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.
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.)