Yes, this is another of those. It’s Top Secret, from David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker. It came out in 1984 from Paramount Pictures, and I caught it on HBO something like 26 years ago and wasn’t able to get a copy until now. It’s on Amazon Prime, which makes for capturing these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.
I watched it going in blind. Had no idea what it was about. Just switched on the TV. A very grim start.
We see Omar Sharif as British Agent Cedric on top of a train at night, rushing across the countryside somewhere in East Germany. Remember East Germany (the DDR)? That’s how old this is. Agent Cedric is in mortal combat with an East German Gestapo-type, and he sees his chance.
The Gestapo fellow is standing erect with his back to an approaching overpass. All Agent Cedric needs to do is to duck down and let the masonry do its job. That’s not what happens. We watch in horror as the thug’s backside plows completely through the onrushing stonework without any apparent effect. Agent Cedric decides it’s time to bale, and viewers decide this is not going to be a serious production.
I have to mention the girl. She’s absolutely stunning, and this would not be much of a movie without her. She’s Hillary Flammond (Lucy Gutteridge) and she looks good, even with her clothes on.
Forget the plot. Following the opening scene, there is not much but a sequence of sight gags and comic situations. Here is one of them. Agent Cedric meets with Hillary, following which he takes a cab. It’s a retread of a James Bond device. At an automobile recycling site a crane with a magnet lifts the car, with Agent Cedric inside, and deposits it into the crusher.
But this is Top Secret, not Goldfinger, and presently Agent Cedric shows up at Hillary’s apartment, still encased in the crushed car.
This movie stars Val Kilmer as American rock star Nick Rivers, and this role gives him opportunities to turn the scene upside down with bravura stage performances. Here he is at a fancy reception, thinking (a mistake) he has been asked to sing. He ends up dancing on the piano, and the orchestra is completely converted, the bass guitarist finishing the number by smashing his instrument.
Later Nick identifies himself as the real Nick Rivers to a bunch of resistance fighters, but they suspect he’s actually Mel Tormé. He has to do another musical number—which gets the joint jumping—before they all agree he is not Mel Tormé.
Two iconic gags mark this production, the first being the opener. Toward the end the Gestapo types are charging in their truck when it goes out of control. Before the driver can get it stopped, the truck’s front bumper lightly taps the rear of a Ford Pinto.
The Pinto lets go with devastating fury, as they have been known to do. Now, that’s funny.
This was Kilmer’s first film role, and two years later he was Lieutenant Tom “Iceman” Kazanski opposite Tom Cruise in Top Gun. He does his own singing in three musical numbers that punctuate this plot. His dramatic contribution is not so remarkable. He apparently took some training later and was a hit as Kazanski.
This was one of Gutteridge’s few big screen parts. Too bad.
Taking a look at the offerings on Amazon I see what may be the full Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker collection. Besides writing this one (with Martyn Burke) they also directed. Their comedy runs the range of devices. Surprise: something happens that’s the opposite of what’s expected. Shock: outrageous actions by supposedly sane people. Skewed priorities: a letter given to a spy that “must be in New York by Tuesday” turns out to be an entry in the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. Play on words: the driver says his horse is not sick, just a “little hoarse.” It’s a little horse. Sexual taboo: male dancers performing The Nutcracker wear tights that show their enormous sexual organs bulging, which bulges are employed variously to support objects and other dancers.
Yes, a lot of the comedy is high school level. And there’s going to be more of it coming to this blog. Keep reading.