Today! Because if everybody had a 12 gauge/with a surfboard too –
Top Secret! (1984)
Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker (x2)
Starring Val Kilmer, Lucy Gutteridge, Omar Sharif, Peter Cushing, Jeremy Kemp, Warren Clarke, Michael Gough, Jim Carter, Ian McNeice, Christopher Villiers, Harry Ditson
Coming on the heels of writing and/or directing The Kentucky Fried Movie, Airplane!, and Police Squad!, the ZAZ team whipped up this WWII/Elvis parody, taking shots at everything from ’50s culture to The Blue Lagoon in the process. And while it might not reach quite the comedic heights of the productions before and after (The Naked Gun, Hot Shots!), there is a lot of fun in this film. Val Kilmer is terrific in his first big screen role, a sort of Conrad Birdie/Audie Murphy hybrid who interrupts the war resistance goings on to break out some rock & roll jams. He’s out to rescue fellow resister Hillary’s father, Dr. Flammond, played by the future Alfred to Kilmer’s Bruce Wayne Michael Gough! Huh! And Hillary actress Lucy Gutteridge’s only other role I’ve seen came in the same year, playing Belle to George C. Scott’s Scrooge! And Peter Cushing and Warren Clarke both co-starred with David Prowse in ’70s films on this list! None of this is really all that important.
While Airplane! so transcended its original material that people largely tend to forget it was a direct parody of the Airport film series, Top Secret! suffers by not having a one-to-one source to draw from. Sure, there are a lot of jokes that still work, so plenty of enjoyment can be had, but it badly needs to fill time too, thus the musical numbers. This creates a sort of disjointed melange of scenes requiring a little work to follow along.
Still, the men in the cow outfit, transforming into a real cow wearing boots, is such a great gag that it makes up for a lot. The backwards sequence with Peter Cushing’s bookstore owner is ingenious, and “Skeet Surfin'” is as great a musical opening number as any film has ever had. Top Secret! may get overlooked alongside the other ZAZ films of the time, but it’s still definitely worth watching.
A film with giant visual sight gags could probably claim a lot of our awards, given the manner that I’m determining criteria, and considering that it has no real awards to speak of, let’s at least hand over Best Compact Sharif, for Omar’s quick role condensed into a crushed automobile, and Best Singing Horse, for his rendition of “A Hard’s Day Night.”
#398 Ghost director Jerry Zucker becomes the fourth member of the director’s Two-Timer club, joining Altman, Scorsese, and Stallone, with his co-op work today! Nice!
Coming tomorrow! You can get further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word –