The Naked Gun (1988)

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Released 8-Jun-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer-1.85:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:13)
Audio Commentary-D Zucker (Dir), R Weiss (Prod) & P Tilden
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1988
Running Time 81:31
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By David Zucker
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Leslie Nielsen
Priscilla Presley
Ricardo Montalban
George Kennedy
O.J. Simpson
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $39.95 Music Ira Newborn


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Greek
English
Spanish
French
Hebrew
Italian
Portuguese
English Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
French Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   Well, they may have been very late committing to DVD in Region 4, but it would seem that Paramount Home Entertainment has entered with all guns blazing, as it were. It took The Naked Gun a couple of years to get its Region 1 release, yet here it is in Region 4 within a couple of months. Naturally enough, in accordance with the rule that the moment I buy a Region 1 DVD, it will be released in Region 4, this was not an unexpected event. For it was not that long ago that I indulged in the purchase of all three Naked Gun films, and thus made it eminently logical that I review the Region 4 release of the granddaddy of the trilogy.

   From the legendary stable of Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker, this was one of a whole raft of films that emerged during the eighties on the strength of the success of Airplane! (otherwise known as Flying High). That film returned the whole idiotic spoof comedy to the big screen and people went to see it in their droves. Naturally having been such a success, it not only spawned a sequel, but pushed the writing team onto a whole bunch of other films. Whilst none have really reached the absurd heights of Airplane!, there is little doubt that when inspired, they could deliver the goods, and The Naked Gun saw them inspired indeed. Based upon the very short-lived television series Police Squad!, this was a riot of visual gags from start to finish. Whilst in the light of having watched the film a few dozen times the gags are starting to wear a little thin, The Naked Gun remains a really stupid film that can still entertain with the best of them. Even now there are still things to be found in the film that may not have been noticed before.

   Whilst a spoof does not have a plot per se, the broad story here is of disorganised madness. We start with the total irrelevancy of Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) at a meeting of a collection of leaders of the enemies of the United States which descends into a fist fight. Since this has no plot purpose whatsoever, we move on to Los Angeles Harbour (or at least the Police Squad version thereof) where your basically completely inept cop Nordberg (O. J. Simpson) has stumbled upon a big drug deal. Stupid enough to try and arrest the whole bunch of hoons on his own, he ends up being shot multiple times and falling into the harbour. In a miracle reserved only for the criminally stupid, he survives whereupon Drebin returns to lead the investigation. This leads him to suspect one of the city's big businessmen in Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban), who basically deflects the incompetent Drebin by shoving his assistant, the beautiful Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley), in Drebin's way. Thus, an ill-fated romance is born. Ludwig also happens to be chairing the committee in charge of the visit to Los Angeles of Queen Elizabeth II, the security for which is being handled by Police Squad under the control of Ed Hocker (George Kennedy): naturally the mind boggles. It boggles even more when, after being booted off the force basically for doing some stupid things during a dinner at which the Queen is present, Drebin discovers that there really is a plot to assassinate the Queen. So the race is on to find the assassin.

   I would seriously doubt that anyone would be watching this film for the plot, so there is not much point discussing it any further. It is merely a flimsy frame upon which to hang a whole bunch of stupid antics and visual gags, most of which need a filled cinema to really succeed. But to make such things work well, you need a very talented person. The reason why Leslie Nielsen has appeared in so many comedy/spoofs is due to the fact that he is supremely talented (if you have ever seen his Stupid Little Golf Video you will probably understand this very well). This is yet again a tour-de-force as far as playing this straight is concerned. Most of the humour here is simply down to the way he can do or say something really stupid and manage to keep a completely straight face. Whilst he stands head and shoulders above everyone else, the balance of the cast perform well enough. The gorgeous Priscilla Presley only has to do that - be a gorgeous piece of eye candy. She may not be a great actress, but she makes a very nice piece of eye candy. Certainly Elvis knew something when he met her as a young girl. Ricardo Montalban adds another unusual role to his filmography and in a limited role does enough to assist the momentum of the absurdity along at a decent pace. Great direction is not a prerequisite for spoofs: what is a prerequisite is to know what will work and what will not work. You might think that David Zucker would know what works and what does not, but the commentary reveals otherwise! Still, when you have Leslie Nielsen, you just let him go normally and it will work out fine.

   This remains one of the very best spoofs around. However, like so many of these films it does not bear frequent repeated viewings well at all. I have perhaps seen this film far more times than would be wise for a completely unbiased view of how good the film can be. Familiarity breeds contempt?

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio 1.78:1, being just a slight matting of the original 1.85:1 theatrical release, and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is in essence a good to very good transfer, with decent sharpness throughout for a film that is not exactly of recent vintage. The transfer is at least consistent enough in this regard, and the detail is of equal standard and of equal consistency. Shadow detail is generally reasonable but could have been somewhat better. I cannot help but feel that this may well be a reflection of the relative lack of budget available to the film, and certainly the commentary makes mention of the one scene where the lack of detail is obvious - during the initial harbour scene when Nordberg kicks through the door into the ship's cabin. The whole transfer has a slightly grainy look to it, but this would seem to be inherent in the source material. Clarity is good and again reflects the not quite so recent vintage of the film. There did not appear to be any low level noise problems in the transfer.

    The colours are quite well rendered, being reasonably well saturated but lacking serious tonal depth. It is not the most vibrant transfer you will ever see, and there are some obvious mismatches of colour owing to the nature of the shots (especially noticeable during the baseball game sequence). However, the overall feel is quite natural and is unlikely to cause any problems for most people, other than the fact that the earlier part of the film is slightly darker in tone (especially noticeable between 6:00 and 7:00). The only indication of oversaturation in the transfer is between 22:00 and 23:00, where the red dress is slightly oversaturated, compounded by what appears to be very slight colour bleed.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There were no real indications of significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. There were a few film artefacts floating around in the transfer, the most obvious being a black hair at 26:48, but generally this was no worse than was to be expected.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 57:18, which is extremely well placed at the end of a scene and is hardly disruptive to the film at all.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are five soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack, an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack and an English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. I listened to the English and English Audio Commentary soundtracks.

    The dialogue comes up very well in the transfer and there are no problems with the clarity and ease of understanding. There are no problems with audio sync in the transfer.

    The music score comes from Ira Newborn and is a nicely complimentary soundtrack, without being overly distinctive. There is an almost vaudevillian feel to the score at times, which of course is a throwback to the origins of this sort of film.

    There really is not much to say about the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. It is not the greatest demonstration of the art of remastered sound and lacks a little body at times, but since this is a visual film with dialogue as the support, the lack of bells and whistles does not really bother. The surround channel use, especially the rear channels, is not terrific but provides enough scope to the sound to give it a decent enough presence. The bass channel does not get a huge call to action but does enough to make its presence felt when really needed. It is slightly over-the-top in certain sections, like the fight scene in Beirut that results in a slightly unnatural feel to the sound. It is pretty much free from distortion or other blemishes.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Well, it is not the greatest package under the sun, but this is far better than some of the initial packages from Paramount.

Menu

    Nothing much special in this area, being poorly themed in my view, but at least they are 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (2:13)

    A decent enough trailer for the era, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is a little darkish at times, as well as being a little grainy in general. There are enough film artefacts here to remind you that this is not exactly recent.

Audio Commentary - David Zucker (Director/Writer), Robert Weiss (Producer/Second Unit Director) and Peter Tilden (Host)

    Now you would expect something quite witty when you get David Zucker in front of a microphone whilst watching one of his finest films. This may not be the wittiest commentary out and it wanders around the film a bit, but this is an interesting enough listen if only for some of the off-the-cuff comments about the film. A highlight is the way they all shut up when Priscilla Presley first makes her appearance. Not quite manic but certainly not boring, even if you have trouble knowing who is actually talking.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as we have been able to ascertain, this is identical to the Region 1 release. A direct comparison between the Region 1 and Region 4 releases indicates that there is not a huge amount of difference between the two. Indeed, after watching sections of the film closely there is a remarkable similarity between the two transfers, right down to the faults. Really, I would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two, and only the slightly less solid resolution of the NTSC version differentiates the two. Call it even.

Summary

    The Naked Gun at its core is one of the best, and most endurable, spoofs to have emerged from the 1980s. Quite how that translates to the 21st Century depends entirely upon how often you have seen the film. It has nonetheless been given a good if not especially brilliant transfer in all respects, and the commentary lifts the entire package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Tuesday, June 19, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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