Forgotten Friday Flick - 'Night Shift'
Since "E.T." is hitting the 2012 LA Film Fest as a free outdoor screening to celebrate it’s 30th Anniversary, it got me thinking. There were a lot of other tasty flicks out the summer of ‘82 and quite a few have sadly fallen by the wayside. But not on my watch – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! Thirty years ago an actor made famous by two TV shows by the name of Ron Howard decided to team up with fellow "Happy Days" writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel to direct and a comedy classic was born. Love Brokers, feeding mayonnaise to tuna fish and a little Stones Jumping Jack Flash. All available on the..."Night Shift!"
Chuck Lumley is a nice guy with a steady job and girlfriend, but he’s also a first class doormat. His relationship is controlled at every turn by his overbearing fiancée, he gave up a job on Wall Street and works at the less stressful City Morgue and to top it off his overbearing boss has brought in a family member to replace Chuck, forcing the quiet man back on Night Shift. Enter Bill Blazejowski. As Chuck’s new partner, the self-proclaimed ‘idea man’ spouts stories and thoughts galore, uses morgue vehicles to provide a little limo car service on the side and finally comes up with crazy idea. Since Chuck’s call girl neighbor is in danger without representation, why not step up to the plate? But not as pimps – love brokers!
Okay, so maybe my description doesn't do the comedy justice (I’m a friggin’ reviewer, not Mel Brooks!) but from the first frame this one is a winner. Howard’s early comedy directing chops are in fine form for "Night Shift" – from the perfect casting to the spot on timing. Howard did go on to make more noticed dramatic works, but I always felt his skill for comedy and all it entails was his strong suit and it’s most evident in "Night Shift." There’s a real balance of subtle humor mixed with outrageous antics – the best of both worlds. Plus teaming up with "Happy Days" scribes Ganz and Mandel was a stroke of genius as their fresh and funny script was just the ticket that Howard needed to successfully divert to directing.
But in the end it was the attention to casting that gave "Night Shift" its heart and soul. In a complete character turnaround from his famed work as the cocky and sassy Arthur Fonzarelli (aka The Fonz!), "Happy Days" star Henry Winkler donned the persona of a quiet, lonely and squirmy man and it’s truly a sight to be seen. (I remember seeing this when I was a kid and as a fan of the Fonz I was in complete awe!) But that’s not all. In a massive talent search for the man to play the zany Bill Blazejowski, Howard went out on a limb and cast then unknown actor Michael Keaton and a star was born. Stealing every scene he’s in, delivering every line with comedic excellence and just being super cool, this was Keaton at his finest. The rest of the cast was filled with lovely (Shelley Long never looked better!), notable (an early Shannen Doherty wields a girl scout cookie box like a samurai!), quirky (always have to have a Clint Howard cameo!) and unforgettable (love the late great Vincent Schiavelli in anything!) characters and honestly it’s a real tribute to the prowess of Howard – he knew how to pick ‘em.
Some may feel that the film is dated, but for my money good comedy is timeless. So funny, so moving, so sinful and so sweet, "Night Shift" was a rare first film certainly worthy of being a career-making outing. And for famed American filmmaker Ron Howard it was – is this a great country or what?
Title: "Night Shift"
Cast: Henry Winkler, Michael Keaton, Shelley Long
Director: Ron Howard
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Company: Warner Bros.