Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, Ricardo Montalban, George Kennedy, O. J. Simpson, Nancy Marchand
SUMMARY: Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) is a member of the Los Angeles Police Squad, a special division of the Police Department. He has just returned home after an overseas operation, and almost immediately learns that his partner, Officer Nordberg (O. J. Simpson) is in the hospital after being shot. Unbeknownst to Drebin and his superior, Captain Ed Hocken (George Kennedy), Nordberg had been attempting to bust a drug ring operating through the docks, run by tycoon Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban). During his investigation, Nordberg was shot multiple times, but has managed to survive. When Drebin visits him in the hospital, Nordberg provides a few terse clues, including the name and a picture of Ludwig’s ship. Drebin decides to investigate the shooting, but is told that he only has 24 hours to resolve things: the entire police department is scheduled to provide security for the visiting Queen Elizabeth II. Drebin goes to visit Ludwig, and lets slip that Nordberg is still alive. During the visit, Drebin also meets (and quickly falls for) Ludwig’s assistant Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley). Despite her position as Ludwig’s assistant, Jane has no idea that he is involved in a drug ring. After Drebin leaves, Ludwig arranges for someone to finish off Nordberg at the hospital; he also makes plans with an associate to assassinate the queen during her visit. Since he knows that security around the queen will be tight, and as himself unwilling to commit the crime, Ludwig has decided to use a beeper that hypnotizes a given person, and plants the urge to kill the queen in their head.
Drebin later goes back to Ludwig’s office to search for more evidence. He does find a note indicating the intention of assassinating the queen, but in his clumsiness manages to set a fire that destroys the entire office (including the evidence). Later, at a reception for the Queen, Ludwig presents her with an antique gun; thinking that this is the assassination attempt, Drebin tackles the queen. After this, he is fired from Police Squad. Meanwhile, Jane, who has never believed Drebin’s suspicions about Ludwig, had learned that Drebin was right all along. She also learns that the attempt will come during a baseball game that the Queen will attend, and that Ludwig is going to use the beeper to make one of the players kill the Queen. Because of his firing, as well as his notoriety (the tackling incident was widely publicized), Drebin is unable to get anywhere near the Queen. He decides that he will instead try to stop the assassin, but has no idea which player this is (or even which team he plays for). In an attempt to get on the field with the players, Drebin first disguises himself as an opera singer and sings the National Anthem (horribly); he then pretends to be the home plate umpire. This allows him to come into contact with every player: when they come up to bat, he frisks them. The assassination attempt is due to happen during the seventh-inning stretch, and by then Drebin has managed to frisk almost every player from both teams. However, he has not checked Reggie Jackson, the intended assassin. Reggie starts walking toward the Queen, holding a gun, but Drebin manages to tackle him. At the same time, Ludwig tries to leave the stadium, using Jane as a hostage. Reggie Jackson has regained his footing, and is taking aim at the Queen again. Drebin tries to shoot him with a cufflink dart, but misses and hits a woman in an upper deck. The surprised woman falls over the railing and lands directly on Jackson, stopping the attempt. Drebin then chases after Ludwig, and manages to hit him with the other cufflink dart. However, Ludwig still has the beeper, and when it is accidentally activated, Jane becomes hypnotized and convinced that she must kill Drebin. Drebin manages to talk her out of the trance by telling her of his feelings for her, and the two leave the stadium together. Later, Drebin is reinstated in the Police Squad, and Nordberg recovers from his wounds.
MY TAKE: This is a dumb movie. It’s pretty unsophisticated humor: basically, Drebin is a bumbling moron who lucks into sensational busts. I did laugh a couple of times, but mostly, it’s hard to understand how somebody that clueless could rise to any position of authority in the police department. For me, Ludwig wasn’t an especially threatening villain, mostly because all I could think of when I saw him was, “Ze plane! Ze plane!” The plot didn’t really help him out here: how does he get from drug running to queen assassination? At one point, Ludwig and his associate talk about how he’s going to get $20 million from the assassination, but really, if you’re running heroin in Los Angeles in the 1980s, you’re probably not in real need of money. For me, the constant gages got old, especially since I’m already not fond of this type of comedy.
Fun fact: Leslie Nielsen also played the man that Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur) marries in the last episode of “The Golden Girls”. He’s far less of an idiot in this role, but it’s still hard to take him seriously.