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.