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  Night Patrol Unknown Quantity
Year: 1984
Director: Jackie Kong
Stars: Linda Blair, Pat Paulsen, Jaye P. Morgan, Jack Riley, Billy Barty, Murray Langston, Pat Morita, Sydney Lassick, Kent Perkins, Lori Sutton, Vic Dunlop, Kitten Natividad, Andrew Dice Clay, Kip Waldo, Fred Asparagus
Genre: Comedy, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: If Officer Melvin White (Murray Langston) didn't have bad luck he'd have no luck at all as his job takes him to some very bizarre situations, partly because he is so inept and partly because the people he meets are, by and large, completely crazy. Take today when he pulls over a driver for poor road safety: after he has crashed into the car on his motorbike and ended up a tree, he asks the driver (Vic Dunlop) to get out of the car only to see he is dressed in a straitjacket and speaking entirely in French. He has a dead rape victim in the back of his vehicle, but Melvin lets him off with a warning...

Yeah, because dead rape victims are hilarious, right? Well, not in this case, although you can see what the makers of Night Patrol were getting at, which was some kind of Airplane! and Police Academy hybrid for adults, except their ambition was greater than their ability. In spite of the best efforts to produce near the knuckle humour there was something rather gauche and unworldly about the results, as if the script had been written by someone who'd just discovered the delights of talking dirty for the first time and coupled that with a run of corny and frankly ancient stand up routine gags that wouldn't pass muster in a strip joint never mind vaudeville.

This was actually a vehicle for minor celebrity Langston, who had come to fame - of a sort - as The Unknown Comic, so not many would recognise his face in the Melvin role here. What they would recognise, if they had seen him appearing on The Gong Show, was his distinctive paper bag disguise, with the three round holes cut into it for eyes and mouth, but the type of humour he got away with on that cult broadcast was decidedly coarsened here, only in its way it was similar even if it wasn't what he'd have been able to get away with in television. Thus Melvin, we are supposed to believe, has been moonlighting as The Unknown Comic.

Yet this is unconvincing to say the least as the Melvin character seems to be in a different film to the Comic, who we see doing his standup act but is hard to associate with the naive and put upon cop we see in the other scenes, fair enough not every comedian has the same personality onstage as well as offstage, but to think that they were one and the same was quite a stretch. Almost as if this started out as one film, then they changed their mind about their direction and edited what footage they had into this new Police Academy style narrative. So for a start, Night Patrol is on uncertain footing, and that's without considering the humour which tried hard but would elicit more groans than belly laughs.

Take the police chief, played by Billy Farty - sorry, Billy Barty, but whose main character trait was that he broke wind throughout his scenes. Jokes like that would be lame at a children's birthday party never mind a movie people paid to watch in a cinema, but there's more, with a series of skits involving Linda Blair as a sweet cop who has a barely understandable crush on Melvin, or political comedian Pat Paulsen as his more experienced partner who joins him on patrol. But then you have to explain the appeal of dubbing actors with different voices, which means loads of subtitles, and Pat Morita speaking with in high-pitched, womanly tones as a rape victim - yup, more rape. Or the fact that Langston and Paulsen spend the last twenty minutes of the movie in blackface for reasons which are hardly explained by them going undercover. There's nothing to really hate about this, however, as it's weirdly inoffensive, just embarrassing at its worst, and mildly amusing at best, depending on your threshhold for very old jokes. Music by Don Preston.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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