The Naked Gun

The Naked Gun

Considering the many years that Leslie Nielson spent playing serious roles, few realized the zany sense of humor he possessed until he portrayed a doctor in the smash hit comedy, Airplane. Two years later, he continued the shtick in the very short-lived television series, Police Squad, playing Lieutenant Frank Drebin. For those that may have missed that little piece of TV comedy gold, he eventually took the character to the big screen in The Naked Gun. Released in 1988, there was no joke or sight gag too silly to milk for every laugh it was worth. Of course, the true charm was in Nielson’s ability to always keep a straight face.

After a trip abroad, where he breaks up a terrorist gathering with such figures in attendance as the Ayatollah Khomeini and Mikhail Gorbachev, Lieutenant rank Drebin returns to his home turf in Los Angeles, working alongside dedicated law enforcement officers, Capt. Ed Hocken (George Kennedy) and Detective Nordberg (O.J. Simpson.) It seems Nordberg may be on to an underground heroin ring, although after being discovered outside a meeting of the kingpins aboard a ship, then burned by a piping hot stovetop, being hit with a wedding cake, caught in a beartrap, and getting wet paint on his shirt, he ends up in the hospital. Frank visits his buddy in the hospital but Nordberg isn’t really up to the task of talking. Frank is able to learn the name of the ship, however, and traces it a weathly businessman named Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban.)

During a meeting between Ludwig and the sinister Mr. Pahpshmir, Vincent demonstrates how he intends to assassinate the Queen of England, who is scheduled to make a visit to the states. By merely pressing a beeper, his previously hypnotized, and mild-mannered elderly secretary picks up a gun and starts firing the empty pistol directly at Pahpshmear’s head. As Vincent explains, “Anyone can be an assassin.”

Soon after, Ludwig is paid a visit by the bumbling Lieutenant Drebin – who manages to accidentally kill an exotic fish in his aquarium with a pen. Furthermore, when Vincent learns from their conversation that Nordberg is still alive, he sends a hypnotic suggestion to one of the doctors on staff at the hospital who attempts to kill the detective. Drebin catches him in the act, and a chase ensues, with Frank commandeering the car being driven by a timid driving student. She rises to the occasion, however, and pursuits the killer until he has the misfortune of driving into a gasoline truck which explodes, then lands on a guided missile being transported on the back of a military truck, which then launches the assassin into a fireworks factory. To his credit, Frank stands outside, advising the surrounding civilians that “there is nothing to see here!”

Frank may be seemingly oblivious to the chaos that regularly surrounds him, but he certainly takes an interest in Ludwig’s beautiful assistant, Jane Spencer. After an incredibly eventful date, the two fall in love and she decides to help Frank investigate her boss. Keeping things as incognito as ever, Frank sneaks into Ludwig’s office, quickly manages to set it afire and break numerous vases, all to the pleasant accompaniment of a ragtime player piano.

Frank eventually learns when the assassination is supposed to occur, and that it will take place during the Queen’s visit to an Angels baseball game. Staying strictly undercover, he takes the place of the opera singer who is supposed to sing the national anthem, then switches into an umpire uniform and starts making the worst calls in the history of the game. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking and anyone in the surrounding stadium might just be the assassin waiting to put and end to Her Royal Highness.

For those who happen to find this particular brand of humor funny (and to be fair, it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea) The Naked Gun offered few opportunities to catch ones breath, starting with the Nelson Riddle-orchestrated opening credits. The sight gags never stop and Frank’s expressionless face rarely changes, no matter what chaos is ensuing around him. George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson and Priscilla Presley also display delightfully surprising comedic skills throughout the film. All involved would reprise their respective roles in two sequels, The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear in 1991, and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult in 1994.

Written by the same team that brought Airplane to life, The Naked Gun was pure silly fun and to this day is considered one of the funniest films of all time. Of course, the heart of the entire film is Nielson, who remarked that during all of his days as a serious actor, he always longed to let his funny side show. And when he finally got the opportunities, he seemingly never turned back.

Are you a fan of this unforgettable film? We hope you’ll share all of your Naked Gun memories in our comments section below, as we tip our hats to the comedic talents of the late, great Leslie Nielsen.

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