I don’t make it a secret – ZAZ films always bring a smile to my face. When you mention ZAZ films, most people will mention Leslie Nielsen. While he was certainly one of the most prolific actor in their stable, I’m talking about a lesser known, but definitely not one to be overlooked, actor.
Val Kilmer’s first movie role, and certainly one that got him started towards Top Gun fame, let him capitalize on his charm. Holding his own with such luminaries are Peter Cushing and Omar Sharif, he plays the rock and roll legend Nick Rivers. Not only does this movie mercilessly skewers World War 2 films, spy thrillers, Cold War movies, and Elvis Presley productions – it features Val Kilmer’s singing voice.
Like Airplane! and other productions, Top Secret! takes several viewings to see all the gags, but it’s the most fun you’ll have. Jokes that went gleefully over my head (“They asked me to help out in pre-teen maternity”) when I saw this when I was nine now make me guffaw at… somewhat older than nine. All the performances are over-the-top in a “well, I’m here, so let’s do this” atmosphere. One can not sit through this film and not find something to get at them. In fact, this last viewing I heard this line:
Nigel: It was a Russian ship. They taught me all about you imperialist swine. I was exposed to the works of great thinkers – Karl Marx, Lenin, L. Ron Hubbard, Freddie Laker.
I looked up Freddie Laker to see what would make him a great thinker. Come to find out that Sir Freddie Laker founded Laker Airways that went bankrupt in 1982. A great thinker, indeed and certainly worthy to join that list. Almost forty years old and I’m still finding things about it. The imdb trivia page alone for this movie is a delight to wander through.
This movie engenders some desire in me to see where is blindly robbed its inspiration from. I found myself looking for The Blue Lagoon, Where Eagles Dare and G.I. Blues to see where the inspiration came from. It’s nice to see one movie, then get struck by ‘oh, hey – I saw this on [insert ZAZ film here].’
If you ever get a chance, run out and see this with your best friends. Pick a day and have a ZAZ Film Festival: Kentucky Fried Movie, Airplane!, Airplane 2!, Top Secret!, Hot Shots! Hot Shots, Part Deux and the Naked Gun films. Yes, I left out Spy Hard, not because it isn’t a ZAZ film, but because I feel that the tank was empty for everyone when that movie was released.
So run out and enjoy Nick Rivers’ Skeet Surfing, U.S.A.