There are endless cliches out there about the importance of a first impression, but whatever truth they may hold in our everyday lives they go double for film. When there’s only a couple of hours to tell a story and capture its players, an audience’s first chance to meet a character is an asset no filmmaker worth their salt is going to waste. So with that in mind, CHUD is going to take a look through the many decades of cinema to extract the most special of those moments when you are first introduced to a character, be they small moments that speak volumes, or large moments that simply can’t be ignored.
Inevitably it will be the major characters and leads that are granted the grandest of entrances, but don’t be surprised to see a few supporting players and minor individuals get their due, when the impact of their appearance lingers longer than their screentime. Also know that these moments may be chosen for any number of reasons, and the list could never be exhaustive. But here you’ll find moments that make a big splash, say a lot with a little, or we think are just particularly cool.
We hope you enjoy, and can’t wait to hear from you about each and every entry. Don’t spend the effort guessing future choices or declaring what must be included- just enjoy the ride!
The Film… The Naked Gun: From The Files of Police Squad! (1988)
Entering From Stage Left… Leslie Nielsen in the role of Lt. Frank Drebin
What Makes it Special…That a character from a rather obscure TV show that had a mere six-episode run – portrayed by a serious character actor turned funny man – reemerges on the big screen six years later…and friggin’ killed us.
It seems that characters who burst onto a scene and kick much ass appeal to me, (Blade). But this is so very different. Leslie Nielsen as Frank Drebin is still a riot upon repeat viewing of The Naked Gun and the David Zucker / Jim Abrahams / Jerry Zucker comedy is likewise hilarious nearly 25 years later. I remember being a wee lad when Police Squad! came on in 1982 and then I blinked and it was gone. It was as accessible to a 10-year-old as it was to adults and nicely translated by ZAZ to a movie that can still have me laughing like a hyena on nitrous. I’ve gotten cynical in my pending decrepitude, and I don’t find myself laughing out loud at as much as I used to (sad I know). But The Naked Gun is one of the exceptions.
And really, who would have thought that that quirky spoof and sight gag comedy that died such a quick TV death six years before would come back for a string of 2.5 successful movies? Frank Drebin’s (re)introduction is at the expense of the biggest assholes of the 1980s (and some still to this day): Ayatollah Khomeini, Yasser Arafat, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Fidel Castro, and Idi Amin. I don’t lump Gorby in there, because I rather liked him growing up. I do, however, like how ZAZ put it in there that he had snowed us Americans when he came into power with his nice guy act.
Anyway, Drebin disrupts their “terror summit” and proceeds to beat the hell out of all of them, showing them that America and Police Squad aren’t to be trifled with. And you’ve got to love some of the trademark ZAZ gags during said beatdown: Arafat with a “Hello, My Name Is: Yasser” nametag; giving the Ayatollah the Three Stooges treatment, rubbing off Gorbachev’s fake birthmark; Qaddafi with the “I lost 23 lbs, Ask Me How” button; and best of all, revealing that Khomeini was secretly sporting a red mohawk. Afterwards, does he exit the scene triumphantly? No, he gets smacked in the head by some window shutters and pratfalls stage right. Cue the spinning police siren and the ensuing madness of the credit sequence. Great stuff.
Why it Resonates… Because it was the apex of a character actor who made one of the more notable career transitions in type of character he played. Nielsen was known for decades as a serious actor, with roles in dramas, westerns and romances, until he hooked up the the Zuckers and Abrahams in Airplane!. And then they essentially corrupted the serious thespian into a comedic superstar. They all hooked up two years for Police Squad! for its short run. But in the time in between that film and TV show and The Naked Gun, Nielsen didn’t launch into the comedy career for which younger audiences know him, he went back to generally non-comedic fodder, including a ton of guest TV appearances and roles in Prom Night and Creepshow. But then ZAZ got him back for this – one of the best comedies of the last 30 years at least – and Nielsen’s conversion to noted comedy great was cemented.
Eventually, though, Nielsen did do some spoof comedies that weren’t very good, but The Naked Gun, The Naked Gun 2 1/2, and to a lesser extent, Naked Gun 33 1/3 were all great fun with Nielsen’s best comedic character. And it all started – or rather restarted – with this slapstick terrorist ass kicking.
Other Grand Entrances…One word: Nordberg.