Classic Intel: The Naked Gun - TV Review

'Nielsen is predictably perfect as Drebin, more than that in fact: he makes the film'

The sad death of Leslie Nielsen on 28th November saw the passing of a man who really understood his craft; who really understood what the audience wanted to see and how to give them complete satisfaction. Nielsen's straight-faced delivery and gently charming persona lent his roles and dialogue the respectful air of a man in authority, a doctor perhaps, (just, not one called Shirley) who is completely convinced with what he's saying, even as he tells you to cut your arm off.

Although previously a serious actor in his own right, Nielsen's comic persona was introduced on Airplane! before being honed on TV's Police Squad, a spoof series about an 'elite' group of officers led by Nielsen's incomparable Detective Frank Drebin. The single episodes of Police Squad are great (and all the better for there only being six of them) but there always felt like there was room there to expand them and make a feature-length product. The Naked Gun does this brilliantly, taking the largely family-friendly humour of the television show and adding in some risque jokes ('nice beaver') and bigger names (Priscilla Presley).

Nielsen is predictably perfect as Drebin, more than that in fact: he makes the film. The jokes from a team of talented writers (Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Pat Proft) may be sharp but time and again Nielsen delivers them with his much-practised straight face and subtle aplomb. Whilst searching for a clue in some office drawers Nielsen's voiceover declares 'Bingo', before we witness Drebin on-screen producing and over-scrutinising a bingo game card. The script mixes visual gags with smart comedy well and David Zucker's direction makes sure there's enough variety in the repertoire to keep the audiences' attention.

The one significant miss-step comes near the end when Zucker gets trapped in montage hell during the climactic baseball game and seems to struggle to pull off laughs during the very final frames. It's still fun but not on the same level as Drebin trashing Vincent Ludwig's (Ricardo Montalban) apartment or, in what has become the film's most memorable scene, Frank and Jane (Presley) 'practising safe sex'. Whilst Nielsen will always be remembered for Airplane! this is really his comic masterpiece and in today's world of Epic Movie and other impersonators, it says something that Frank Drebin not only endured for two sequels but still endures today as one of comedy's greatest creations.

The Naked Gun was showing on Sky Anytime and is out now on DVD.

Look further...

He Shot Cyrus picks out three of his favourite scenes from The Naked Gun series.


  1. It really has been years since I last saw this film, but reading your review I remember most of the jokes you reference. There aren't a lot of movies where I do. Really must watch it again.

  2. Absolutely. I remember a lot of the jokes from THE NAKED GUN - the script is full of great zingers and clever lines. All three films are pretty solid too which is a rarity.