The Sundance Chanel ran a Zucker Bros. marathon most of the day yesterday, and no, I'm not expecting royalties from my two very-brief appearances as butts of jokes. But I did tune in throughout the day to watch parts of all the films. I've worked on four ZuckerMovies in total, back in my wayward days as a film publicist. I never liked being a publicist, but I loved working on these movies, some of the best work experiences of my life.
(For the record, if anyone happened to watch, the roles -- in you can call them that... -- were "Police Sketch Artist" in Naked Gun 2-1/2 and "Cabbie" in "Naked Gun 33-1/3. The bizarre thing is that I've been recognized a few times from them, which is awkward since the total screen time of both combined is about 12 seconds. My hope is that the people saw the films the day before they saw me...)
By the way, the subtitle of that third movie in the series was "The Final Insult," which I thought was pretty good -- but it wasn't the original subtitle, which I liked even more. But the filmmakers decided not to use in on the off-chance that they decided to do one more. They didn't expect to, it really was intended to be the last one, but just in case, they wanted to hold onto the title and use it then. And so, if there had been one more, it would have been Naked Gun 4: Beating a Dead Horse.
Which brings us to the point of all this. While watching Naked Gun 2-1/2 I was reminded of the great teaser trailer for the film. You may remember it (or not), but a bit of its background is in order.
They had made the first Naked Gun film in 1988. Today, studios will turn out sequels every other year, maybe even every year. But they didn't with The Naked Gun. Brothers David and Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams, had intended to make that one film and then they moved on to other things.
One of those "other things" was a solo project that Jerry made, Ghost, separate from his brother David, and Jim. It was thought to be a nice, little film...that turned into a phenomenon and even got an Oscar nomination as Best Picture in 1990. The "Unchained Melody" sequence -- with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore seductively molding wet clay on the pottery wheel -- became so iconic to the film, in part from its relentless viewing, that it revitalized the careers of the Righteous Brothers, who sang the song.
By way of reminder, here's that scene. No need to watch the whole thing if you don't want, but at least the first minute-and-a-half since that helps set up what comes later in this piece...
Then, a full three years after The Naked Gun had originally been released, it was decided to bring back the characters and make a sequel. During production -- on which Jerry and Jim weren't much involved except as executive producers, working instead on their own projects -- the filmmakers started thinking of what to do about a "teaser trailer," to let the public know that Frank Drebin and the gang were finally back after so long. And in one of those lightbulb "Eureka!!" moments, the idea and its great tagline burst forth. Though in the middle of filming the movie, they loved the idea so much that they found the time to schedule this special shoot and convinced the studio to let them do it.
(Side note: the juke box used in the teaser trailer is the exact same one used in Ghost. David called his brother, who had kept it after the film, and Jerry lent it for the special shoot.)
When the teaser trailer played in theaters, the reaction was explosive, even getting cheers. I remember my brother telling me he saw it in the theater, and when he started up he was suckered in, thinking it was about a re-release of Ghost, and groaned since that was so soon after the film had been out. But then when he realized what he was, he burst out laughing -- and when they got to the tag line, he fell apart. (And then they had a topper tag at the very end, based on the original ad line for Ghost, which had been "Believe.") The response was so tremendous that TV entertainment news shows began doing pieces on it.
One final word. When the finished movie itself finally opened, and the scene from the trailer appeared, audiences began applauding wherever I attended screenings. But the funny thing is -- it was never intended to be in the movie. It wasn't in the script, and the material was only shot for that teaser trailer. But at the very last minute, the filmmakers realized that it not only was so funny, but that audiences might even be disappointed if it wasn't in. So, they rewrote a scene that allowed the trailer footage to be included, and then shot some additional material to expand it.
Here's that teaser trailer. Imagine if you will, that it's 1991. There hasn't been a Naked Gun film for three years, and as far as you know, there won't be another. And Ghost had been in the theaters only about nine months earlier. You've bought your popcorn. The lights in the theater go down. And the Coming Attractions start...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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