Night Patrol

Director:Jackie Kong                                    
Linda Blair, Pat Paulsen, Jaye P. Morgan

From the title, the box art, and the description on the back, you would probably assume that Night Patrol is a great deal like Police Academy, especially since it was released a year after Police Academy - and I'm sure you already know how quickly low-budget movie makers can put out a rip-off. The first few minutes of Night Patrol do live up to that assumption, when we see motorcycle cop Melvin (Murray Langston) pull over a reckless driver. "Are you crazy?" yells Melvin. Then we see the fat slob driver -  who is bound up in a strait jacket. The crazy guy then starts exclaiming to Melvin, in (badly dubbed) French that is subtitled for us, that he would like to do various disgusting sexual activities to Melvin.

At that point of time, though, I was still puzzling over the fact that the opening credits were also in French. Never mind. After we read enough offensive exclamations from this French guy, the movie then tries even harder to offend us. In the next scene, Melvin is at a park, where he throws popcorn up at some pigeons - who themselves throw down something quite disgusting back at Melvin. Melvin quickly steps back to avoid this bombardment, and immediately plants his foot in some dog s**t. We cut to a shot of a dog nearby, (who I guess is this litter culprit) then cutting back to a shot of Melvin getting urinated on from an off camera source.

That is the kind of lowbrow humor Night Patrol is full of. (Especially when it comes to gay jokes.) Though much of the humor actually goes for the obvious. When Melvin is soon afterwards busted down to night patrol duties by constantly farting police captain Lewis (midget actor Billy Barty), we meet Melvin's friend "Sue Perman" (Blair), who comments on Melvin's new partner Kent (Paulsen) by saying, "I've known you since you were a clerk, Kent." Of course, haggard looking Kent is really a stud with the ladies, and has orgies with them in the back of the police car. When Kent and Melvin hit a crime scene and radio for a backup unit, a police car moving backwards enters the scene. When one of them comments that, "There's a full moon out tonight," we cut to a shot of someone's bare ass sticking out of a window. When Kent tells Melvin that Sue likes him, saying, "It's written all over her face," we immediately see a shot of the words, "I love Melvin" literally written on her face. When Melvin sees a sign that says "cockfights", he finds...I don't think I have to tell you that.

Night Patrol is that kind of movie, with groan inducing puns ("You can have your Kate and Edith too."), recycled jokes (we get the "Clean Glass" routine and other similar jokes as old as the hills), and sexual/bodily function references casually thrown around for shock value and cheap laughs. Surprisingly, though, these antics Melvin et al go through aren't that painful to sit through as you may think. The gags are extremely obvious, but they are given an injection of enthusiasm by director Kong, which results in these gags being played out with a lot of energy, and as a result we actually laugh at a few of these gags. A lot of this energy also comes from the cast, who seem willing to do anything that their characters are written to do, and seem to be really enjoying themselves. Speaking of the cast, it's one of a kind; where else can you expect to see the aforementioned actors, as well as appearances by Sidney Lassick, Pat Morita, and Andrew Dice Clay, all in one movie? The members of this cast may not all be great actors, but all of them are extremely likable. All this willingness to please and the energy makes one want to like Night Patrol, despite its shortcomings.

At least, until the second act of the movie starts. At that point, the movie suddenly changes gears and quits trying to be a Police Academy clone. Instead of being that, it turns into a serio-comic look at Melvin's secret life, and the angst this secret life causes him. You see, during his time off, Melvin puts a paper bag over his head and becomes The Unknown Comic, and is a smash hit with audiences, despite his desperately unfunny jokes ("Here's an impression of the first man to land on the sun - 'Ooh! Ouch! Ah!' ") Much of his time also has him baring his tortured feelings to his psychiatrist, with these scenes being not only unfunny, but pretty much a waste of time as well. In fact, aside from an occasional jump back to the precinct, the rest of the movie is also a waste of time. I personally didn't give a damn about Melvin's struggle to become a comedian, mainly because when he is in these scenes he is surprisingly unfunny and unsympathetic, despite being a comedian in these parts of the movie. When I saw Langston as Melvin struggle with his regular job and try to be hard-boiled despite being naive, I found Langston amusing and likable. But working on and offstage as The Unknown Comic, he is annoying, whiny, moronic, and plain unfunny.

During the opening third of the movie, I was wondering why Langston was sixth billed in this movie, when he is the central character. I was also wondering why the five people billed before him got better billing, when their roles (especially Blair's) are for the most part extended cameos. What's really interesting is found in the outtakes shown during the closing credits: the clapboard shown in these scenes has the movie titled The Unknown Comic. Obviously, this movie was originally written to be a vehicle for Langston and his "comic" character. So why was Langston "demoted" in the credits, and the movie promoted as a Police Academy knock-off? Well, I remember not long before Night Patrol was released, The Unknown Comic at that time seemed to have fallen out of favor with the public. On an episode of the show Real People (where Langston finally "unmasked" to the public), I remember him talking about how hurt he felt from all the times he overheard someone saying how much they hated The Unknown Comic. But I think the real reason why The Unknown Comic was "masked" for the movie's advertising campaign was that the segments of the movie he's in are really awful. If the movie had scrapped the whole idea of putting The Unknown Comic in a movie, and stuck to being a third-rate knock-off of Police Academy, it might have had enough energy and enough scattershot laughs to make it a decent 99 cent rental. Unless your patrols around your city have uncovered a video store in your neighborhood charging 33 cents for a video rental, I think you better skip Night Patrol. If you are really desperate to watch a black comedy directed by Jackie Kong that rips off another movie, then I suggest you rent Blood Diner, a sick and hilarious take on Blood Feast.

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See also: Crime Busters, Find The Lady, Zoo Radio