Night Shift (1982)

Here's an R-rated sex comedy I sneak-watched on VHS a few times when I was a kid:


My parents loved it, though they didn't want me watching it, (understandably enough with all the prostitution and what not), but the real attraction for me in 1983 and 1984 wasn't all the boobs or naughty jokes but the cast. I mean, this had the Fonz (although I knew him more from The One and Only, which I watched a hell of a lot in those years), Mr. Mom, and Diane Chambers.

Much of it went over my head at the time - like Grease I somehow managed to watch it a dozen times before realizing half of the jokes were about sex, and Michael Keaton's uber-stoniness evaded me completely - but it left an impression that still resonates thirty-five years later. A lot of that has to do with the soundtrack, which my mother had and listened to a lot, which meant I heard it a lot, whether I wanted to or not. 

The theme song is dynamite - I don't know why more bands aren't fronted by saxophone-playing lady vocalists - and it captures perfectly how 1981 and 1982 sounds in my memories. (As does "Just the Two of Us." While we're here.)
Thanks to my mom, when Dionne Warwick and the gang's version caret-bombed the airwaves a few years later, I was the only guy in my class who knew the original tune. No one cared or anything, just hey.

"That's What Friends Are For" is a well-matched closing theme for Night Shift, as it's really a film about relationships and their absurd transmogrifying power. Many sex comedies are, and Night Shift might not be the best of the bunch, but that's where it sets its sights: bullies are slugged, true love is found, and the misfit protagonists learn to stand up for and believe in themselves.     

"Keep smiling / keep shining"

Scenic Route justification: this is still the seedy New York City of Taxi Driver, just prior to the city's big make-over (aka its gentrification/ Disneyfication) in the 80s. 

"A morgue attendant is talked into running a brothel at his workplace after a deceased pimp is sent there. However, the pimp's killers don't look too kindly on this new 'business', nor does the morgue's owner." 


Night Shift is loaded with familiar faces from the era, as well as some whose stars were only beginning to rise. Let's start with the leads.

Henry Winker was one of the biggest stars and pop icons of 70s TV, but this was his last leading role on the big-screen. 
Michael Keaton - who is fun as hell in this movie - probably has had the most successful post-NS career.
Shelley Long had yet to become a TV icon of her own at the time NS came out, but that came the following year.
The three's chemistry is a big part of what makes the movie work so well.

Let's just do a big image blitz for the rest of them.

The Postman as one of the frat guys.
The Howard boys both get screentime - Clint (l) and Ron as make-out-man (r).
The ubiquitous Detective Munch (with Badja Djola.)
Grand L. Bush aka Agent Johnson.
(No relation.)
The late great Joe Spinell.
A young Brenda Walsh.
The late great Vincent Schiavelli.
Almost every one of the hookers is a familiar face if not name.
Ava Lazar (not Stacy Keach.)
Cassandra Gava (from Conan the Barbarian.)
Elizabeth Carder and Jaid Barrymore.
Jeanne Mori - no SFW screencaps so here she is from Star Trek III.
Ola Ray, who was in lots of stuff but might be best remembered as the girl from the "Thriller" video:
And Robbin Young from For Your Eyes Only.
And finally, the Solid Gold dancers.

Truly a bygone era. If someone told me it was Ron Howard's finest work, I'd feel bad for nominating the first of many stellar and almost-unarguably more important features to come, but I'd secretly nod in approval.



  1. Oh, man!

    (1) I've never seen this, but, like several other films of the era ("Used Cars" is the first one that comes to mind), I've been meaning to for freakin' ever.

    (2) It's been on my mind several times recently, partially because I've been on an intermittent Burt Bacharach jaunt. "That's What Friends Are For" is obviously a great song, and a big one in the Bacharach songbook; but until recently I had no clue the original was a Rod Stewart song. Ol' Rod played here in Tuscaloosa last Sunday; my parents went (I would have loved to to tag along but couldn't -- Cyndi Lauper opened!) and said it was maybe the best concert they've ever been to. Anyways, I dig his version; it's inferior to the Dionne & Friends cover, but that's true of a great many songs, so it's no slight to his original.

    (3) As for the Quarterflash song, I dig it. I suspect I'd probably be into Quarterflash if I knew more of their stuff (beyond this and "Harden Your Heart"). I wonder if anyone ever considered them to do a Bond song?

    (4) I love this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6w9dM7slGvU), too. So much cowbell!

    (5) This has got to be THE loosest adaptation of any King book.

    (6) I apologize for that above comment, which is not worthy of this fine blog you're running. I couldn't help myself, though.

    (7) All these screencaps absolutely SCREAM "New York" at me. This is what that city looks like in my brain. While we're here, let me share something. I've got a memory of being in New York during that precise era, going to some venue -- maybe Madison Square Garden -- where Kiss was playing. I remember nothing about the concert; just remember showing up for it and being outside. What's weird about that is, I ain't never set foot in New York. I never went to a Kiss concert in the early '80s (only been once, in the late '80s, and that was in Birmingham). And yet, I have that memory; quite powerful, so much so that when I see images of things that look like New York of that era, I feel a powerful wave of nostalgia. If you can figure THAT shit out, you're way ahead of me. I assume it means I'm a replicant. Anyways, these screencaps are obviously pinging that "memory" for me big-time.

    (8) Look how young Costner is! Well, heck, he made out better here than in "The Big Chill," I guess.

    (9) "Jeanne Mori - no SFW screencaps so here she is from Star Trek III." -- I can't quite express why, but I'm a big fan of this sentence. So many weird implications.

    (10) As a Ron Howard fan -- which I mostly am -- I really need to get cracking on seeing this movie. Thanks for the nudge in the right direction!

    1. (2) - (4) Absolutely on all of these. That Bacharach song you sent is pretty great! I prefer the Stewart version of "Friends" only because I heard it first.

      (5) - (6) Ha! I wish I'd thought of that. There's a horrible movie out there called "The Paperboy" that I often refer to as the worst NES adaptation of all time - I like that kind of joke. If anything, my blog needs to live up to such jokes, not the other way around.

      (7) I can actually kind of relate to this! The first time I saw New York City (apart from an airplane window, and as relayed to you elsewhere but for the sake of any earthlings reading this who may not know) my buddy cranked up Sinatra's "New York New York" and we drove in from New Jersey on the George Washington Bridge. It was great. But I have a "memory" of seeing the Chrysler Building from a moving car with Huey Lewis' "Do You Believe in Love" playing on the radio circa 1980/ 1981. This can't be true obviously, anymore than your seeing Kiss at MSG from the same era. Are we remembering our replicants' lives? Did we wander into another level of the tower and then back out of it? Anyway, I'm happy to hear I have another phantom-NY-memory traveler.

      (10) Ron Howard has done pretty good for himself since "Night Shift," but I kind of wish he'd do another one like this. Winkler, too.

    2. (5/6) -- That low-hanging fruit is pretty yummy.

      (7) Fascinating! Maybe this is a more common thing than I'd have suspected. I suspect it's similar to whatever mental process creates deja vu. Either that, or we're picking up transmission from our twinners that are leaking into our brains through thinnies.

      (10) I guess "Arrested Development" scratches similar itches to some degree, although he's only a narrator on that. It would be nice to see him return to that mold, though. I think he's underrated in general; not all of his movies are great, especially recently, but boy, that's a heck of a career he's put together.

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    1. 1. I've never heard of this film until now, either. Another one for the watch list.

      2. I'd heard the song before, but never knew Stewart was the one who started it.

      3. Sadly, I don't see a time when people studio execs will remember it's possible to have a killer soundtrack to go along with a film.

      4. I want that "Street Talk" to be in the sequel to "Zootopia", if that ever does happen.

      7. I have only been to New York once, and this had to have been way back in 1991, in a whole different Apple, in other words. All I know is the post-urban renewal version of the city. Just another demonstration of why films like this will be valuable in the future (then again, that statement also applies to "Jason takes Manhattan").

      9. "no SFW screencaps so here she is from Star Trek II"

      Me (raising quizzical, Spock-like eyebrow): ...Fascinating!

      10. Before joining the Baltimore Homicide Squad, you'll never believe what Munch's moonlighting job was:


      5. Oh, Snap!


    2. 3. They'll figure it out again sooner or later I bet. It's kind of odd, actually - in a time when business is more vertically integrated than ever, the media blitz of soundtrack/movie/tie-in/what-have-you is easier and more pervasive than ever. But what's the last must-have soundtrack that came out? I'm admittedly out of touch, but I bet whatever it was, it was a throwback collection of tunes and nothing new. Or Disney-related. (And nothing against either of these things of course.)

      7. I'll be getting to "Quick Change" soon - 1990 NYC! You can see the construction everywhere right in the film, it's a good transitional moment to capture.

      10. I didn't realize this! Munch is the original Dark Tower Easter egg.