It's remarkable sometimes how the silliest of films can work just as well as the best of them to bring me back to long ago, you know, happier times, when I was a cute little kid without a care in the world except for, well, the second coming of Jesus, Armageddon, the apocalypse, and everything* that I've ever cared about ceasing to be.
(* except for my loved ones, of course, but damn it, what about my toys? What about these movies I loved? What about books? Games? The important stuff in life.)
No cares but the biggest.
And, Top Secret!, in particular, plays on some of that biggest stuff. Late in the Cold War...
And then I got to wondering about exactly when this film takes place. I mean, Nick's music is very Elvis. So, I paused on the Billboard Top 40. Nick Rivers has #1 #2, & #4, with "Skeet Surfin'", "Skeetin' USA" and "Skeet City", respectively. He also has #3 in a duet with Tammy Wynette on "You're Skeetin' Heart". Then Eric Clapton has #4 with "Sloe Gun Blues" but #4 is a real song: Duran Duran's “Is There Something I Should Know?" which came out in 1983. Putting Top Secret! roughly in 1984 when it was filmed/released.
But, there are more jokes. #12 is The Rolling Stones with "Enough Already". #14 Aretha Franklin with "Boy Is She Great". #15 Barbra Streisand with "Theme from The Nose".
And then I got curious about the magazine covers. None of them seem to have dates, but the Guns & Bullets cover is interesting, because there's the cover story on Nick Rivers, but also some other story (ALSO INSIDE the cover screams)--or maybe it's part of the Nick Rivers story and we just aren't privy to it--that says: MY DAUGHTER IS DEAD... BUT SO IS THE BURGLAR.
I meant to be talking about the Cold War and how weird it is to reminisce about a time when I was regularly being told that the world would be ending soon. But now, I'm imagining some backstory involving Nick Rivers, his daughter's death, that left him reeling and running off to tour Europe, including behind the Iron Curtain because he's got nothing else to live for anymore.
But, maybe the point is that "What phony dog poo?" sits right next to the idea of a nuclear winter in my head.
Then again, there are odd details like the not-very-funny bit of the restaurant making Nick a whole new suit right next to the idea that Reagan was a great president... Not an idea I had. I don't think. Jokes that don't make you laugh. Nonmedy, as Rich Evans would call it.
Hillary's uncle escape America in a balloon during the Jimmy Carter administration--that's funny.
And the little German joke is a classic. But, that runs right up against the food--"pork bellies marinated in diced pig entrails or the roast swine knuckles poached with flaming hog balls"--which I think is supposed to be funny. But, I don't get it. Germans eat a lot of pig, I guess.
And then the brilliance of "Some things are better left unsaid?" "Like what?"
Why does the Rare Swedish Books shop have a book called Lesbian Bars of North Carolina, and why is it displayed so prominently?
Meanwhile, so many jokes about sex. Irreverence all over the place. But, at school, it's all follow God's commandments, follow the school rules, and I think I held the record every year for the most swats--we still had corporal punishment--because I was apparently having none of it. But, look back at the movies I've covered this year, so many films about rebels, about irreverent heroes who didn't follow the rules, and we had these on video, we watched them often. And, the Bible could never keep my attention the way that all these movies could.
And, that's really it, isn't it?
The Bible, and church, and Bible class--those were boring, those were telling me all these rules about what I should and shouldn't do, without every explaining why. Meanwhile, movies would actually offer up commentary on the rules. You break the rules when it helps people. You don't get a great respect from the rules from mainstream movies.
Cue religious parents dragging their kids away from the movie theater, except no, that's a good thing. Fuck reverence. Fuck rules without explanation. Even in Top Secret!, Nick has no reason to do what's right, except he meets a cute girl who has sex with him, and East Germany is about to kill a bunch of people. And the guy who turns out to be a traitor gets fucked by a bull because that is American justice in the 1980s. Of course, Nigel had already made that face when he talked about the sailors who "took advantage of [him] in ways that [he] cannot describe." They were foreigners, of course, and he is coded queer, despite his island romp with, and immediate re-attachment in the present to Hillary.
And it occurs to me during "Straighten Out the Rug" that this movie is basically framing 1980s East Germany as 1950s America but with Nazis... Or really, that's just 1950s America. INSERT: rim shot.