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Top Secret!

Top Secret! on DVD

How Silly Can You Get?

The gang that brought us Airplane! turned its sights on a different set of genres with Top Secret!

Yessiree, in one swell foop, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker now manage to skewer spy movies and Elvis films - at the same time. The result isn't quite as funny as Airplane! but it has more than its share of moments.

Val Kilmer stars as Nick (whose father thought up his name while shaving) Rivers, an Elvis clone who's invited to East Germany at the height of the Cold War to perform in a music festival that's really an attempt to divert attention from a nefarious Commie military scheme.

He's a real heartthrob and the East German chicks really dig Neek. But the authorities don't, and he finds himself drawn into the spy plot, fighting the Commies and joining forces with the French underground (what they're doing in Germany probably isn't important) cell of hilariously named freedom fighters.

And if you think there's anything sacred, wait until you see what Omar Sharif is put through! And talking about sacred cows, well, never mind.

Top Secret! features some great songs, including some great parody ones, and the typically brilliantly silly sight gags and sophomoric humor one would expect from this bunch of filmmakers. In short, you really should see this movie if you're interested in laughing out loud.

And get a load of the scene with Peter Cushing in the Swedish bookstore. The entire thing is shot in reverse and played back normally, making for an extremely strange scene that must have been extremely difficult to shoot. Why would they bother? Probably because they could.

Unfortunately, the DVD doesn't really do the movie justice. While the picture is presented in anamorphic widescreen format, 16x9 TV compatible, it's quite grainy for the most part and this is a real disappointment. Likewise the audio, which has been remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, isn't nearly up to Paramount's standards. It's often muddy and while overall it has to be considered marginally acceptable, the musical sections really suffer from a lack of "oomph."

Oh well. At least we can finally own this bit of comic genius on a format that doesn't wear out!

Paramount has included some extras on the disc, chief of which is a moderated gang commentary by the directors and producers. It's pretty funny. You also get some storyboards, four deleted scenes (three of which deserved it), and the theatrical trailer.

So while we're disappointed in the relatively substandard audio and video quality, we're delighted to have Top Secret! finally available on DVD. We hope, however, that Paramount will offer a special edition sometime down the road that'll have properly restored audio and video.

Top Secret! from Paramount Home Video
90min. anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Val Kilmer, Lucy Gutteridge
Produced by Jon Davison, Hunt Lowry
Written by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Marty Burke, directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker


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Updated May 13, 2006