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HTF DVD REVIEW: Top Secret!



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#1 of 22 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted January 28 2009 - 03:17 PM


Top Secret!
Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

Studio: Paramount
Year: 1984
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 90 minutes
Rating: PG
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English; 2.0 stereo surround English, 2.0 mono French
Subtitles: English
MSRP: $ 12.99

Release Date: February 3, 2009
Review Date: January 28, 2009


Overview


Paramount is releasing another wave of low-priced titles with its popular “I Love the 80’s” promotion on February 3, 2009. The titles in this promotion are The Accused, American Dreamer, Black Rain, Cheech & Chong: Still Smokin’, Clue, Coming to America, Dragonslayer, Eddie Murphy Raw, Flashdance, Gallipoli, Golden Child, Harlem Nights, Heartburn, The Hunter, Lady Jane, Mommie Dearest, The Naked Gun, An Officer and a Gentleman, Ordinary People, The Presidio, Ragtime, Shirley Valentine, Staying Alive, Summer Rental, Trading Places, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, U2: Rattle and Hum, The Untouchables, Young Sherlock Holmes, and the film I chose from the review copies I was sent, Top Secret!

The Film

3/5

After the surprising smash success of Airplane!, directors-writers Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker tried something similar with Top Secret! This time, they’ve amalgamated the undercover espionage genre with a 60s beach party ethic. The result is a chaotic mess, never quite jelling into an even passably coherent story and yet filled with the same zany idiocy that made Airplane! so fall down funny. It’s not pretty, but it’s still a pretty good time.

Teenage rock sensation Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer) is invited to an international arts festival in (what was then) East Germany little knowing that once he gets there, he’s going to be dragged into an underground movement to thwart the Communists by rescuing valued scientist Dr. Flammond (Michael Gough) from his imprisonment. Nick’s involvement comes about by his falling in love with Flammond’s daughter Hillary (Lucy Gutteridge) whose boy friend Nigel (Christopher Villiers) just happens to be leading the squad that is attempting to rescue the noted physicist. But like all espionage tales, not everyone is who he seems to be, and there’s more than one surprise as Nick and Hillary fight off the German High Command.

Like Airplane! many of the real comic gems in the movie happen in the background, so a keen eye and repeated viewings are necessary to ferret out every last drop of hilarity from the movie. The script is far weaker than the one for Airplane! as a launching pad for the gags, but that doesn’t deter the directors from going for broke with all manner of slapstick shenanigans (poor Omar Sharif in a funny cameo appearance gets the worst of them) to ratchet up the laugh quotient. I did appreciate the East German women’s Olympic team, Kilmer’s exploration of his jail cell, and a singing horse, all of which had me howling. On the other hand, Hillary’s extended tale of her and Nigel’s being stranded on a deserted island brings the comedy to a screeching halt and is easily the film’s nadir. As Val Kilmer is playing an Elvis-like rock star, the film also stops several times for extended musical sequences, some played straight and some with sight gags added to the mix.

This was Val Kilmer’s first important film role, and he’s a more than adequate straight man for the lunacy happening around him. He performs all of his own singing, too, and does a creditable job with it. (Were musicals being done much in the 1980s, he might have been a more than agreeable leading man in them.) Lucy Gutteridge isn’t so fortunate in the principal female part. Without the flighty innocence that made Julie Hagerty so appealing in Airplane!, Gutteridge is just plain dull as both comedienne and love interest. We don’t have that astonishing collection of great character actors playing their nutty roles completely stone-faced as we did in Airplane! either but the movie does offer screen baddie Jeremy Kemp, the always stalwart Michael Gough, and another surprising cameo this time from the wonderful Peter Cushing as a book shop owner to play important roles.


Video Quality

3/5

The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. The transfer certainly looks dated for much of the running time with dirt flecks visible, color saturation rather anemic, and some scenes (like the “Skeet Shooting” musical number) horribly grainy and faded. Then, about twenty minutes before the end of the movie, everything sharpens up, color becomes vibrant, and flesh tones begin to look very good. It’s a very erratic transfer. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.

Audio Quality

3.5/5

The disc offers both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 stereo surround tracks, both sounding about the same but with the 2.0 track having a little stronger presence with the dialog in the center channel. The dialog in the 5.1 mix sounds veiled and slightly undercooked. The sound mixer has made sure that the numerous musical numbers and some ambient sounds (gunshots, speeding cars, missiles) use the entire soundfield making for a better than expected utilization of the surrounds.

Special Features

2/5

There is a VERY crowded audio commentary featuring directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, producers Jon Davison and Hunt Lowry, and hosted by moderator Fred Rubin. With all of these participants, you’d think you’d have non-stop talking, but you get just the opposite. There is occasional commentary that often goes silent, the silence broken only when moderator Rubin asks a question. They do acknowledge the film’s weaknesses and its lack of box-office success, something of a surprise.

The disc offers four alternate scenes which must be played individually. None is longer than a minute and in their entirety, they only run 3 minutes. They are presented in anamorphic widescreen.

Three storyboards are available for the viewer to step through. The sequences they represent are the skeet surfing number, the nightclub sequence, and Nick in prison.

The film’s original theatrical trailer is presented in anamorphic widescreen and runs for 1 ½ minutes.

Also included in the package is a CD entitled “Music from the 80s” containing four songs representative of the era.


In Conclusion

3/5 (not an average)

Not as good as the team’s Airplane! or The Naked Gun (or their television series Police Squad! for that matter), Top Secret! nevertheless has a fair share of laughs and inanity. Those who are dismayed by the lame parody attempts in more recent films like Date Movie or Meet the Spartans might find something more to their liking here.


Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC

#2 of 22 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted January 28 2009 - 09:26 PM

Actually, I find Top Secret to be the funniest of the
Zucker movies. Love this film! Should have seen a Blu-ray
release rather than an additional sDVD dip.

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#3 of 22 OFFLINE   Timothy E

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Posted January 29 2009 - 03:58 AM

I very nearly fell out of my seat during the scene with the pigeon statue. Posted Image

#4 of 22 OFFLINE   Jerome Grate

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Posted January 29 2009 - 05:05 AM

Ditto Ron's comment, certainly a BD release would have been worth the double dip.
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#5 of 22 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted January 29 2009 - 05:21 AM

"Skeet Surfin'" alone would be worth the price of this disc. Posted Image

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#6 of 22 OFFLINE   TravisD

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Posted January 29 2009 - 05:54 AM

I think you just have to be a WW2 nut to get some jokes,...and this movie was aimed at kids back in the day.

I still think the underwater fight is/was a hard shoot....for anyone.

#7 of 22 OFFLINE   AL KUENSTER

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Posted January 29 2009 - 06:24 AM

Have not watched this in years, think I will give it a spin. I could use a few good laughs in these uncertain times.
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#8 of 22 OFFLINE   Charlie O.

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Posted January 29 2009 - 08:32 AM

Are these "I love the 80s" sets just the same previously released discs with a Audio CD thrown in the case?

#9 of 22 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted January 29 2009 - 08:36 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlie O.
Are these "I love the 80s" sets just the same previously released discs with a Audio CD thrown in the case?

The transfers and bonus features are not new, and as we found out with FERRIS BEULLER that I reviewed last summer, Paramount didn't even use its most recent transfer instead going back to a dirty, artifact-loaded older master.

However, not having owned a previous release of TOP SECRET! I can only assume it's the same as what was previously released.

#10 of 22 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted January 29 2009 - 09:28 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MattH.
The transfers and bonus features are not new, and as we found out with FERRIS BEULLER that I reviewed last summer, Paramount didn't even use its most recent transfer instead going back to a dirty, artifact-loaded older master.

However, not having owned a previous release of TOP SECRET! I can only assume it's the same as what was previously released.
If you have a DVD-ROM drive, you can check the dates on the VOB files for an idea of when the disc was authored. I'm sure it is the same R1 Top Secret that was released in 2002, though.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
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#11 of 22 ONLINE   Todd Erwin

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Posted January 29 2009 - 10:41 AM

This sounds like it is the exact same disc as before, as the features are identical.

However, it is nice to see that Paramount is double-dipping just in time for "Macy's semi-annual Lincoln's Birthday Sale."

I doubt you'll find it in the pre-teen maternity department, though.... Posted Image

I love this movie!!!!!

#12 of 22 OFFLINE   Peter McM

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Posted January 29 2009 - 10:19 PM

That scene in the Swedish bookstore is brilliant! I wish they'd have thrown in as a bonus feature the filming of that scene forwards(?), as they actually did it.
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#13 of 22 OFFLINE   Scott D S

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Posted January 29 2009 - 11:16 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter McM
That scene in the Swedish bookstore is brilliant! I wish they'd have thrown in as a bonus feature the filming of that scene forwards(?), as they actually did it.

It's an Easter Egg. Whichever menu screen features Peter Cushing's character (either the deleted scenes or storyboards menu), hit "right" on your remote and then "enter" when the magnifying glass lights up.

#14 of 22 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted January 30 2009 - 03:08 AM

Best joke for me in the film is "The Anal Intruder." Posted Image

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#15 of 22 ONLINE   Todd Erwin

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Posted January 30 2009 - 03:47 AM

I"m still partial to the line "How do we know he's not Mel Torme?"

#16 of 22 OFFLINE   Bill Parisho

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Posted January 30 2009 - 11:44 PM

Forget this edition. I picked up Paramount's three disc triple feature - Airplane-Top Secret-The Naked Gun at Wal-Mart for $5! How sweet it is!

#17 of 22 OFFLINE   SteveJKo

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Posted January 31 2009 - 10:55 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy E
I very nearly fell out of my seat during the scene with the pigeon statue. Posted Image

For me it was that singing horse.
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#18 of 22 OFFLINE   Yee-Ming

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Posted February 01 2009 - 06:01 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveJKo
For me it was that singing horse.
For me it's the sequence with Nigel in the back of the cow costume, as first a calf comes to suckle -- cue his reaction -- then the bull comes and 'mounts' the cow, and then fast-forward to the next time we see Nigel, as he 'walks' towards Nick... Posted Image

Yes, this is one of my all-time favourites, but I already have the previous edition so this sounds like a pass. Must give it a spin soon, though.

#19 of 22 OFFLINE   Peter McM

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Posted February 02 2009 - 12:35 AM

Thanks, Scott for the Easter Egg info!
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#20 of 22 OFFLINE   Greg_S_H

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Posted February 02 2009 - 06:07 AM

What is the CD's track listing?


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