worth a look.
The Theatrical Trailer is also included for both titles. Both releases also include a 4-song CD of '80's hits from Echo and the Bunnymen, Erasure, INXS and a-ha.
Final Thoughts: While both films are classics from the Zucker/Abraham/Zucker team, these new "I Love the '80's" editions are simply the prior editions repackaged with an 4-track '80's CD. Those who already own the original editions have no need to upgrade here, but those seeking out a first purchase of either film should take a look.