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Top Secret!

Top Secret! (1984) is the third feature-length comedy written by the Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker team and the follow-up to their directorial debut, Airplane!. Even if you’ve never seen a single film by the writing and directing team, surely you’re familiar with the ubiquitous references to their work in popular culture. And if you just read that sentence and heard the words “don’t call me Shirley” in your head, then you’ve just proved the point. The greatest gift they have bestowed on comedy cinema must be their dedication to making funny images, sight gags if you will, but for Deeper they are better described as laugh-out-loud tableau’s. And Top Secret! is the pinnacle of their brilliance.

The story involves Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer, in his first theatrical role), an Elvis-like rock idol who’s sent into East Germany for a goodwill tour. Once there, he is swept up into a spy plot by Hillary Flammond (Lucy Gutteridge), whose father (Michael Gough) is held captive by the Communists. Hillary takes Nick to the French Resistance—yes, in East Germany!—whose charismatic leader, Nigel “The Torch” (Christopher Villiers), is her former lover, and who seizes on the opportunity to use Nick’s knowledge of the prison to break Dr. Flammond out.

That’s the plot, but the movie is perhaps better appreciated for its farcical, even savage visual puns or sight-gag set pieces. Parodying everything, from rock idols to forced perspective shots to Professional Wrestling to goose-stepping Nazis to, well, cow disguises, with the ZAZ team’s trademark Rapid-Fire Comedy.

1h 30m
English, German, Yiddish, Latin, French
Captions [cc]

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