Top Secret! I Love the 80s
February 1, 2009

The first series of I Love the 80s DVDs consisted of 40 films of the era, repackaged with a neon border and a $14.98 list price. Now, out on Tuesday, there’s a second series of 30 movies, including drama, comedy, concerts, Oscar winners, and many starring Eddie Murphy.

Top Secret! cover
Top Secret!
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One of those re-releases is Top Secret!, my favorite of the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker productions (Airplane!) because the kind of movie it satirized was most familiar to me. I hadn’t seen many disaster films or hard-boiled detective dramas (or even WWII spy movies, half of Top Secret’s formula), but the teen musical and the Elvis movie, those I knew. Plus, I found 1984-era Val Kilmer (in his first movie!) cute.

Kilmer is Nick Rivers, a singing sensation on his way to a festival in East Germany. He meets up with a lovely girl whose father has been captured by the Nazis. (Well, maybe they’re the Communists. It doesn’t really matter.) While searching for him, they encounter the desert-island-raised Nigel (played by Christopher Villiers, who looks eerily like a young, blond Tom Hanks) and a French Resistance group named after gourmet food. Adventure ensues.

It still makes me laugh, from the opening “Skeet Surfing” musical number (which, like the original beach movies, also looks like it was filmed during the winter) to the bizarre “Swedish” bookstore sequence. All of the music is funny, actually, including the concert performance of “How Silly Can You Get?” (which could be the ZAZ theme song) that looks like the second coming of the Beatles.

The ZAZ movies were never afraid to go for a gag, no matter how silly, and sometimes regardless of whether it really fit the scene. Their oddly twisted and creative way of looking at the world underlies it all, even when you see the joke coming. As a result, their movies are still very funny. I kept laughing at scenes I’d forgotten. (Where did the underwater bar come from?)

On a minor note, crowd scenes in their films usually look like they rounded up a bunch of relatives or crew members or something to fill in the backgrounds. It’s unusual to see so many different ages and shapes these days.

Special features include the trailer, storyboards for three scenes (including Skeet Surfing), alternate versions of four scenes, and a commentary with the three directors/co-writers — Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker — plus two producers and a moderator. This would make an excellently odd double feature with Real Genius: “Val Kilmer: From Adventure Doofus to Smart-Ass Geek”.

Additional titles in this round of “I Love the 80s” are

All the discs come with a four-song CD sampler, consisting of “Lips Like Sugar”, “Chains of Love”, “Need You Tonight”, and “Take on Me”. (This is the same sampler from the first series of DVDs.) Unless you particularly like the matching packaging, you may be able to find earlier editions of the same DVD cheaper; this one goes for $9.98, for example, instead of the $14.98 repackage price. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the studio.)

12 Responses  
Caster writes:  

I didn’t know whether to gawk at the YouTube video or laugh…

Tim O'Shea writes:  

I was so hoping you would leave the “complimentary copy” info off, just to see people blow a gasket.

In what universe would anyone want to see Golden Child again? Raw? Sure. But Golden Child?–I think I enjoyed Leonard Part VI more.

Staying Alive? The horrible Saturday Night Fever sequel–how did that film even stay on the DVD in the burning process? Is some secret plot by Tom Cruise to revitalize John Travolta’s 1980s lackluster film catalog–where’s Perfect then? :)

But Top Secret? The Ford Pinto scene makes this film a classic, if nothing else. And I want to own that giant phone some day.

I love when you deviate from comics reviews, Johanna. I appreciate all your reviews, but to gain insight into your other likes/dislikes (as well as KC’s and the rest of the CWR gang, of course) is a bonus.

Johanna writes:  

Oh, I’m glad you like them! Variety keeps me more interested — talking about only one thing would bore me. And that doesn’t make for good writing.

David Oakes writes:  

“Golden Child” may just be Eddie Murphy’s best theatrical film. (“Raw” is a concert film. It’s like trying to compare “Richard Pryor: Live” to “Brewster’s Millions”. Meaningless.) Damning by faint praise to be sure, but there you go.

It also features Charles Dance, who could even make “Last Action Hero” look good. Really what we need is a “I [Heart] Charles Dance proping up some supposedly Bankable Star” DVD collection.

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[…] I had an advance copy, and since I watched Top Secret! yesterday, I figured I’d go ahead and complete the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker trilogy (memorably […]

Tim O'Shea writes:  

David, I didn’t explain myself clearly enough for you. I meant I understood including Raw in the above list, but saw no reason to include Golden Child. They are both on the list, I saw a reason for one, not for the other. That’s all.

We’ll have to agree to disagree, I guess, as I enjoyed Trading Places, 48 HRS, Bowfinger and Beverly Hills Cop far more than I ever did Golden Child.

Johanna writes:  

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised no one has mentioned Vampire in Brooklyn.

Tim O'Shea writes:  

Heh, Draper Carlson wins…again.

Looking at that cast I am shocked–Angela Bassett!?!

Directed by Wes Craven…also featuring Joanna Cassidy (among several other talented actors)

Never saw it, but now I have a morbid curiosity to drive by the car wreck.

David Oakes writes:  

Sorry, Tim, I wasn’t being clear. Being a concert film, “Raw” is in a different class, and a totally different side of Murphy. Both it and a thetrical film would be neccessary to encompass his ouvre, and hence the 80s. (Harlem Nights would be superfluous, except that it has Richard Pryor, and really, what more reason do you need.)

TP and 48H are Eddie Murphy playing Eddie Murphy, while Golden Child is the culmination of actual acting and character growth that was hinted at in BHC. Bowfinger should probably match it if not excced it, but I simply refuse to accept “Hollywood insider” movies on their own merits. Too self-indulgent, like books about writers.

Vampire is no Golden Child, or even BHC. Though it is better than Coming to America. Actually it is CtA, but with Wes Craven directing. I am not sure they even had to get new scripts. (Full disclosure, I actually enjoyed Dracula 2000 on an intellectual level.)

Dan Coyle writes:  

Wait, The Accused? A good film, and a film of the 80s, but it’s also a deeply disturbing story about rape. Under an “I love the 80s” banner, the cognitivie dissonance is kind of astounding.

Dan Coyle writes:  

Also kind of stretching it: Tucker: the Man and His Dream, and Ordinary People?

Johanna writes:  

I liked Vampire in Brooklyn because I thought Murphy made a surprisingly good magnetic vampire.

And yeah, Dan, I’m not eager to run out and watch The Accused again, let alone own it. But Tucker, that I’d like to see again, and its story of corporate striving seems well-suited to the 80s.


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