A generation still mourns the passing of Leslie Nielsen four years ago. The twilight of his career was not the greatest – the last notable thing he starred in was Superhero Movie. But Nielsen was also the face of Eighties slapstick, arguably the golden age of the parody genre. He appeared in several of the movies that shaped the genre, including the two Airplane! films.
But other than Shirley jokes, Nielson was best known as Frank Drebin, the crazy police detective who makes Inspector Clouseau look as nimble as a cat burglar. But unlike the Pink Panther films, Drebin’s whole world was made out of surreal comic insanity. This is no surprise, considering it was created by ZAZ or David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker. They practically invented the modern parody film, but The Naked Gun is easily their magnum opus.
Drebin investigates the attack on his partner, played by a then-very popular O.J. Simpson, who stumbled upon a drug ring. But soon the bigger plot – the assassination of a visiting Queen Elizabeth II through mind control – rears its head. Will Drebin get to the bottom of the plot and safe the Queen? Of course he will, but not before body-sliding her down a banquet table first.
In true ZAZ fashion the jokes come in all shapes and sizes. Many of today’s slapstick films go for cheap laughs and limit their repertoire. The genre greats did it all and the jokes in The Naked Gun are as fresh as they were 26 year ago. The jokes fire rapidly and jump seamlessly through visual gags, one liners and skits, fueled by the chaos Drebin causes.
Resurrected from a short-lived comedy show called Police Squad, The Naked Gun lives on today as a fan favourite. It was a huge success and still ranks in the top 10 highest grossing spoof films. Two more hugely successful sequels followed it and after several years in the wilderness Leslie Nielsen started a great run in the parody genre.
Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.
Last Updated: August 4, 2014