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VCL 1105 1045

Album cover copyright (c) 1984 Kingsmere Properties Limited; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall



"There's an urgent announcement from the Varese Sarabande CD Club"  "What is it?"  "It's a record label that releases soundtrack albums on a periodic basis." 


I don't often give too much personal information away in these reviews I write.  Therefore, it is with a mild amount of trepidation that I say this: Messrs Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker are, for my money, human beings deserving of being placed on the same plane as Michelangelo or even Pythagoras, he of the great Theorem itself.  (OK, so I jest - nobody is deserving of that!)  But really, truly, they made some of the most brilliantly funny cinema since the Marx Bros. - including my all-time-favourite comedy film, Airplane!, and my all-time-favourite comedy tv show, Police Squad! (which is actually even better than the films they've done).  After The Naked Gun things started to go downhill (its first sequel saw only one of the Zucker brothers on board - and its tagline, "From the brother of the director of Ghost", is another all-time-favourite) but those early triumphs elevated them way beyond anything that could possibly be damaged by later indiscretions.  In between Airplane! and The Naked Gun came the rather less well-known Top Secret!  It's basically more of the time, this time being loosely spy movie / WWII-based.

If somebody sat me down in a room and asked me to name the actor I thought least likely to have ever appeared in the lead role in a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker film, there's a high probability that I would mention the renowned humour-free-zone Val Kilmer.  But here he is, playing Nick Rivers, a secret agent in the style of Elvis Presley.  It was his first film role.  He hasn't looked back since!  Also on board were cameos from Peter Cushing and Omar Sharif, and some members of the French resistance called (amongst other things) Chocolate Mousse and Escargot.  "Surely you can't be serious?" I hear you ask.  Well, I'm deadly serious, and don't call me Shirley.

If somebody sat me down in a room and asked me to name the composer I thought least likely to have ever scored a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker film, there's a high probability that I would mention Maurice Jarre, someone who seems to take himself incredibly seriously, and who has scored barely any comedies in his extremely long career, let alone ones as utterly stupid as Top Secret!  And yet - here he was, since Elmer Bernstein was too busy doing Ghostbusters.  And Jarre did for the filmmakers exactly what Bernstein had done for them on Airplane! - namely, to go completely over-the-top, exacerbate all the things he is known for doing, overplay the drama in every way possible, and above all to make it seem like he was scoring the film as if it were the most earnest and sombre drama possible.  Which is exactly what he did.

The full might of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, no less, is put to full effect, with larger-than-life orchestrations, big, sweeping themes, thunderous action music, swooning love themes, everything but the kitchen sink in fact.  It's simply a blast!  The track with the best title is also the best track - "The Potato Farm Siege" is in fact one of the most blisteringly exciting pieces of action music you could ever hear, with the orchestra blasting out of every tiny bit of your speakers, going as full pelt as you're ever likely to hear an orchestra go.  There are numerous highlights, even including a brief quotation of Doctor Zhivago's theme in "Cedric" - this is grand music, on a big scale, quite brilliant really.  

Sadly, the recording just cannot do it justice.  The engineer, Eric Tomlinson, is one of the most revered that there has ever been, but this is one of the earliest digital recordings, and something just isn't right.  There's nowhere near enough detail in the recording, the high end is horribly distorted, and it's a real shame because it's a film score which deserves better.  Still, even that can't detract from the enjoyment of what is - embarrassing though it may be to admit it - one of Jarre's most wonderful scores.  And finally, allow me to list another all-time-favourite - the CD cover is the work of an absolute genius.  "The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performs the Maurice Jarre score for Top Secret!" plastered across a picture of a cow.  


  1. Top Secret! (5:53)
  2. Love and Resistance (2:26)
  3. Cedric (5:28)
  4. Tango of the Things Unsaid (1:17)
  5. Medals and Imprisonment (3:28)
  6. The Potato Farm Siege (2:41)
  7. The Big Fight (2:41)
  8. The Torch (4:34)
  9. Pizza Rock (1:51)
  10. Nigel's Plan (3:42)
  11. The Triumph of the Resistance (5:19)
  12. Happy Ending (2:50)