Top Secret! appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I don’t know what went wrong with this transfer, but it provided a consistently weak presentation.
Many of the concerns related to sharpness. Some shots displayed acceptable delineation, but the majority of the flick looked soft and fuzzy. Some edge enhancement came along for the ride, but that wasn’t the main issue; the movie just lacked clarity for no obvious reason.
Jagged edges and shimmering weren’t an issue, but source laws created a lot of distractions. Grain could be fairly heavy, and I noticed plenty of specks, marks and other debris. Though these didn’t become a constant concern, they showed up through much of the movie and made it awfully dirty.
Don’t expect anything better when it came to the movie’s colors. The flick went with a natural palette but the transfer made the hues look flat and bland. They consistently lacked life or vivacity. Blacks were dull and inky, while shadows seemed flat and somewhat dense. All in all, this was an ugly transfer with few redeeming qualities.
While superior to the visuals, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Top Secret! came with its own ups and downs. On the positive side of things, music worked well. The songs and score showed fine stereo imaging, and they also sounded quite good. Those elements demonstrated nice vivacity and range; they were easily the best part of the track.
Effects came across as more problematic. From the opening use of a train, many of these elements came across as rather rough and distorted. Some effects proved more concise, but many sounded less than satisfactory.
Their use of the various channels also seemed erratic. Some good movement and integration occurred, but other aspects of the track showed less convincing placement. For instance, a restaurant scene created distractions with its unnatural display of background chatter. Rather than involve us in the setting, these elements distracted us.
Speech was generally fine but not consistently so. The lines remained intelligible and lacked edginess, but they occasionally sounded dull and muddy. They also bled to the sides at times, though they usually appeared appropriately placed. Overall, I liked the positive presence of the music, but the other issues meant the audio deserved no better than a “C+”.
In terms of the disc’s extras, we start with an audio commentary here. It includes directors/writers David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker, producers Jon Davison and Hunt Lowry and moderator Fred Rubin. All of them sit together for this running, screen-specific chat that looks at cast and performances, locations and sets, influences, references and aspects of various gags, music, technical elements, and various stories from the shoot.
With so many participants, you’d expect a wild, rollicking commentary. Alas, that doesn’t prove to be the case. Oh, the guys do give us some funny remarks and interesting tales, but the track sags on too many occasions. There’s a fair amount of dead air, and the piece rarely threatens to develop any momentum. If you dig the film, you’ll probably find enough here to make the commentary worth a listen, but it’s a lackluster chat.
Four Alternate Scenes fill a total of two minutes, 53 seconds. We find “One Little Apple” (0:33), “Fetch” (0:44), “Thirsty” (0:49) and “Burning Passion” (0:47). Given the shortness of the clips, you shouldn’t expect anything substantial from them. They just offer some basic – and not particularly good - gags and nothing more.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we get some storyboards. These accompany three scenes: “Skeet Surfing” (31 images), “The Nightclub” (32) and “Nick in Prison” (20). Though not particularly well-drawn, the boards are fun to see. They offer a neat glimpse of the planning for these scenes.
This “80s Edition” of Secret actually is a reissue of the movie’s release from 2002. It throws in a Bonus CD with four hits from the era. We find INXS’s “Need You Tonight”, a-ha’s “Take On Me”, Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Lips Like Sugar” and Erasure’s “Chains of Love”. I have no clue how they chose these songs and why we get a mere four. I suppose the disc is a decent extra if you want the DVD anyway, but I can’t imagine it’ll be a decision-maker for any fans on the fence about this disc.
If you liked Airplane!, will you like Top Secret!? Probably. If you didn’t care for Airplane!, will you enjoy Top Secret!? Probably not. While the two films take on different genres, they offer similar comedic styles and construction. I think Secret boasts a smattering of laughs, but the overall package doesn’t do a lot for me.
The quality of this DVD doesn’t help the film’s case. The disc provides erratic audio and suffers from a consistently weak transfer. A few decent extras appear, though the commentary is too up and down to be a real winner. I may not be a fan of the film, but I think it deserves better treatment than it receives here.