ZAZ: Top Secret! (1984)

ZAZ: Top Secret! (1984)

As my continuing fascination with the low brow comedies of ZAZ (Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker) continues, I made it to Top Secret! - which I somehow was able to miss every time that it was on TNT or TBS during my adolescents. And considering how ridiculous it is even now, it probably would have done me well to snag a quick viewing during my teen years. That doesn’t mean that the flick isn’t funny to this day, but its target audience is and was probably closer to 15 than anything else.

I would be remiss if there was no mention of this being Val Kilmer’s debut film role. Regardless of the pretty light fair that this movie is constructed of, his contributions don’t reveal an actor in the formative stages of his career. And while he still probably still shouldn’t consider running for elected office, this duffer of a comedy isn’t really a blemish on his list of credits.

Like most of the other ZAZ flicks from the early ‘80s, a good portion of Top Secret! is comprised of various sight gags or tongue and check puns – some of which might escape a modern audience. At times it seems that portions of this film were conceived completely independently of the narrative and summarily stuck in place when time allowed. It works, for the most part and even if a good many of these references or simple minded gags aren’t going to play with crowds made up of a wide spectrum of the viewing audience, the scene when Val Kilmer joins Peter Cushing – yes that Peter Cushing – in his bookstore might be an important milestone in mainstream film.

No doubt the self proclaimed autuers of film at some point or another saw fit to run a scene backwards, but I can’t readily recall a Hollywood release that includes dialogue being given that treatment as actors move in astounding ways, betraying gravity and good sense. It’s funny. And that, for ZAZ, is the bottom line.

The plot, which is actually recounted by Kilmer in a meta-joke on the writers, is a bit preposterous. As that remains a constant for ZAZ, the inclusion of a number of historical filmic references persists in this film, perhaps even more so than in some of the Leslie Neilson features. Kilmer, in his role as an Elvis type super star, runs through action takes that abound with Steve McQueen checks as well as a number of war flicks – the entirety of the film taking place in East Germany.

And as a final, omnipresent piece to the ZAZ conception of film, their resplendent dick and fart jokes here might actually surpass the crew’s other work. Towards the end of the flick, arch bad guy, Nigel (Kilmer’s competition for ‘the girl’), while attired as a cow, is plundered by an eager bull and walks about bow legged for the remainder of the film.

Tasteless, yes. But still amusing and more than worth an hour and twenty some odd minutes of brain rotting.