Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Written by “ZAZ” and Martlyn Burke
Starring: Val Kilmer, Lucy Gutteridge, Peter Cushing, Jeremy Kemp, Christopher Villiers, Omar Shrif
Tagline: From the makers of the original Airplane (not the Wright Brothers)
Trivia: Val Kilmer sang and performed all the songs.
From the folks who brought you Airplane and Police Squad came Top Secret!, a curious parody of World War II and the Cold War movies from prior decades. As one would expect the humor is goofy, often hit and miss, but with enough laughs to keep you going. Val Kilmer made his film debut as an Elvis type rocker who is going to tour East Germany only to get caught up in a wave of intrigue.
Top Secret! gets off to a slow start, but picks up steam as it moves along. The last 20 minutes are especially hilarious. The Zuckers/Abrams team (aka ZAZ) created a unique setting for their film, set during the Cold War, but more in the milieu of the Second World War. Apparently Nazis and the French Resistance were still at war in the 1950s, with Nazis planning to reunite Germany and destroy NATO.
Kilmer carries the film, displaying a gift for comic timing, which is ironic since he would be mostly known for dramatic roles (although his best comic performance would be as the Iceman in Top Gun). The rock and roll songs, some with original lyrics like “Skeet Surfing,” are also highlights. Supporting players provide a plethora of laughs including Lucy Gutteridge, Christopher Villiers, Peter Cushing, and many others. A gag involving a fake cow is a laugh out loud moment.
Film buffs will appreciate the homages to many great films, The Great Escape being the most prominent. While not the most widely remembered 1980s comedy, Top Secret! offers a breezy 90 minutes of gags, with flourishes familiar to fans of Airplane and The Naked Gun.