January 1, 2013

Top Secret (1984)
Starring Val Kilmer and Lucy Gutteridge

It all sounds like some bad movie

Comments:   Over the years people have always asked me one question.  They always ask me, "Hey Mario, out of all the movies you have seen in your life, which one have you seen the most times?"  Since I am a well known OCD movie-obsessor, people always want to know which movie I have obsessed over the most.

Well to be honest, this is an easy question because it really isn't even close.  If there is one movie I have seen more often than any other movie over the past 38 years, it is Top Secret.  I can honestly say I have watched Top Secret somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 times.

Now here is the catch.  I know that most of the people who are reading this page (especially if you are under 21) have probably never even heard of Top Secret.  And that is a shame.  Because I feel it was easily one of the ten best comedies of the 80's.  In fact, not only was it one of the ten best comedies of the 80's, I could make a case that it is actually the funniest comedy of the 80's.  It was one of the main reasons I wanted to put together this collection of movies that I think deserve more love.

What is Top Secret about?  Well before I answer that question I need to give you a little history lesson.  Because that will help you understand what kind of a movie it is and why I think it is so amazing.

Have you ever seen the movie Airplane?  Of course you have.  According to a poll conducted a couple of years ago on Entertainment Weekly, Airplane was named one of the five best comedies of all time.  It is a movie that almost everyone knows and loves.  Which, of course, means that it will never make this webpage.  It is popular and it deserves every bit of popularity that it gets.

Well the guys who made Airplane (the Zucker Brothers) made four amazing comedies during their prime.  Airplane is the best of them all, of course, but there were three other Zucker comedies that were nearly as good.  Most everyone knows The Naked Gun (1988) of course, but the two that hardly anyone remembers these days are The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) and Top Secret (1984).

The Kentucky Fried Movie was the first Zucker Brothers comedy and... well... we will come back to that one later.  Suffice it to say it will also be making this list of great movies that deserve more love.  I will write a lot more about it later.

Airplane (1980) was the second Zucker Brothers movie and of course it was a smash hit.  To this day I bet you can walk up to any person who is my age (38) and you can quote them an Airplane line.  And I bet they will know the punchline before you get there.  That is what a big deal it was.

And then, in 1984, the Zucker Brothers made their third movie.  They made Top Secret.  It was the follow up to Airplane.

The only way I can describe Top Secret is "well it is a lot like Airplane."  It is just puns, sight gags, wordplay jokes, irony jokes, funny musical numbers, and absurd visual jokes galore.  And I have never understood why Airplane became so beloved and Top Secret became so forgotten.  I mean, they are practically the exact same movie.  Same style, same directors, same type of humor, same everything.  The only difference is that Airplane is a parody of a disaster movie and Top Secret is a parody of an Elvis movie.  Other than that, if you love one you will love the other one.  And considering that everyone and their mother already loves Airplane, well you can see where I am going with this.

Top Secret came out in 1984 (when I was 10 years old) and man, I just obsessed over it.  My brother and I both obsessed over it.  We thought it was the funniest thing we had ever seen.  I had a VHS copy of Top Secret that I taped off of Showtime and I swear to god, that thing was on an endless loop in our living room just about every day.  I always had it on in the background, whether I was studying, reading, playing computer games, or whatever.  Whenever I was home, Top Secret was one of the movies that was almost always playing somewhere in the background.  Just because I wanted to be able to memorize it through the process of audio osmosis.

I still watch Top Secret from time to time, and I think that it holds up as well as Airplane does.  And it always amazes me that THIS was the first movie that Val Kilmer ever did.  And that he was so freaking good in it!  Do you know that he sang his own songs in the movie?  Aside from the Doors I'm not sure he ever had a movie where he had to sing like that.

If even one person reads this page and decides to give Top Secret a chance, and it turns out that they love it, I will consider this website a success.  This was the movie that inspired me to make a list of 200 movies out there that deserve more love.  And I am thrilled that it is the first movie that I get to write about.

* My Favorite Top Secret Quotes:

Doctor Flamond: You see, a year ago, I was close to perfecting the first magnetic desalinization process so revolutionary, it was capable of removing the salt from over 500 million gallons of seawater a day. Do you realize what that could mean to the starving nations of the earth?
Nick Rivers: Wow. They'd have enough salt to last forever.

General Streck [talking on the phone]: What is the condition of Sergeant Kruger?
General Streck:  Very well, let me know if there is any change in his condition.
[Hangs up]
General Streck:  He's dead.

Du Quois: Well, Mr. Rivers, it seems that you have become... how do you say indispensable?
Nick Rivers: Indispensable.
Du Quois: That's what I thought.

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about Top Secret:

Best laughs per minute movie there is - 6 June 1999
Top Secret! is great in that it goes for laughs EVERYWHERE. It's not afraid to grab smart humor or fart humor. Some of it is tasteless, but it has more moments to laugh at than any other movie I've seen. Val Kilmer is amazingly funny in his first movie. My personal favorite scene is the book store scene. There's an old joke that Swedish movies sound like the dialogue is being played backwards, so what do you do in the Swedish bookstore? You shoot the scene backwards. Great comedy!

Sets a standard for funny movies - 10 January 2006
This is simply Marx brothers in the 80's. So many remarkably intelligent gags that are simply so laughable to think of days after the movie is unique. Where other funny movies rely on one-liners to carry the movie, this stays funny also in the 2nd and 3rd view. More, the movie builds itself up to become more and more funny and crazy, and never loses pace. What is wrong with you guys. This deserves a much better ranking than a mere 6.8. See it over a few beers with some good friends and you will have a most enjoyable evening. Omar Sharif in the crushed car, and the unlikely detailed model of the castle followed by the funniest prisoner freeing scenes of all times simply makes you laugh to tears. Val Kilmer was never in my list of top-actors, but he does a remarkable job in this comedy. He can sing like Elvis, and dance like Travolta. I'm surprised he never got a similar role where those skills could be expressed further.

Brilliant, in an eighties adolescent kind of way -  14 December 2005
This is one of three movies I would consider 'The best I've ever seen'.

I'll happily admit that this movie is very silly, but the first time I saw it I roared and cried with laughter. Well, I was fifteen ;-) I've seen it more than 20 times and only after about 15 times I really believed I've spotted all the jokes.

This movie is far from a piece of art, but I cannot think of any other movie I enjoyed more and that's what it's all about isn't it? More jokes per minute than you'll ever see and probably tailored to eighties adolescents but I don't care. 10 out of 10. If you find a girl who likes it, marry her.

* The One Scene in the Movie that Always Kills Me:

There are so many great scenes and quotes and subtle sight gags in Top Secret (aka the janitor closet containing the actual janitor) that it is almost impossible for me to pick one.  But if I had to pick one favorite, I will go with the scene where the Ford Pinto blows up towards the end.  That moment will never not make me laugh.  Especially because it was common knowledge among any kid in the 80's that if a Pinto got hit from behind, it would explode.  The movie just took that to the next logical (and funniest) step.

Special mention to the scene where the German guards are goose stepping through the castle and their boots come flying off.  Classic.

*ding*  BOOM!

Top Secret at the IMDB

Top Secret at Wikipedia

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