I Love the 80s Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Val Kilmer, Lucy Gutteridge, Jeremy Kemp, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough, Omar Sharif
Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 90 Minutes
Release Date: February 9, 2009

“Look, I’m not the first guy who fell in love with a girl he met in a restaurant who then turned out to be the daughter of a kidnapped scientist only to lose her to a childhood lover who she’d last seen on a deserted island and turned out 15 years later to be the leader of the French underground.”

“I know. It all sounds like some bad movie.”

Film ***1/2

The year was 1980 when a little movie called Airplane came out of nowhere and gave audiences around the world an excuse to laugh like hell. Four years later, the creators of that unmistakable comedy masterpiece, David and Jerry Zucker and their collaborator Jim Abrahams to create what would also result in a larger than life laugh fest. The movie, Top Secret!, inevitably does for war and spy movies what Airplane did for the disaster genre. There’s also a touch of a corny Elvis Presley musical in the mix, as the movie features countless music numbers that will have you rolling. It’s hard to recall a single movie in my viewing experience which has made me laugh harder in its first ten minutes alone.

The movie marks the film debut of Val Kilmer, who is remarkably funny as rock music sensation Nick Rivers, who holds the top four singles in the country; “Skeet Surfing”, “Skeetin’ U.S.A”, “Skeet City”, and a duet with Tammy Wynette called “Your Skeetin’ Heart”. Nick is on a worldwide tour which has currently landed him in East Germany. Upon arrival, he is greeted by uptight German personnel, who warn Nick to play by their rules while in their country. One of the biggest laughs in the movie is in this scene, when Nick is threatened at gun point by the Germans after telling one of them in German that he has just put one of them on the Montgomery Ward mailing list. What then follows is another winning scene, which spoofs the mapped outlined travel sequences from the Indiana Jones movies. As we follow Nick’s arrival in East Germany, his path is tracked to the point where the entire area evolves into a Pac Man game. Purely priceless.

The movie’s plot, for what can be taken seriously of it, consists of Nick’s encounter with a beauty named Hillary Flammond (Lucy Gutteridge), and their search for her missing scientist father, who is being held captive by the Germans and being blackmailed into creating a super weapon called the Polaris Mine. Along the way, Hillary runs into an old flame named Nigel, who she met on a deserted island long ago, and his nine French underground soldiers; Chevalier, Montage, Détente, Avant-Garde, Croissant, Soufflé, Escargot, Chocolate Mousse, and of course, Déjà vu, whose first words to everyone are, “Have we not met before?” 

The gags in Top Secret! are virtually endless. A good many of them come during the movie’s final attack scene, which involves an unusual grenade explosion, a falling body breaking into pieces, a car exploding after slightly tapping a parked vehicle, a window shootout game, cow mating, and many other memorable laugh riots.

Top Secret! is a movie for the history books as far as comedies are concerned. If you admired Airplane, The Naked Gun, and Hot Shots, and have never seen this comic gem, you shouldn’t hesitate to pick this one up.

BONUS TRIVIA: Stay tuned through the closing credits, as you’ll notice many distinctive credits, as in the Zucker/Abrahams tradition, such as:

Hey Diddle Diddle…………………………………………..…….The Cat and the Fiddle
Foreez……………………………………………………………..…A Jolly Good Fellow

Video **

My hopes were initially high during the opening moments of the presentation, but as the movie progressed, I kept going back and forth. This anamorphic transfer from Paramount starts out very impressively with a clear image and a certain level of sharpness to it. However, there were some instances, particularly that of close up shots, which turned up questionably hazy and hugely soft, softer than most flawed presentations, and with a little grain here and there. Bottom line, this would have been given a higher rating had it not been for these quick instances, because this presentation does have its moments of quality.

Audio ***

No complaints here at all. Paramount has done a most remarkable job for this now eighteen year old pic. The 5.1 audio mix serves the movie’s numerous musical numbers extraordinarily well, especially the opening beach number of “Skeet Surfing”, and Nick’s rendition of “Tutti Fruiti” at an elegant reception. Other areas succeed, too, such as dialogue and some occasional action moments, even though they all serve as a purpose for laughs than proving good sound quality. A much impressive presentation.

Features **1/2

Included is a humor filled commentary track by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, producers Jon Davison and Hunt Lowry, and moderator Fred Rubin. Also featured are four alternate scenes, storyboards, and a trailer, plus a bonus CD of some 80s music.


Top Secret! remains one of the funniest comedies of the 1980s, and belongs in the same class as Airplane and The Naked Gun. If you’re looking for a comedy that will have you chuckling endlessly, look no further than this madcap classic.

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