HTF REVIEW: "Top Secret!" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jul 10, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Top Secret!

    Studio: Paramount
    Year: 1984
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 90 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)

    It's not the first movie about a guy who
    fell in love with a woman that he met at a
    restaurant who turned out to be the daughter
    of a kidnapped scientist only to lose her to
    her childhood lover whom she last saw on a
    deserted island who then turned out fifteen
    years later to be the leader of the French

    Please allow me to get on my soapbox for a
    moment. Paramount is releasing two comedies
    next week that come as a direct result of the
    membership of Home Theater Forum. Top Secret!
    and Better Off Dead were titles that our
    membership campaigned for the studio to release.
    We would like to thank Paramount for listening
    and for releasing perhaps two of the greatest
    comedy titles in their catalog.
    Following the success of Airplane and
    before Naked Gun and Hot Shots!,
    there was Top Secret!, one of the most
    inventive and funniest of all the Zucker comedies.
    Perhaps Val Kilmer's finest work, Top Secret!
    is an inspired spoof of both World War II movies
    and Elvis Presley musicals.
    Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer), a very popular American
    Rock Star is invited to Germany to perform the
    first ever German rock and roll show. There he meets
    Hillary (Lucy Gutteridge), a member of the
    underground of whom Rivers gets involved with,
    risking his life!
    The subplot involves the Nazi's who are staging a
    cultural festival so that the world will be focusing
    on that rather than a secret attack on a submarine
    fleet using a new secret weapon designed by a
    captured scientist.
    The entire plot is just an excuse to set up a
    variety of set pieces, sight gags and song parodies
    that poke fun of just about everything and include
    homages to "The Blue Lagoon" and "The Great Escape."
    What is absolutely amazing is how well the jokes
    work in this film. If I dare say, I think Top
    Secret! is funnier than Airplane, in
    that the comedy is certainly more inventive this
    time around. You have to keep your eyes on
    everything that goes on within the screen's
    parameter. Many of the action taking place in
    the forefront usually gets upstaged by the comic
    gags going on in the background. As many times
    as I have watched this film, I still found myself
    busting out laughing at things I've missed or
    How is the transfer?
    After being sort of disappointed with the transfers
    of Hot Shots! and Better Off Dead, I have
    sort of resigned myself to the fact that comedies
    like this just aren't going to get the deluxe treatment
    by any studio.
    Top Secret! doesn't look bad. In fact, it
    looks better than Hot Shots! and Better
    Off Dead
    . The problem is that there is just
    that annoying level of film grain that's evident
    everywhere. In addition, the print sports quite
    a few blemishes, and, visible minor scratches that
    you wonder why wasn't cleaned up.
    Overall, colors look fine. The blue in Nick River's
    jacket during a German concert stands out quite
    vividly. Facial tones run a little red, and this
    is really what gives the film its dated look. Some
    scenes look better than others as far as grain and
    color accuracy go. In whole, the movie could have
    looked a lot worse and I think most people will be
    very happy with this transfer.
    The sound mix is sort of interesting. There is
    terrific stereo separation and the 5.1 surround
    provides some nice effects in the rear channel
    that include train noise, explosion effects and
    even a very funny echo effect when Nick sticks his
    head in an oven.
    The only slight problem I had was that the dialogue
    in the front channel was a bit low. I found myself
    having to constantly turn up the sound during the
    dialogue sequences, and quickly turn down the volume
    during the louder effect noises and musical numbers.
    And speaking of the musical numbers, they have never
    sounded better with all 5 channels coming into play
    at once with the sound of the orchestra bringing up
    the rears.
    Special Features
    I have to give credit to Paramount on this one.
    They provided some very cool supplements to satisfy
    the fans who waited so patiently for this film to
    be released.
    It's not often I listen to commentaries. However,
    as I have sat here writing this review, I have been
    enjoying the full-length audio commentary
    by Directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker & Jerry
    Zucker; Producers Jon Davison & Hunt Lowry; and
    Moderator Fred Rubin.
    These guys are having an absolute blast, and so
    will you. Every little tidbit you wanted to
    know about this film is brought out. We learn
    about the first time the boys met Omar Shariff
    and asked him to dinner only to be stood up.
    The guys talk about finding a young Val Kilmer
    (who was working on a stage play with Kevin Bacon),
    and signed him for his very first film. If you
    ever wondered what makes up a Nutcracker dancer's
    boner, the guys will be more than happy to explain
    it. A miniature of a street scene was left over
    from the SUPERMAN movie, and the guys will tell
    you where it can be seen. The guys don't hesitate
    to point out their parents who were extras seated
    during one of Val Kilmer's musical numbers. What
    is nice about this commentary is that the guys
    don't sit around laughing about their own jokes,
    but rather laugh at how some of the creative sets
    and miniatures were used such as the train station
    that was pulled by an off-camera car. This is really
    an all-out funny commentary that was well worth the
    extra effort to listen to.
    This is the kind of stuff I love! After all these
    years it's amazing to find that there are four
    additional scenes available for the very
    first time. Though the scenes are very short (less
    than a minute each), they are gags that the
    Directors obviously felt didn't work. I disagree.
    Presented in completed finished form, the four
    sequences include:
    * While imprisoned, the Professor explains the
    atomic structure of a small apple to Nick.
    * The German General playing fetch with his
    German Shepard. Be careful where you throw that
    ball as the dog may just follow it. Very funny!
    * While sitting on a park bench, Hillary exclaims
    she is thirsty. Thank goodness Nick has just
    about every beverage on hand to satisfy her thirst.
    * Burning passion has the two lovers rolling
    across a floor filled with burning fireplaces,
    ending up below a window of something larger
    There are three sets of storyboards for
    key scene sequences in the film. These sequences
    include Skeet Surfing; Nick in Prison and
    The Nightclub. You can surf through each
    of the drawings using the arrow keys on your remote.
    Boy does this bring back memories. I was working
    in a theater when I first saw the original
    trailer for this film. I remember audience
    after audience busting out in laughter as some
    of the best gags of the movie played against Val
    Kilmer singing "Tuti-Fruity". This was the trailer
    that sold the movie for me even before I had seen
    Final Thoughts
    For some reason, Top Secret has always
    been highly underrated and unappreciated. In
    my opinion, it stands out as being just as good
    as any of the other Zucker productions that came
    before or after it.
    Paramount has done justice to a film that fans
    on this forum have pushed to be released. They
    didn't just give us the film -- they gave us an
    enormously entertaining commentary, storyboards
    and deleted scenes.
    Anyone that loves Airplane!, Naked Gun or
    Hot Shots! should not hesitate to go out
    and buy this film.
    Release Date: July 16, 2002
  2. Will K

    Will K Screenwriter

    Feb 6, 2001
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    The transfer may not be reference quality but I think I'll be more than happy with this one when I get mine next week. Can't wait!

    "How do we know you're not Mel Torme?"
  3. Nicholas Vargo

    Nicholas Vargo Second Unit

    Oct 4, 2001
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    La Mesa, CA
    Real Name:
    Nicholas Vargo
    Yesterday, when I went to a retailer, I decide on a whim chance that they might have "Top Secret!" out early. I looked in the "T" section and I saw "Top Secret!". In fact, I also saw "Better Off Dead". I was happy I saw them early, but I didn't buy either title for two reasons:
    1.They were both $25 a piece
    2.I didn't have any money on me
    Simple as that
    As for the movie, I saw this for the first time in the early '90s on HBO and thought it was one of the weirdest comedies I had ever seen. I thought the Pac-Man sequence was very funny and if I have money next week, I will eagerly consider buying it. I would love to hear that ZAZ commentary. I thought their commentary for "Airplane!" was hysterical.
    Remember, check you local retailer for both "Top Secret!" and "Better Off Dead" and maybe "Gung Ho" and "Kids In The Hall: Brain Candy" too, but check. If they have those titles, it might be your first chance to pick them up.
    Post Edited by Administrator - Do Not Repost!
    Please don't name specific retailers that break street dates in releasing DVDS. Thank you.
    HTF Administrator
    Robert Crawford
  4. Wes C

    Wes C Supporting Actor

    Jan 7, 2002
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    IM only nineteen and Top Secret is one of the first movies I remember seeing. I first saw it at my cousins house, and the only scene i remembered was the dalmatian cows. Of course, I was about 4 or 5 and could not remember the name of the movie. Anyway about 8 years later, I walked past the Top Secret! at Blockbuster instantly recognized the cow, and instantly rented. I laughed harder than I ever have before for the entire movie. Imagine a 13 year old watching the ballet scene. Top Secret! instantly became my favorite comedy of all time, and it still is. Thank you paramount for releasing this movie!!! Now I only have 6 VHS movies left[​IMG]
  5. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

    Feb 24, 1999
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    can't wait [​IMG]
  6. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

    Jul 25, 2000
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    This is one of my very favorite comedies. Thanks for the review Ron, a must buy for me.
    This and BoD next week, thanks Paramount[​IMG][​IMG]
    Peace Out~[​IMG]
  7. MichaelG

    MichaelG Second Unit

    Jul 10, 2000
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    I will also be getting this one. I haven't seen it in years, can't wait.
  8. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator

    Mar 4, 2001
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    One Loudoun, Ashburn, VA
    Real Name:
    David Fischer
    I wasn't planning on getting this (didn't even know it was coming out, for that matter), but Ron's review reminded of how much I enjoyed it back in the day. This one goes on my list for future purchase. [​IMG]
  9. Matthew Chmiel

    Matthew Chmiel Cinematographer

    Apr 26, 2000
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    When I was eight, my babysitter at the time showed this to me and I remember finding it funny. I haven't seen it in a while, but I will purchase the DVD on Tuesday (along with Better Off Dead... and Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy).
    And Ron, we agree on yet another thing today. [​IMG]
  10. Jacinto

    Jacinto Second Unit

    Jul 8, 2002
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    Littleton, Colorado
    Real Name:
    Thanks for the review, Ron. I marked the release date on my calendar when it was first announced, and have been waiting anxiously ever since.

    Does it make me a total dork that I just bought a new widescreen RPTV and Progressive Player last week in anticipation of this glorious event? I'm trying to bribe my brother (an ISF Calibrator) to come tweak my TV this weekend so I can enjoy this masterpiece in its full glory.
  11. BrettB

    BrettB Producer

    Feb 1, 2001
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    Thanks for the review Ron, and many thanks to Paramount.[​IMG]
  12. Matthew Furtek

    Matthew Furtek Stunt Coordinator

    Nov 29, 2001
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    I just ordered the Naked Gun movies in anticipation of owning the Zucker Abrahmans Zucker (ZAZ) Anthology.

    Kentucky Fried Movie (original cover)
    Top Secret
    The Naked Gun

    Hopefully sales of all their previous DVDs have opened them up to putting out Police Squad on DVD. I don't know who owns the rights, but I'm sure ZAZ would love to do it.

    Matthew Furtek
  13. Sam Owens

    Sam Owens Stunt Coordinator

    Mar 9, 2002
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    Thanks for the review Ron.

    I have this on order and all I can say is 'Bring on Police Squad'.
  14. Bob Turnbull

    Bob Turnbull Supporting Actor

    Dec 2, 2001
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    Let me echo echo echo the comments about Police Squad. Only 6 ever episodes made and still in my mind one of the best TV shows ever aired. Subtlety mixed with total silliness and very little mugging for the camera.
    Special features (ZAZ commentary and anything else they might have stashed in the vaults) would be just lovely.
    Oh yeah, I'll be snagging Top Secret day of release too (and Better Off Dead and Amelie).
  15. Colin-H

    Colin-H Second Unit

    Jun 25, 2002
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    Oh man. I saw this movie on Comedy Central at like 8am. It was one of those morning-after-all-nighter deals, and I figured the movie would put me to sleep. I gotta tell you, I was howling. It was impressive. I think I'm going to have to pick this one up.

    I can't resist this DVD thing. Better Off Dead is such a staple of the 80s teen movie canon, I'm going to have to get that, too. Are there therapists available to HTF members? I'm squandering my weekly paycheck on DVDs now.
  16. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

    Jan 22, 1999
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    Real Name:
    Aaron Silverman

    Weren't some of the best gags from Police Squad! redone in the Naked Gun movies?
  17. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    There is no doubt that Paramount has hit
    the jackpot next week with these two releases.

    In fact, for the rest of the year, Paramount's
    catalog releases seem to be more exciting as
    most of the "A" titles being released from other

    We really are getting the meat of their catalog
    and it just feels so good to have this stuff
  18. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

    Oct 3, 2000
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    Couldn't agree more, Ron! I LOVE Top Secret! and I cannot wait to get this DVD!! As always, great review.
    None of my family members have seen Top Secret! yet, and I anticipate one giggle-filled evening!
  19. andrew markworthy

    Sep 30, 1999
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    I posted this on another thread as well, but what the heck.

    There's a v. good Easter egg, which let's you see the Swedish bookstore scene as it was originally filmed and to hear the originl dialogue (in the final movie, you're actually seeing the film run backwards). To access it:

    Find the extras menu page with the bookstore owner holding a magnifying glass to his eye. Move the pointer onto the eye and click.
  20. Jeremy Conrad

    Jeremy Conrad Supporting Actor

    Nov 27, 2000
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    The Pinto will always be my favorite moment [​IMG]

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