Wednesday, 10 February 2016
Movies based on old TV shows may not seem so original nowadays, but back in the '80s, the idea was more of a novelty. Inspired by the success of his SNL spin-off The Blues Brothers and his appearance in Twilight Zone: The Movie, comedian Dan Aykroyd turned his attention to '50s cop show Dragnet, which he revived in '80s buddy cop style, now re-released on DVD by Fabulous Films.
And when I say '80s style, I mean very '80s – ‘Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks rapping the theme song over the closing credits’-level '80s. Aykroyd plays the nephew of the series’ hero Joe Friday, who also happens to be called Joe Friday. Like his uncle, Friday is meticulous and formal, except Aykroyd plays this up for laughs; he’s able to rapid-fire any section of the California Penal Code in an instant, and tells his muggers off for assaulting him “on a school night”. He’s paired with Hanks’ laid-back Pep Streebeck (again, how '80s is that name?), the perfect foil for the rule-obsessed detective.
Friday and Streebeck investigate a series of robberies committed by a secretive society named P.A.G.A.N., leading them to the mansion of a porn mogul, a zoo with missing animals, and a ludicrous satanic ritual. As plots go, it’s hardly coherent – if you come out of Dragnet fully understanding what all the pagan stuff was about, or why the villain seemed to change his motivations every five minutes, or why the film needed its final elongated chase sequence, you’ve done a better job than I have.
But that hardly matters. The appeal is not the plot but the comic tomfoolery of Aykroyd and Hanks, perfectly cast against each other, and the mocking of '50s cop show conventions, which, though sometimes playing it safe, provides many genuinely funny moments, not least the take on Dragnet’s opening narration.
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