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Maybe some people just don't get it. This was made by the team of
Zucker-Abraham-Zucker, responsible for "Airplane", "The Kentucky Fried
Movie", and the "Naked Gun" series, so who cares if it doesn't
accurately reflect society? It's not meant to be a satire, folks, it's
a very broad parody!
I recently watched this again, and I caught something I had never caught before. In the dinner scene at the "Hotel Gay Schluffen", Nick Rivers (played by Val Kilmer, and this may be the best thing he's ever done), American rock star, is told that he needs a jacket to eat in the dining room, but the restaurant will provide one. In the next scene we can see him in the background having a jacket tailor-made! The reason it's hard to catch is that there's exposition going on in the foreground (a ZAZ trademark). It's funny, but the amazing thing is that I've seen this movie many times over a period of something like 20 years, and I'd never noticed that before.
I believe that this is one of the marks of a great spoof, that you can watch it many times and still pick up jokes you've never noticed before. Like ZAZ's other masterworks, this one is packed with hilarious one-liners and sight gags. Watch for the scene in the Swedish bookshop that's filmed backwards, the way the verses to the East German National Anthem keep getting longer and longer when translated into English, and the scene where an unfortunate agent is crushed inside a car (and what happens with him afterwards!). And this doesn't even scratch the surface. If "Top Secret!" isn't ZAZ's funniest movie it's only because it has such strong competition. The men were comedic geniuses when they were together.
Val Kilmer was hilarious as Nick Rivers, and the movie has a strong supporting cast, including Lucy Gutteridge as Nick's love interest Hillary (I wonder how Ms. Clinton would feel if she knew her name means "She whose bosoms defy gravity"?), Christopher Villiers as Nigel, her ex-boyfriend (they spent some time stranded on a deserted island together), and Jeremy Kemp as the evil General Streck. Also look out for Peter Cushing, Omar Sharif, and Ian McNiece (hilarious as a spy whose cover is selling souvenirs, novelties, and party tricks). And watch out for the French resistance (who knows what they're doing in East Germany?), each one of whose names is a pun on a French word or phrase (Chocolate Mousse, Deja Vu, etc.)
The plot? Does it matter? Something about the East Germans planning to take over the world while everybody's paying attention to an international cultural show they're putting on (Nick is the American representative), and the spies who are trying to stop it. But that's not the point, the point is the comedy, and I could go on and on about the many hilarious jokes but I'm not going to; let me just say without ruining anything that the funniest scenes in the movie involve a cow.
It's usually overlooked, curiously enough, when talking about the great comedies, but there's no doubt about it, "Top Secret!" IS one of the great comedies of our time.
Top Secret is one of the funniest, most off-the-wall movies ever filmed.
Featuring a young Val Kilmer, I think Top Secret is the best of all spoof
films (Spaceballs is a close second). This thing spoofs everything, Beach
Boy's songs, spy pictures, war movies, westerns, and even Elvis is not safe.
It's ridiculous, outrageous, hilarious, and all in the name of good fun.
The spit gag has to be my favorite bit. You've seen it in countless movies:
the hero is being verbally accosted by the villain and he spits in his face.
This time, however, the hero is on the other side of the room. Other
memorable jokes include the skeet songs, the anal intruder, the "cow"
scenes, and the backwards bit with Peter Cushing. There are countless
little things like that which make Top Secret a definite cult classic and a
"Wish they all could be double barrel, wish they all could be double barrel guuuuuuuns."
An American rock and roll idol goes behind the iron curtain (while there was
one!) for a culture fest but instead becomes involved in the resistance
Forget about the film itself, the very idea of an Elvis Presley movie being mixed with a French resistance film and produced by the Airplane! crew is enough for laugh number one. Not only is this a bizarre world but seems to be playing games with time and history, the communist East Germany being portrayed as a kind of war time Nazi set-up!
Kilmer does well with an impossible role to the point where you wonder if he didn't miss his vocation. He can sing and dance better than many real singers and he proved in The Doors that he is really a major musical force. Strangely it is rumoured that he didn't realise this was a satire!
The stupidity of many Elvis movies and those Saturday morning children's reels (scientist and beautiful daughter) are taken to the cleaners and you have fantastic sight gags. The "falling guard" gag is one of the best sight gags in the history of movies - I challenge anyone not to laugh at it.
I enjoy a stupid movie every now and then and admit I enjoyed this one. Clearly the authors know little about German history or European culture and the little they do know seems cribbed from watching bad B movies on the subject, but what the hell. This is too stupid for anyone to get seriously uptight about. "How silly can you get?" sings Kilmer at one point in the film: Maybe a little, but not that much!
This movie is unbelievable funny and makes no sense.
Why are there Nazis in East-Germany capturing Scientists and why do they want to let a Rock'n'Roll singer play his music!? For me one of the funniest part is the "german language cassette" Rivers' is listening to in the train (!) to Germany. This words make absolutely no sense! :) The whole train sequence is funny. The train station and the guy with the tree also rock!
Val Kilmer did a great performance, acting, dancing and singing!
The title sequence "skeet surfing" is also a great parody for the American way of life!
are usually the ones with plots of their own. This one is such a spoof and it is very funny. You don't have to see any movies to find this funny either. You just have to have seen parts of an Elvis movie over the years or saw a scene or two from an old espionage flick. You don't have to watch an entire movie to get the jokes. Val Kilmer is very funny here as is all the cast. The jokes are great even with some of them being a bit dated. The resistance group is great, the escape, everything in here is really funny. After "Airplane" this one ranks right up there with the best spoof movies made.
This movie truly is another great work from David Zucker and Jim
Abrahams team. In some scenes you will laugh so hard that you have to
pause the movie, laugh for five minutes then play it again. Also, Val
Kilmer does a great acting for his first movie!
This movie may not be the best comedy ever made but it still is among the top of its genre and a great movie to watch even and specially if you're not in a good mood.
If you found "Airplane!" funny then watching this one is highly recommended. It has the same stupid and totally funny jokes and same sense of humor. It also is the best parody of WW2 spy movies. Rent or buy the DVD and enjoy it!
The Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team, master of the rapid-fire humor and insane
spoofs, strike again! This time with "Top Secret!", which is a very
underrated movie that, in my humble opinion, is just as good as "Airplane!"
(which of course is considered their best work).
I don't understand it - what makes this film inferior to "Airplane!"? There are just as many jokes, the jokes are just as good, the timing is as always perfect. Am I missing something? Is it just that "Airplane!" was bold in breaking barriers for spoof movies, setting a precedent that "Top Secret!" was just there to follow?
That's not to diminish the quality of "Airplane!", which is one of my favorites. But what's wrong with "Top Secret!"? Why only a 6.6 rating? It must be from those purists who don't understand movies like this, and don't like this movie because the plot is not as well-developed as the plot of "Airplane!" Don't get me wrong - ordinarily a more developed plot only makes a movie funnier, but in the case of a spoof like this, the plot isn't important (it has often been said that the plot is just a "clothesline" for the jokes in such movies). Those purists completely miss the point of this movie.
Watch this movie unless you're one of those blasted aforementioned purists. If that is the case, go watch "The Philadelphia Story" for the thousandth time.
In his first leading role, Val Kilmer plays Nick Rivers, an Elvis like pop
star sent to Germany on a good will tour as a fill in for Leonard
Once there he gets caught up in all sorts of misadventures that lead to
being a part of the French under ground resistance. Lucy Gutteridge is his
An often overlooked - maybe even misunderstood - film from the Zucker/Abrams/Zucker team (who gave us "Airplane!") the film takes pot shots at "The Man Who Knew Too Much", pintos, rock 'n roll, Nazis, and other various spy movies with more gags than you can shake a stick at. A hilarious romp of madness.
Val himself is pretty funny here, managing to both wink and not wink at the camera as he is placed in a number of absurd situations. Also interesting of note is that this one features Michael Gough, who would later play Alfred in the Batman series, and Val himself would later play Batman.
Following the popular success of "Airplane!" and its less acclaimed
sequel, the ZAZ trio was back to what I believe to be the funniest
comedy ever: "Top Secret!" a hilarious parody of the WWII spy films and
the 50-60's rock-themed movies. Speaking of rock'n'roll, one of the
most defining songs of the film performed by Val Kilmer aka Nick Rivers
is titled "How Silly Can you Get?" which sounds like a self-reflexive
"Top Secret!" probably features the highest laughs-out-loud-per-minute ratio from any movie, as there is not one single moment where the action isn't punctuated by a gag, and that this very gag doesn't work. Everything in "Top Secret!" is both hilarious on an anarchic and cathartic level in the way it plunges you into a never-ending positive mindset. You may say that this is the very principle of a comedy, what's more a spoof movie, but it seems like "Top Secret!" has been specially concocted for pure and genuine amusement, and while the much more respected "Airplane!" has its slower moments, especially during the flash-back parts, "Top Secret!" was hilarious from A like Abrahams to Z like Zucker brothers.
There are two kinds of gags in "Top Secret!", the direct and the indirect one. The direct is immediate, mostly visual and slapstick, like a "find him and kill him" stamp or a sunbathing girl leaving boob-holes in the sand. The best gags are extended and feature a lot of dancing like the ball scene, the outrageous ballet sequence or a feet-view panic scene. Anyway, whether it's an offensive national anthem, a singing horse, a little German, an over-hilarious moment when Nick is about to be executed and an old lady slowly approaches to pick up the phone, any attempt to list the audio-visual gags of the film is as ludicrous as trying to define which is the funniest. The indirect gag is the elaborated one, already funny by itself but leading to a much more delightful punch-line.
The first one involves a weird shot illustrating the road taken by Nick Rivers and his manager, the map looks more and more familiar until Pac-Man makes his appearance, the very gag that sets the tone of the film. When Omar Sharif as Agent Cedric meets a colleague disguised as a party tricks vendor, the whole interaction is funny enough but the icing on the cake comes with the "You dropped your phony dog pooh", an item which obviously is not sold. The gag works even more because we expect it, like when Nick is introduced to the French Resistance, what would you expect from a man named "Déjà Vu" apart from "Have we not met before?" It could have concluded here yet the French sounding names punch-line was with the black guy named 'Chocolate Mousse", which says a lot about an era where anything was acceptable in the name of pure comedy.
I don't mean to be too analytical, but my regard for "Top Secret!" is due to one of the two funniest and creative gags from any film, starting with the Swedish bookstore sequence, a cinematic achievement that would have made Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin proud. During that part, there is a gradual suspicion that we're not watching a normal scene, even for a spoof movie, there is something weird in the walking and the talking that gets funnier as it is more noticeable, the scene becomes hilarious when we get the point and yet it goes on and on, a book getting in the right place immediately, dust from ear to mouth, and finally Nick and Hillary 'sliding up' a pole. The sequence goes from funny to not funny anymore until it becomes funny again with the throw away gag of the puppy going backwards leaving the Swedish bookstore owner in a priceless doubted expression.
The other and maybe more memorable one, as it made it in the poster involves a clever cow disguise that looks like a real cow from our point of view, it's simple but someone should have thought about that. Now, it became a comedic landmark used in many comedies when a guy disguise as an animal, inopportunely choosing the female one, and invites a male on heat to come on him, but back then it was new that even pushed the outrageousness by involving a little veal thirsty for milk, the villain's reaction (in the disguise) is a laugh-riot. That's the secret of "Top Secret!", a comedy that doesn't take itself seriously except for its genuine desire to make us laugh. The rest of the gags are as good as it gets, and features many fourth-wall breaking, like when Nick and Hillary feels that the romance "makes it's like a bad movie" and then they look at us, and many film references are made, notably one hilarious climax in a sub-aquatic Western bar, and a clever farewell a la "Wizard of Oz".
"Top Secret!" is made in such a way, that we either enjoy a gag or wait for one to come, so there's no time break. The only little pauses are provided by these moments when we can enjoy Val Kilmer's musical performances but the humor is never away. But my enjoyment of the film is proportional to my sadness to see it so often overlooked by the peers and movie viewers, playing on anagrams, I want to say that "TOP SECRET!" is a comedy "TO RESPECT!". Indeed, when I checked the list of AFI's Top 100 Laughs, I was surprised not to see "Top Secret!" listed while "Fargo" and "Jerry Maguire" and less 'lol'ling comedies were, I'm even surprised that the film is hardly mentioned among the greatest parodies or that it didn't have any nominations for the Golden Globes.
Seriously, I can't see, regarding "Top Secret!", how funnier can a movie get.
In between their most successful films Airplane, Naked Gun and Hot Shots the ZAZ team modestly spoofed the espionage and conspiracy theory thrillers in Top Secret! The film involves American teen idol Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer in his first big screen role) attending a culture festival in Nazified East Germany. The festival merely is a cover-up for the sinister and evil practices of the Nazis who kidnapped an eminent scientist. Nick quickly interferes in all this and ends up as member of a resistance-party, existing of French dudes with funny-sounding names and weird comical habits (like drinking gasoline ) . Remaining loyal to the ZAZ trademarks, 'Top Secret!' is one giant running gag and a spitfire of chuckles in which absolutely NOTHING has to be taken seriously. The European-minded character of this film provided the writers with the occasion to make fun of the typical French, German and Swedish stereotypes and that forms a perfect contrast with the American surf-generation. As usual in this type of films, the widely elaborated jokes miss their target (sometimes they even are painfully unfunny) but the smaller background slapstick is hilarious and almost causes you a stomach pain from laughing. The open assaults to immensely successful cinema classics like 'the Great Escape', 'Wizard of Oz' or 'The Blue Lagoon' is something you either love or hate, but it perfectly reflects the type of over-the-top humor these writers want to bring. Val Kilmer does well in his first major role and his youthful charm helps increasing his teen-popstar credibility. Furthermore, there are a few delightful small roles for authentic cinema veterans such as Omar Shariff, Michael Gough and my personal favorite Peter Cushing. Top Secret isn't Abraham's and the Zucker brother's best work, but it's still great entertainment and the quality balances somewhere between 'The Kentucky Fried Movie' and 'Airplane'.
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