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Ron Howard
Henry Winkler, Michael Keaton, Shelley Long
Writing Credits:
Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel

A morgue attendant is talked into running a brothel at his workplace after a deceased pimp is sent there.

Box Office:
$8 million.
Opening Weekend:
$2,539,633 on 683 screens.
Domestic Gross:

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 10/5/2021

• Trailer


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
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-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Night Shift [Blu-Ray] (1982)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 28, 2021)

Prior to 1982’s Night Shift, audiences knew Ron Howard and Henry Winkler as TV actors, and Michael Keaton remained obscure to the masses. He had done small parts on established series as well as the co-lead in a short-lived show called Working Stiffs, but Keaton fell short of fame.

Night Shift didn’t turn into a major hit, as its $21 million US take left it as the 36th highest-grossing film of 1982. Nonetheless, it gave Keaton exposure to a broad audience for the first time and opened the door to the lead in 1983’s Mr. Mom and actual stardom.

As for Howard, Shift represented his second feature as a director, and it also boosted his status. Howard would follow with 1984’s hit Splash and eventually eliminate the view of him as little Opie Cunningham.

And Winkler? Well, he never escaped the shadow of the Fonz. However, he’s enjoyed a good career as a supporting actor, even if he never approached his 1970s fame from Happy Days.

Written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel – who Howard knew from Happy Days - Night Shift introduces us to Chuck Lumley (Winkler). He used to work as a hotshot stockbroker, but the stress of that gig gave him an ulcer.

Now Chuck lives a quiet life among the dead as a morgue attendant. To his displeasure, Chuck winds up stuck with the night shift, a gig that introduces him to Bill "Blaze" Blazejowski (Keaton), his new co-worker.

High-energy Blaze contrasts with sedate Chuck, and Bill lures his colleague into a new business endeavor: a prostitution ring they run in the morgue. Various complications ensue, especially when Chuck falls in love with hooker Belinda Keaton (Shelley Long).

I don’t think I saw Night Shift theatrically in 1982, but my family got our first VCR right around the time it debuted on VHS. I know we rented it, and I remember that I liked the movie a lot.

If I viewed Shift since 1983 or so, however, I don’t recall it. This Blu-ray probably represents my first screening of the film in decades.

I can’t claim that I missed out on much over that span. While Shift presents a perfectly watchable little comedy, it never does much to excel.

On the positive side, Keaton shows why he soon became a star. With the underwritten and underdeveloped “comic relief” role, he makes chicken salad out of chicken… stuff.

Bill offers a fairly “80s” kind of character, an obnoxious life of the party who comes across as a mix between roles played by John Belushi and Bill Murray. Even when saddled with fairly pedestrian material – which comes from lots of the script – Keaton adds life to the role and makes Bill much more likable than he should be.

Keaton manages to play Bill as over the top but not annoyingly so, and that means he doesn’t become the irritating boor we might’ve found if someone like his Working Stiffs co-star Jim Belushi played the role. In addition, Keaton takes Bill’s token dramatic scene and plays it in a shockingly natural manner that doesn’t feel as out of left field as it should.

For those of us accustomed to Winkler as the Fonz, Chuck comes as a turn in the opposite direction. Wimpy, neurotic Chuck feels like the polar opposite of the self-assured, cocky Fonz.

Winkler does fine in the part, though I can’t claim he makes Chuck especially interesting. Perhaps Winkler shouldn’t turn Chuck into a compelling personality given the character’s boundaries.

That said, Winkler attempts to avoid hints of Fonzarelli charisma to such a degree that Chuck seems too dishwater dull. While we vaguely like Chuck, Winkler’s performance makes it hard to truly bond with him or care about his fate.

While Winkler’s prior work colors my perception of his performance here, Long’s then-future role as Diane Chambers in Cheers impacts how I view her in Shift. Put simply, the picture of Long as the snobby, uptight Diane means it becomes intensely difficult to swallow her as the street prostitute Belinda.

Though the more I think about it, the more I find it tough to accept Long as a hooker even if I purge my memory of her Cheers role, as Long/Belinda seem far too WASPy and upscale to work the mean streets of New York. Not that no educated/refined prostitutes exist, I guess, but it just doesn’t make much sense that someone like Belinda would peddle her wares in the circumstances depicted.

It seems more likely she’d connect to a higher-class operation. The depiction here becomes a bridge too far, and I find it tough to accept Long as a hooker, even if she plays the role as written.

I guess screenwriters Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz figured a nebbishy guy like Chuck wouldn’t fall for an “earthier” girl. 1983’s Trading Places pulled off this feat better, though that trick succeeded there also because Jamie Lee Curtis pulled off her hooker character’s mix of intelligence and sex appeal better than Long does.

Even with ups and downs, the actors try their best here, but the pedestrian screenplay does them no favors, and neither does Howard’s sitcom-style direction. Shift rarely feels like an actual feature film, and cinematographer James Crabe’s decision apparently to use spotlights for all nighttime scenes makes this an odd visual product, as it never resembles the urban setting as it should.

As mentioned, Shift represents Howard’s second feature. After 1977’s wholly terrible Grand Theft Auto, Shift represents a step up, but it doesn’t signify a man who would eventually become a great director.

Though that seems appropriate, as I don’t think Howard ever did turn into an actual “great director”. Howard made some very good movies over the years, and a couple – like 1995’s Apollo 13 - could qualify as great, but he showed an awful lot of ups and downs over the last 40 years.

This means Shift fits his filmography pretty well. Like much of Howard’s work, it seems genial and likable enough, but it never takes chances or attempts to stand out from the crowd.

After all these years, I feel glad I gave Shift another look, even if it disappointed me and harpooned semi-fond memories of it from my youth. Ultimately, this becomes a sporadically amusing movie but nothing anything better than average.

Casting footnote: you’ll see a few familiar faces here, including Howard’s ubiquitous brother Clint as well as Howard himself in a cameo. Also, we find then-unknown actors Kevin Costner and Shannen Doherty in tiny parts.

Musical footnote: best-known as a major Grammy-winning hit by Elton John, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder and Dionne Warwick, “That’s What Friends Are For” made its debut here. Rod Stewart did the honors.

Also, the Blu-ray’s subtitles claim that Johnny Winter did the version of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” we occasionally hear. Nope – it’s the Stones, though a live version. Since the movie’s end text correctly credits the Stones, I have no idea why the subtitles refer to Winter.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus D-

Night Shift appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a pretty pleasing presentation.

Sharpness usually worked well. A smattering of slightly soft shots emerged, but the majority of the movie brought appealing accuracy.

I saw no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes failed to materialize. Grain felt light but natural, while outside of one or two tiny specks, print flaws remained absent.

Colors went with a natural palette, and the hues worked well. The various tones came across as vivid and full.

Blacks seemed deep and dark, while shadows appeared well-rendered, though we didn’t get a lot of these during this brightly-lit flick. The image held up nicely over the last 39 years.

I also felt the movie’s DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack seemed more than satisfactory for a flick from 1982, though one shouldn’t expect much from the soundscape. Music showed decent stereo spread, while effects broadened across the front in a moderate manner.

Don’t expect a lot of activity, though, as the track felt semi-monaural much of the time. Still, it opened up to the sides well enough to give us a decent soundfield.

Though audio quality showed its age, it still seemed satisfactory. Speech displayed a smidgen of edginess, but the lines usually appeared natural, and they always were intelligible.

Music appeared fairly lush and warm, while effects boasted reasonable accuracy. Some distortion accompanied louder elements like gunshots, but these elements brought more than decent definition in general. Nothing here impressed, but the mix suited the movie.

The disc includes the movie’s trailer but it lacks any other extras.

As a teen, I thought Night Shift offered a rollicking comedy. As a 50-something, it seems sporadically entertaining but nothing memorable, as it lacks much real cleverness or coherence. The Blu-ray offers very good picture as well as better than average audio but it lacks bonus materials. Though not a bad movie, Night Shift seems underwhelming, especially given the talent involved.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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