Jacob Latimore, Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett star in director Kasi Lemmons' seasonal drama.
On Film4: 17 Dec 11:00AM
An American singer playing a festival in World War II-era Germany falls in love with a Resistance fighter who's father's been kidnapped by the Nazis. Spoof comedy from the Airplane! team starring Val Kilmer
Having honed their gag-a-second style with the massively popular Airplane!, the creative team of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker turned their joke radar onto the unlikely genres of WWII films and Elvis musicals. While in the wrong hands this seemingly bizarre combination might illicit more head scratching than laughter, the ZAZ team manage to deliver one of their funniest and most under-appreciated spoof comedies.
Starring a then unknown 24-year-old by the name of Val Kilmer, Top Secret! is a film that boasts more puns, sight gags, double entendres and crude humour per frame than any other picture. Probably Kilmer's reputation as a sourpuss led some people to believe his comedic turn in 2005's Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
was a revelation but Top Secret! reveals an impressive natural affinity for comedy that has been sadly under-utilised over the years.
The near non-existent plot revolves around American teen idol Nick Rivers (Kilmer) visiting East Germany for a concert during the Second World War. Here he meets and falls in love with Hillary Flammond (Gutteridge), a young girl whose scientist father has been taken prisoner by the Germans (as Rivers says, "I'm not the first guy who fell in love with a woman that he met at a restaurant who turned out to be the daughter of a kidnapped scientist only to lose her to her childhood lover who she last saw on a deserted island who then turned out 15 years later to be the leader of the French underground.") Along the way they encounter Peter Cushing and Omar Sharif in rare comedic roles, as well as a glut of ridiculous situations designed for the simple purpose of making the audience wet their pants. In a good way.
Released in 1984, the film performed poorly at the box office, ultimately going on to become something of a cult classic among comedy fans. Considering that Top Secret!'s fast and furious comedy style is not too dissimilar from the hit Airplane!, the reason for the film's initial failure is unclear - a number of ZAZ aficionados consider it to be funnier than the revered Airplane! and the Naked Gun series.
Featuring cows wearing boots, a scene involving skeet surfin' (filmed in Cornwall of all places), and French characters named 'Déjà Vu' and 'Avant Garde', this is an absurd comedy that hits far more times than it misses.
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