On NIGHT PATROL

Remembering Jackie Kong’s riotously offensive 1984 comedy mess-terpiece

The 80s were a wonderful time to be a film fan. Because the video and cable market was still new(ish) and its audience was hungry for content. Meaning, every nickel and dime international piece-of-shit movie would find a home, whether it be via some fledgling fly-by-night VHS imprint or in a 2am time-slot catering to drug fiends, drunks, insomniacs and rule-bending 12 year old boys; in other words, a far less discriminating demographic, one that wanted their ID stimulated, story, character, filmmaking craft and good taste be damned…

I was indeed a member of that after hours club that ate this junk up. And I say junk with respect and reverence, of course. Because it was in those bleary-eyed hours that I discovered some of the greatest films I would ever see; movies that your parents had no idea existed and, if they did, would likely not approve of you absorbing them.

The barometer of what was a good movie or bad movie was broken.

It didn’t matter.

Most of these pictures were unclassifiable and beyond any sort of analysis. You experienced them. Often in a state of shock. And they stayed with you. And, because of when and how you saw them, when the sun rose and you were forced back into general population, a good little sausage on the societal conveyor belt, you’d get flashes of these films stabbing through your memory and you were never quite sure if you had dreamed them or not…

One of the strongest film memories for me, during my early teen trash film awakening, was director Jackie Kong’s absurd, vulgar, atonal and atrociously awesome 1984 bad-cop romp Night Patrol. It’s a scatological comedy that earned its R rating and, while not a horror film, it left the same indelible, filthy post-viewing sheen on me that other late night pictures like Evil Dead, Blood and Lace, Return of the Living Dead, Messiah of Evil and Parasite did. I felt like I’d visited some other sort of strange land filled with fluids, grease and madness.

And hey, Linda Blair is in it.

In fact, I saw Night Patrol before I saw The Exorcist and, considering your perspective on the ride depends on when you get on the train, this gross-out romp is, for me, the definitive Blair-sploitation experience. Make of that what you will…

Released the same year as juggernaut, future franchise slapstick spoof Police Academy, Night Patrol plays like an amalgam of that film by way of Airplane! by way of Bob Clark’s tits and ass hit Porky’s, ground up with a really bad Peter Sellers movie and baked by a women who helmed the best H.G Lewis ever made. Indeed Kong, who had previously made the 1983 sci-fi horror flick The Being, would chase Night Patrol with her bloody, guttural and rather incredible homage to the house that Lewis and Friedman built, 1987’s Blood Diner. And Night Patrol has that same intentionally arch, loose, go-for-broke, cross-eyed appeal; it’s a movie based on bits, cheap laughs and dirty vignettes that get cheaper and more obvious as the running time winds down and, due to their sheer momentum, push the film into a kind of hallucinatory, astral-projection state.

Watching Night Patrol is a transgressive experience. The gross-out comedy as subversive high art.

Right from the first scene, we know we’re in a weird world. We know that something is wrong. Even the opening titles seem cheap and sleazy. Like a Crown International drive-in flick, generic and style-free. The first strains of Carl Steward’s theme song “LAPD”, with its reggae-informed beat, pops onto the soundtrack and one notices that Stewart must have been a realllllly big Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry fan. Because if I didn’t know better, I would have thought that this WAS a vintage Roxy track, it’s that good of a forgery.And if you groove on it, I’ve got some great news for you: it repeats over almost every inch of the damn movie!

Night Patrol introduces us to Officer Melvin White, an LAPD beat cop who is dumber than a bag of hammers. White is played by Canadian comedian Murray Langston, a graduate of Chuck Barris’s 70’s trash variety program The Gong Show and man, is he funny. Langston would find fame on both TGS and on the club circuit as “The Unknown Comic, a Vegas-style stand-up comedian famous for wearing a paper bag over his head. Langston appeared in Kong’s The Being and indeed conceived and co-wrote Night Patrol with her as a vehicle for his shtick, both in and out of the bag mask.

At the header of the film, we find Officer White pulling over a cackling, obese miscreant wearing a strait jacket who confesses (in ridiculously dubbed gutter-French) to a myriad sex-crimes, to which the cheerful, swaggering White is blithely oblivious too; when a dead body hangs out of the fiend’s trunk, White is only concerned with teaching the man how to properly close his caboose.

We are soon introduced to the filthy precinct that Officer White calls home, an cop-shop filled with all sorts of scum and yes, said scum are the ones wearing the badges. Wonderfully hang-dog-faced actor Pat Paulsen plays Officer Kent lane, White’s older, sex-crazed partner; the diminutive Billy Barty (TV’s Bizarre, Ridley Scott’s Legend) plays the wildly-flatulent Chief, every step he takes spurring a flurry of farts to squirt over the soundtrack (one wonders if poor Barty had any idea that his comic performance would be dubbed into near diarrhea in post); and then we meet the cute-as-a-button desk sergeant Sue Perman (groan!) played by the equally chirpy Blair, who is (if there is any) the humanity and soul of the film. See, Perman loves White, but he’s too stupid to know it. He’s more concerned with balancing his career as a cop with his moonlighting fame as The Unknown Comic, something he keeps close to the vest, his double life only revealed to his even more inept psychiatrist (Jack Riley).

The barely-there narrative of Night Patrol rests on the central conflict of a crook running around town dressed as The Unknown Comic and White having to find the gun-toting, Safeway-bag-cowled imposter and clear his alter ego’s name.

But who cares about that.

The primal power of Night Patrol rests in its flurry of frantic, fecal and ribald sketches; there are hundreds of gags bursting forth from the film and yes, most of the gags will MAKE you gag!

There’s a running streak of homophobia in the film, from the dead homeless man who really just wants to make out with our disgusted hero, to the disdain Barty has for his openly gay officers, to the horde of homicidal lesbians and beyond; those looking for anything resembling political correctness should not look under this rock. Literally no sacred societal trope is safe. Everyone gets their licks. Chalk that up in part to the ignorance of the 1980s but really, Kong and Langston are like the kids in the back of the 5th grade homeroom class with the shitty home lives: they want your attention, the good attention, the bad attention, all attention is welcome and desired. And they’ll stop at nothing to get it.

Case in point, the “cockfighting” scene, wherein roosters are replaced by naked men literally banging their dicks together while people scream and shout and a pair of cursing nuns bet on the action.

Or how about the “Sperm Bank” bit, where a convoy of money-hungry masturbators line up to sell their seed and, at the end of the line, a pretty young girl also stands. When White asks why she, a woman, is in line for a sperm bank, she turns to him and wetly gargles “Get Lost”!”

How about the awful/awesome aside where Paulsen says he “fucked a female officer’s brains out” and sure enough, said lady cop appears spastically flailing around the precinct.

I love the sequence where White questions a cage full of sex criminals who deliciously reveal their pedophile, rape and sodomy-based indiscretions and then ask the Officer if there is anything wrong with what they’ve done. When White gives them a pass, he shrugs off his own youthful encounter with a sheep, wherein the perverts collectively jeer and reject him as a monster”.

Of course, everyone loves the diner scene, where Paulsen and Langston sit down to eat in a dive that’s such a shithole, their soup of the day is “Cream of Washroom”.

Langston tries the hot, brown sludge and admits “it’s not bad!”

How about the part where our dim-witted heroes bust a drug-den, where a topless and massively mammaried Kitten Natividad passes around a joint and points to her chest exclaiming “THIS is a bust!” before getting the tit-fixated officers stoned out of their minds.

These moments are just a few random highlights of this operatically gross and supernaturally funny film, one who’s cheap, washed out look and poor audio just add to its dream-like appeal.

I’ve loved this movie since I was that little boy sitting on that long-since incinerated (thank God) couch watching it long after mom and dad were dreaming of their own long-lost youths.

Night Patrol is probably the funniest movie ever made. You should see it…

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