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NIGHT PATROL

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: All these years later Murray Langston is probably still best known for his 150 appearances on the original and very weird TV series ‘The Gong Show’ as The Unknown Comic in the 1970s and ’80s. He also appeared in a number of films and even wrote and directed one (1990’s ‘Wishful Thinking’). But before that he wrote and starred in this one, which, for some unknown reason, Kino Lorber has given a Blu-ray upgrade. My review was published in the Deseret News on Jan. 13, 1985.

You may remember Murray Langston as The Unknown Comic, that frenetic comedian who rapidly spouted one-liners while wearing a paper bag over his head as a regular on the now-defunct “Gong Show” — that is if you were unfortunate enough to have seen “The Gong Show.”

Well, now Langston stars in a police comedy called “Night Patrol,” in which he plays a bumbling patrolman who moonlights as a standup comic, but doesn’t want his colleagues to know, so he wears a paper bag over his head and calls himself The Unknown Comic.

However, if this movie were to be shown as one of the acts competing on “The Gong Show” even Langston himself would probably give it the gong. If not, maybe Jaye P. Morgan would. And, as it happens, Morgan costars in “Night Patrol” as Langston’s agent.

     

Murray Langston, left, Pat Paulsen, 'Night Patrol' (1985)

Meanwhile, as Langston pulls his double duty, a robber is going around town committing crimes with a paper bag over his head, while he tells his victims bad jokes. Unfortunately, paper bags are not provided for the movie’s audience. They should be.

Among Langston’s costars are Linda Blair, the possessed youngster in “The Exorcist,” now grown up and playing the police-station receptionist who loves Langston but is ignored by him. She doesn’t know when she has it good.

Pat Paulsen is Langston’s veteran patrolman-buddy, and manages to get off a few good deadpan, dog-faced one-liners, but he looks pretty tired throughout the entire effort.

Then there’s Billy Barty as Langston’s grousing police chief, who’s every screen appearance is accompanied by sound effects simulating flatulence. Jack Riley, best remembered as one of Bob Newhart’s patients when Newhart was a psychiatrist on the old “Bob Newhart Show,” apparently learned something as he is now Langston’s psychiatrist. And Pat Morita, of “The Karate Kid,” has one truly embarrassing scene as a rape victim whose voice is dubbed in by a woman.

     

Murray Langston wearing his 'Unknown Comic' paper bag, with Linda Blair in 'Night Patrol' (1985).

The script, co-written by Langston and three others, is in the Mel Brooks/“Airplane!” style of off-the-wall, bizarre, completely nonsensical rapid-fire jokes that come so fast and furiously that some of them have to be successful. With Brooks, the ratio is usually about 70-30, with “Airplane” it managed to be about 75-25 but with “Night Patrol” it’s much lower. About 10-90, and that may be overestimating.

Though there are a few inventive gags here and there, even the good ones are destroyed by the film’s technical ineptness. Bad timing, bad setups, bad quality in the film and, worst of all, lousy editing, tend to make even this film’s brighter moments less than humorous.

But the worst aspect is that “Night Patrol” is in such poor taste, it is consistently raunchy, vulgar and offensive. As you might expect, “Night Patrol” is rated R for all these elements plus nudity, sex and profanity.

The saddest part of “Night Patrol” is that Murray Langston is a cheerfully endearing comedian and some of his Unknown Comic bits are really quite funny. But you’ll never get a sense of that because this movie is such a total failure that it makes everyone in the cast look as inept as the movie’s technical aspects.