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Top Secret! (1984) is the second feature-length comedy by the Zucker Abrahams Zucker team (third, if one counts The Kentucky Fried Movie), and stars Val Kilmer in his first theatrical role, as Nick Rivers, an Elvis-like rock idol sent into East Germany for a goodwill tour. Once there, he is swept into a spy plot by Hillary Flammond, whose father is held captive by the Communists. Hillary takes Nick to the French Resistance (yes, in East Germany), the charismatic leader of which is her former lover, and who seizes on the opportunity to use Nick's knowledge of the prison to break Dr. Flammond out.
That's the plot, but the movie is perhaps better appreciated for its farcical, even savage zaniness. It parodies everything, from rock idols to forced perspective shots to Professional Wrestling to goose-stepping Nazis to, well, cow disguises, with the ZAZ team's trademark Rapid-Fire Comedy. "And I'll miss you most of all, Scarecrow!"
This movie contains examples of:
- Affectionate Parody: WWII espionage films, and to a lesser extent, Elvis movies.
- Air Vent Passageway: Parodied. It takes him a couple tries to find the right one, but there seem to be several more than strictly necessary. One of them inexplicably leads to the toilet.
- All Germans Are Nazis: Parodied. The Germans in the movie are supposed to be East Germans, but their uniforms are Nazi-era uniforms with the swastikas removed. (DDR (East German) uniforms did look closer to Nazi uniforms than West German uniforms, so there's a touch of Truth in Television in there.)
- All Just a Dream: Parodied.
- Almost-Dead Guy: This is Latrine's entire job.
- Aside Glance: Several times; at one point Nick even winks at the camera.
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Most of the German dialogue is unrelated phrases of Yiddish; the few times it is actually German... well, see Bilingual Bonus. Other scenes have English running backwards, and Latin (Pig or otherwise).
- Assumed Win: Nick turns a planned operatic performance into a rock concert through this type of mistake.
- Badass: Parodied in Chocolate Mousse. The first thing we see him doing is sitting around, being a Scary Black Man, smoking a huge cigar. When his name is called, he grunts in acknowledgment and eats his cigar. Later he drinks gasoline from a bottle, singlehandedly wields a cannon as a firearm, exhibits Improbable Aiming Skills, wrestles a German soldier WWE-style, and apparently has people waiting just off-camera to hand him machine guns.
- Bamboo Technology: Parodied. While stranded on a deserted island, Hillary and Nigel build a modern home out of "bamboo, dried seaweed, and snot", complete with functioning garage door (and a remote).
- Bar Brawl: One of these occurs underwater, with a full Western saloon set.
- BFG: Parodied, sort of. Chocolate Mousse uses a front-loader cannon as a handgun.
- The Big Board: The diorama Nigel uses to explain his plan to the other Resistance members.
- Big Electric Switch: The electric fence around the castle is turned on and off with one of these.
- Bilingual Bonus: See As Long as It Sounds Foreign, above. One particular gem should crack up German-speakers, though:
Streck: Make sure they leave no marks.
von Horst: (severely) Ich liebe dich, mein Schatz. Translation: I love you, sweetie.
- Binocular Shot: Parodied. The herd of cows under observation walk into the "black frame".
- But You Screw One Goat!: Or cow. Well, bull. Poor Nigel may never walk right again.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: This is ZAZ's job.
- The Cast Showoff: Val Kilmer did his own singing.
- Chairman of the Brawl: While in an underwater Western bar.
- Code Name/Theme Naming: Parodied. One group has French phrases for code names, and another has food names.
Du Quois: This is Chevalier, Montage, Detente, Avant Garde, and Deja Vu.
Deja Vu: Haven't we met before?
Nick Rivers: I don't think so.
Du Quois: Over there, Croissant, Souffle, Escargot, and Chocolate Mousse.
- Nigel "The Torch" (see Meaningful Name)
- In the German translation, for unexplained reasons, the names of the first group are replaced with nicknames for traitors like Rat, Goldfish, Mole, etc. Here adding to the joke that previously someone suspected a mole in the group.
- Circular Drive: A seemingly endless parade of military vehicles passes the camera...until the camera cranes back, revealing it's the same six vehicles driving in a circle.
- Comically Missing the Point:
- Nick, when told by Dr. Flammond about an invention that can cheaply separate salt from seawater and asked if he understands what it means for the starving nations of the world (e.g. no more water shortages), answers: "Wow, they'd have enough salt to last forever!"
- Latrine's final Almost-Dead Guy appearance:
Latrine: A traitor in our midst... [slams the corpse of a carrier pigeon on the table]
Deja Vu: I see you have dealt with him appropriately.
Nick: I'm not the first 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 who she last saw on a deserted island who then turned out fifteen years later to be the leader of the French underground.
Hillary: I know. It all sounds like some bad movie. (Aside Glance)
- Depth Deception: Used as a visual gag.
- Dirty Communists
- Disney Villain Death: The soldier Chocolate Mousse throws off the top of a tower.
- East Germany: Parodically portrayed as Nazi Germany.
- Every Car Is a Pinto: Parodied, as the Pinto is the only car in the entire film to explode -- with the tiniest, most gentle nudge. The military vehicle that crashes into it manages to leave the scene of the accident successfully, despite being on fire. "You've got to hand it to the Germans -- they make great cars."
- Everything's Better with Cows: Two characters infiltrate a top secret facility by dressing as a cow and mingling with the local herd thereof. Cows, that is, not a bunch of idiots dressed like cows. And then a bull comes...
- Excited Show Title
- Fake-Out Make-Out: Nick and Hillary manage to combine this with Lost in a Crowd, avoiding a patrol by ducking into a park crowded with couples making out and doing likewise.
- Funny Background Event:
- The pizza.
- The pigeon statue.
- The snacks at the ballet.
- The headwaiter tailoring a new tuxedo for Nick.
- Gag Sub: The East German national anthem, helpfully translated in subtitles. Double gag in that it's actually a high school fight song.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- In the prison sequence, a sex toy called "The Anal Intruder" is prominently featured. It's astonishing that that was allowed to stay in a PG-rated movie in the 1980's.
- Hillary measuring every inch of The Torch.
- Two phallic scenes in a row: Cedric's telescopic antenna and the ballet, the latter of which was Bowdlerized for cable. But those ballet dancers are still bouncing off of something...
- Gratuitous German: Blinkenlights-style.
DAS FENCEN SWITCHEN
Nick: "What the hell is this stuff?"
Chocolate Mousse: "Gasoline. HAHAHAHAHA." (glug, glug, glug)
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Chocolate Mousse fires a machine gun into a melee and only hits the bad guys. He then gets a high five from a Jive Turkey.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: "He's just a little hoarse (horse)".
- Jumping on a Grenade: Everyone else explodes.
- Lampshade Hanging: See This Is Reality, below.
- La Résistance: The French Resistance is in East Germany. We don't know why.
- Last-Minute Reprieve: Nick is so popular that the consulate insists on him giving one last performance before his execution.
- Lethal Joke Item: The "Anal Intruder" jackhammer-powered dildo.
German Officer: "What he did not realize was that, in this country, we use 220 volt current. He was found impaled upon a large electrical device. Our surgeons did what they could, but it took them two hours just to remove the smile from his face."
- Line-of-Sight Name: Nick's father was shaving...
- The Loins Sleep Tonight: Parodied. It seems that Hillary is consoling Nick for his failure to perform, but it turns out that she's reading a trashy romance novel out loud.
- Look Behind You!: The second variant.
- Lost in a Crowd: See Fake-Out Make-Out, above.
- Made of Explodium: The Pinto scene.
- Made of Iron: The guard in the Traintop Battle, as a parody of the classic "Low bridge" trick.
- Made of Plasticine: Parodied. A guard falls off a building, lands on his back, and shatters. (Also counts as a classic Railing Kill)
- Malt Shop: Yup. In East Germany.
- Meaningful Name:
- Nick and Hillary go through the following exchange at a restaurant:
- Meta Guy: Nick, mostly.
- Mobile Kiosk: Vendor.
- Model Planning: What begins as Planning with Props segues into this.
- The Mole: Nigel.
- National Anthem:
Hail, hail East Germany, land of fruit and grape
Land where you'll regret if you try to escape
No matter if you tunnel under or take a running jump at the wall
Forget it, the guards will kill you, if the electrified fence doesn't first.
Deja Vu:You've got to hand it to the Germans, they make great cars.
- Off-the-Shelf FX: Inverted. The 'cow suit' is really an actual cow with boots on.
- Pig Latin: The priest: "Ooreyay oingay ootay etgay iedfray in the airchay."
- Planning with Props: Parodied.
- Black Comedy Rape:
- Refuge in Audacity
- Rule of Funny: The producers snort this and movies come out.
- Running Gag:
- The same German guards keep breaking open the doors... forcing everyone in each instance (including a submarine commander!) to raise their hands in surrender.
- Salvage Pirates: Leads to gang rape. And an aversion to capitalism.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: To a fireplace. When the couple rolls into view in front of the fireplace, the camera pans again--to another fireplace. In some cuts, the camera eventually pans to a window with a view of a burning building. Further parodied some minutes later when a kiss between the two parachuting protagonists cuts to a fireplace hanging from another parachute.
- Shout-Out: Too many to name, from The Wizard of Oz to the Beach Boys.
"This is NOT Mel Torme!"
- Sic Em: The rubber stamp of "Chopper, sic balls!"
- Smoking Hot Sex: After the calf blowjob scene no less.
- Surreal Theme Tune: "Skeet Surfin'"
- There Was a Door
- This Is Reality: Played with:
Hillary: I know. It all sounds like the plot of some bad movie.
(Awkward pause. Nick and Hillary look toward the camera, embarrassed.)
- Those Two Bad Guys: The blind Bruno and the moronic Klaus who only reads the New York post.
- Traintop Battle: Parodied hard. The bad guy owes the transit authority a new bridge.
- Travel Montage: A dotted line makes its way along a streetmap... and is subsquently eaten by Pac-Man.
- Trojan Prisoner: Chocolate Mousse, Déjà Vu and Nick Rivers, while infiltrating Fleurgendorf prison.
- Underdressed for the Occasion: Nick at the restaurant. Sometimes you need a coat and tie...
- Who Would Want to Watch Us?: See This Is Reality, above.
- X Meets Y: The French Underground meets Elvis.