Thursday, 6 August 2015

Top Secret!: The funniest movie you've never heard of

Top Secret! is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. Sadly, it is a film that the unwashed masses have never seen. The brainchild of Jim Abrams, David and Jerry Zucker (known collectively as ZAZ, they are the writing-directing trio behind Airplane! and The Naked Gun), it is the missing link between Airplane! and the Police Squad movies.

A big bomb on its original release, ZAZ's underrated follow-up to Airplane! is finally getting the respect it deserves. While it's more scattershot than Airplane!, it has more great gags and flat-out bizarre ideas than most comedies.

The story for this one is kind of complicated. Basically, it is a parody of both World War II movies and Elvis movies. Music star Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer, brilliant) goes on a tour of East Germany and gets caught up in a complicated scheme involving the Stasi (who are dressed like Nazis) and the resistance (who are French).

This movie is bananas. It starts out as a parody of pre-Brit Invasion rock and roll, with Kilmer doing a killer variation on Presley's meat head persona. As soon as Nick crosses over into East Germany, the movie seems to time warp back into a deranged World War II movie featuring train stations on wheels, a suave secret agent (Omar Sharif) who has been fused with the wreckage of his car, and a commando force disguised as a cow.

There are too many great gags to run through, but Top Secret is one of the most inspired comedies of the last half century. There are jokes about Elvis, Nazis, movie cliches, surf rock, Mel Torme, Tarzan, forced perspective, blaxploitation movies and Swedish. It's no wonder that ZAZ ran out of steam -- they threw every idea they had into Top Secret!

With its simple plot and stronger characterisation, Airplane! will always have a leg-up over its successor, but Top Secret! is far from the failure it is made out to be.

You may think the jokes I have listed are spoilers, but I have barely scratched the surface. The gag rate in this movie is truly jaw-dropping, and I cannot recommend Top Secret! enough. This movie will shatter your funny bone.

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