EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|TOP SECRET! (director/writer: Jim Abrahams/David Zucker/Jerry Zucker; screenwriter: Martyn Burke; cinematographers: Jack Lowin/Christopher G. Challis; editor: Bernard Gribble; music: Maurice Jarre; cast: Val Kilmer (Nick Rivers), Lucy Gutteridge (Hillary Framond), Christopher Villiers (Nigel), Omar Sharif (Cedric), General Streck (Jeremy Kemp), Peter Cushing (Bookstore Owner), Warren Clarke (Colonel Von Horst), Michael Gough (Dr. Paul Flammond), Billy J. Mitchell (Martin, Nick's manager), Jim Carter (Déjà Vu, Resistance Member), Eddie Tagoe (Chocolate Mousse, Resistance Member), Richard Mayes (Comrade Biletnikov, Russian Tenor); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Hunt Lowry/Frederick Zollo/Jim Abrahams/David Zucker/Jerry Zucker; Paramount Home Entertainment; 1984)|
|"I found its
spirited irreverence to be refreshing."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The silly homage spoof on WW II
espionage films and Elvis flicks, with
seemingly a thousand low-brow gags and puns (that range from raunchy
anal dildo jokes to clever political ones about Ronald Reagan), was
breezily directed by the trio
of Wisconsin childhood
friends Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and his younger brother Jerry Zucker
("Airplane!"). The filmmakers
would do anything to get a laugh, even if it meant reaching for jokes
that had nothing to do with the storyline. The many films parodied
range from The Blue Lagoon to Casablanca. It marks Val Kilmer's screen debut, whose
charismatic performance steals the pic by setting the tone for its
goofy sendoff. A few of the gags work really well, but too many miss
the mark. Overall the amiable comedy is effective, except the familiar
banal plot gets too murky and gets in the way of the rapid-fire jokes
to put a slight damper on the broad slapstick routines.
Some East German big shot
government fascists, headed by General Streck (Jeremy
Kemp), plot to reunite
Germany under their leadership some time in the 1950s by a secret
strike to bottle up the
United States fleet during a cultural festival in East Berlin. The
Elvis-like American teen rock-and-roll star, Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer), is
invited to perform on his goodwill tour behind the Iron Curtain when
Leonard Bernstein cancels. The Commie fascists figure the world will
take their eyes off them to report only on the festival, as they
coincide their attack on the day of the festival. Don't ask what
happens with that storyline, as the filmmakers seemed to forget about
resolving that while bringing on a prison escape film.
meets in a fancy restaurant the pretty French resistance fighter named Hillary
Flammond (Lucy Gutteridge), who is on the lookout to make contact with
British agent Cedric (Omar Sharif), an escapee from the East Germans.
He's expected to help her imprisoned scientist father, Dr. Flammond
(Michael Gough), escape from the East Germans. The Reds imprisoned the
genius scientist and forced him to turn over to them the secret
weapon he created, or else face execution.
The lovebird couple team up with the French
underground fighters headed by Nigel (Christopher
Villier), the long lost childhood lover of Hillary who was marooned on
an island with her before disappearing. Nigel's someone she thought had
died, and she's now confused because she loves the Elvis clone and only
likes Nigel because she believes they're fighting for the same cause.
All the action scenes are
constantly interrupted to make way for rock 'n' roll numbers that
include a Beach Boys parody entitled "Skeet
Surfing" and Kilmer performing his versions of "Tutti Frutti" and "Are
None of it makes too much sense,
but it's energetic, the cast seems to be enjoying themselves, it was
goofy fun to see only the head of Omar Sharif who was squashed in a
Mercedes Benz that was compacted at a junkyard; and, it's hard to
resist a joke about a political
refugee who fled America by
balloon during the Carter administration and the one about the moron
East German torturer who gets all his information from the New York Post.
Top Secret! failed to measure up to the commercial success of Airplane!, as it seemed to stray too much on the wacky side in its slapstick bits to hit an ongoing momentum and the storyline seemed like only an afterthought. But it had a Marx Brothers-like anarchist's absurdity that was irresistible, and I found its spirited irreverence to be refreshing.
REVIEWED ON 4/21/2010 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ