The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (d. David Zucker USA 1988)

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis at the bottom for any who wish to see one.


David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker are the minds behind Airplane! (d. Abrahams, Zucker & Zucker USA 1980), Hot Shots! (d. Abrahams USA 1991) and BASEketball (d. David Zucker USA 1998), they are big names in comedy film. They also gave us Police Squad! (d. Abrahams, Zucker & Zucker USA 1982), which is considered a successful TV show despite being cancelled with the release of 6 episodes. Apparently the show’s jokes were too clever for audiences or so the producers thought. 6 years later, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (d. David Zucker USA 1988) arrived. It was a smash that spawned two sequels: The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (d. David Zucker USA 1991) and The Naked Gun 33: The Final Insult (d. Peter Segal USA 1994). The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! is now considered a landmark of comedy films. This feature will run as one of the feature films in the Barbican’s This Made Me Laugh series and will also feature a talk from producer John Lloyd.

Okay, so not really a talk but an introduction but it’s funny and gives a bit of background like the Red Rock Cider advertisements. It’d be pointless to review the film itself, it’s one of the big names in comedy film along with The Gold Rush (d. Charlie Chaplin USA 1925), Duck Soup (d. Leo McCarey USA 1933), A Shot in the Dark (d. Blake Edwards UK/USA 1964), Blazing Saddles (d. Mel Brooks USA 1974), Annie Hall (d. Woody Allen USA 1977), Life of Brian (d. Terry Jones UK 1979), Airplane!, A Fish Called Wanda (d. Charles Crichton, John Cleese USA/UK 1988) and I’m missing quite a few. However, how does the film work on the big screen? Well… it’s funny. The jokes are mainly performance based or based upon the visuals. So, as funny as they are, there is no real benefit from seeing them on the silver screen as opposed to television. Why is this? I’d assume it’s because of the atmosphere. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! does not rely so much on sucking you into it’s world or it’s atmosphere, but in the performances of the cast. In this way, the larger screen with surround sound isn’t necessary, but perhaps a small bonus.

Alright but what about the age? The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! is an 80s film and spoofs television and film cliches of the day. It is a classic but unfortunately this means that it’s jokes are borrowed and parodied themselves in many films since. The film still feels original but not exactly fresh. The simple narrative taking us from joke to joke, though funny, have similar more modern jokes in other films. This is both a tribute to the films greatness and a weakness. On the one hand it was a trendsetter and on the other those trends have lessoned its blows. It’s like when you first use a catchphrase and everyone laughs but as soon as everyones doing it, it becomes tiresome. This isn’t really a criticism but an observation, well worth watching but I think it doesn’t have the same punch it used to have.

So that was The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, well worth watching and there are many good and funny films to be included in the Barbicans film series For Laughs.  Off to a good start but not entirely necessary to watch on the big screen and all hold a guarantee of a good night out. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! will remain a classic and definitely one to watch along with many of the films included in the series This Made Me Laugh!


Frank Drebin is a Police Lieutenant in L.A. tasked with solving a simple crime whilst the Queen is visiting the town, what could go wrong? 

Further Reading

This Made Me Laugh at the Barbican

Interview with Leslie Nielsen

Interview with the Cast

An Evening with Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker

Back Before Scary Movie

Airplane! at 30

Police Squad! in Colour

Funny Moments

Police Squad! End Titles

25 Frank Drebin Quotes

Safe Sex

Student Driver Chase

Nice Beaver

Fire Scene

Fish Scene

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