Peter’s Retro Reviews: Top Secret! (1984)

July 24, 2014

Top Secret movie posterby Peter Nielsen

”If they find out you’ve seen this, your life will be worth less than a truckload of dead rats in a tampon factory”

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s the middle of the summer and I’m in the midst of my vacation, so I thought it was time to change decade. We’ve been staying in the 70’s for quite a while now and I actually still have a couple of good ones from that period lined up for you, but we’ll get back to those later, I promise!

This week we’re back in the 80’s by way of the Second World War, but before you think I’ve chosen a serious subject matter, let me tell you there’s nothing serious about Top Secret!. Everything is silly in this movie! And when I say everything…

I mean everything! Even the end credits are silly, for Pete’s sake!

General Streck answering the IMPORTANT phone!

General Streck answering the IMPORTANT phone!

There’s a lot going on in Top Secret! and I’m not even going to try to explain it all, because I can’t! So, the story is as follows… or, at least the basic outline of it!

In order to “disguise” a large military operation involving something called the Polaris mine, the East German general, Streck, played by Jeremy Kemp (King Lear), has arranged for a musical festivity of sorts to take place. Guests from both Russia and the U.S. are going to perform, but when the original American guest is unable to attend, the choice instead falls on the popular heart-throb and singer Nick Rivers.

Mr. Rivers is played by Val Kilmer in his first feature film. He would go on to star in movies such as Real Genius, Top Gun, Willow and The Ghost and the Darkness to name a handful. I’ve always liked Mr. Kilmer; he’s a great actor and has delivered a bunch of solid performances throughout his career. Oh, and in case you’re wondering… yes, that IS him singing whenever Nick Rivers performs his popular tunes in the movie! Good songs, by the way, and yes… they too are silly!

"How Silly Can You Get?"

“How Silly Can You Get?”

The festivities starts with a large dinner and dance reception, which is where Nick first meets Hillary Flammond, played by Lucy Gutteridge (The Secret Garden, Tusks). He compliments her on having a nice name and she tells him it means …she, whose bosom defies gravity. Hillary, as it turns out, plays a big part in this particular story, since it’s her father, Dr. Flammond, who’s developing the Polaris mine that I mentioned earlier. Not by his own free will of course; he’s being held in Flürgendorf Prison, where Nick later meets him.

Attending a ballet, Nick sees Hillary getting attacked by a man and he, of course, steps in to help her. Unfortunately, the man in question is a German police officer, which is why Nick ends up in prison. We also find out that Hillary is working with the resistance to free her father.

Hillary measuring Nigel's assets!

Hillary measuring Nigel’s assets!

And speaking of the French resistance… what a silly lot they are! They’re led by a former sweetheart of Hillary’s, named Nigel. The scene introducing him is a spoof of the movie The Blue Lagoon! You know… the one with Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins? Nigel is played by an actor named Christopher Villiers who’s done a lot of TV-work, including a long stint (95 episodes) on the British TV show Emmerdale, or Emmerdale Farm as it was originally called. It started in 1972 and is still going strong! It’s kind of staggering to think that between then and 11th July 2014, they’ve made 6913 episodes! My mom and dad used to follow this, so I’ve actually seen a fair amount of episodes myself, but this was back in my youth when it was still called Emmerdale Farm. But I digress!

The other members in the resistance all have names like Du Quois, Déjà Vu, Chocolate Mousse, Latrine, Montage and Souffle; and together with Nick and Hillary they hatch a silly plan to rescue her father. Unfortunately they have a traitor in their midst!

Two silly undercover agents!

Two silly undercover agents!

Top Secret! was written and directed by David & Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams, who also did Airplane! for instance, and if you liked that one… chances are you’ll like Top Secret! too! It’s a great parody of World War II spy movies and also the Elvis Presley musicals that used to be very popular back in the day, and to some degree, still are, I suppose.

What also helps with raising the bar on this movie is the fact that there are actually a couple of big names attached to it; like actors you might not normally connect with a movie like this. Omar Sharif from such movies as Doctor Zhivago and Ashanti for instance, is the poor agent Cedric who, at one point, even gets squished in one of those bailing press type compactors that you use for junk cars! Don’t worry… he survives!

Hillary’s father, Dr. Flammond, is played by Michael Gough who has almost 180 credits to his name, The Dresser and The Fourth Protocol being two of them. He also played Alfred Pennyworth in 4 Batman movies.

New gadgets!

New gadgets!

There’s a brief, but funny scene taking place in a “Swedish” bookstore and the proprietor of that is played by none other than the legendary actor Peter Cushing. I’m sure you’ll recognize him, but in case you don’t… just look him up!

Both Warren Clarke who plays Colonel Von Hurst and Ian McNeice who plays the agent/blind souvenir vendor are fairly recognizable too. They’re both very funny in Top Secret! though.

I love this movie, and it’s one I’ve seen many times… Well, you kind of have to, in order to take it all in! As I stated at the start of this review, there’s so much going on, like little things in the background that you might miss on the first viewing. But if you like this kind of comedy, you won’t mind watching it a second time anyway, so… I mean, at one point there’s even a singing horse! So in answer to a song Nick Rivers sings in the movie… “How Silly Can You Get?”… Apparently very much so!

Oh, and keep an eye out for Daisy the cow who plays an intricate part in the escape plan! Daisy actually has 3 credits on IMDb! This one and Twice Under and Backwoods! And come on… how often do you see a cow wearing rubber boots? Not that often, right?

Until next time, my friends, please leave any thoughts you have on Top Secret! in the comment section below!

Retro Movie Geek © 2015