80’s Trash of the Week: The Return of Maxwell Smart (The Nude Bomb)

Would You Believe?

I watched this movie a lot on cable when I was a kid because 1) I liked “Get Smart” and 2) it was on HBO and had “nude” right in the title. It didn’t have the bare boobies I craved- just a few scenes of hairy man-ass and a wet t-shirt. I learned later that boobie movies have sneaky titles like The Postman Always Rings Twice, where Jack Nicholson grabs Jessica Lange’s cooch. Now that the remake starring Steve Carell is set to open this weekend, and Cinemax was showing it, I decided to revisit this movie from my childhood and see if it still stood up.

Shark successfully jumped

It’s a serviceably goofy spy movie, but it lacks two integral parts of what made the show a success– Edward Platt as Chief, and sexy Barbara Feldon as Agent 99. Instead we get Dana Elcar from “MacGyver” as Chief, and a few cuties as Agents 35 and 22; 22 is Andrea Howard, who thankfully gave up acting in 1987. She’s that bad.

No 99, new Chief = no chemistry

Don Adams is pitch perfect, Bill Dana and Joey Forman have funny and memorable roles, the villain is lovingly played by Italian actor Vittorio Gassman, the gadgets are suitably amusing, and the writing manages to eke out a laugh or two. That salvages an otherwise obvious cash-in that didn’t have the common decency to even ask Barbara Feldon to come back as Agent 99. Edward Platt sadly committed suicide in 1974, so could not return as Chief. George Kennedy might have been a better replacement.

The villainous thimble-fingered Sauvage

The plot is simple; KAOS, now run by a stocking-masked villain named Sauvage, has a bomb that renders everyone in the vicinity nude, and is blackmailing the United Nations after dropping it on the Kremlin, Buckingham Palace, and the Super Bowl. The wily agents track him down from the fashionista fabric he’s wearing, and hijinks ensue. The producers wanted to make it more of a James Bond spoof, so we get a lot of cuties, action and foreign locations.

Pay the ransom! I don’t need to see this.

Nino, Sauvage’s henchman (also played by Vittorio Gassman, sans mask) has a mechanical arm like the villain from Live and Let Die and looks sort of like Richard Kiel (Jaws) but he makes the character his own. They have a fight through a studio backlot which gives some amusing gunplay through a cheapo science fiction set, a Wild West show, and a Jaws ride.

Why does his mecha hand have a flamethrower but no built-in gun?

Bill Dana doesn’t play Jose Jiminez, but a Jewish designer who gets whacked by the villains, and his short scene in the hospital is one of the better ones. Nowadays the jokes elicit more grins than belly laughs, but it’s relatively clever at times. Some jokes fall flat, like a superstrong skiing gal. The show’s catchphrases don’t get too overused, but most of the comedy comes from Don Adams’ mastery of comic timing. They also update some of the gadgets- now his other shoe is an answering machine, for example.

Sir you were weaving words and left a dangling participle.

My favorite is the Deskmobile, because the best gadget jokes from the show were completely stupid and useless like that. Carruthers, the Q of the movie, tells him that it runs on ink. “A special ink only made in Saudi Arabia.” The Cone of Silence gets some use, but luckily they don’t drag it out too much. Instead, Agent 13, played by Joey Forman, gets to show off his super-sneak and disguise skills, by showing up everywhere he’s needed, like in an airplane toilet.

I’m feeling a little flushed.

There’s a mole, and a final battle at the villain’s underground lair, which has a zipper entrance. We get a funnily choreographed fight between a few dozen Maxes and Sauvages, thanks to his Clone Machine. The similarities to Austin Powers don’t end there, there’s even a mini-Max when the machine malfunctions. Once again the laughs usually fall in Don Adams’ lap, such as when he has to carry Agent 22 to safety from the self-destructing lair, and he can’t carry her. He manages to drag that out for minutes, and it keeps getting funnier.

Don’t look, who knows what might come out of there.

The movie does look like a TV show, except for the well-done action scenes, and Agent 99 and the real Chief are both very sorely missed. The snappy dialogue that made the show great is mostly missing except here and there, but I wasn’t a hardcore fan of the show, so I didn’t think it was an abomination. It seems like the new movie also snubs Agent 99, not even giving her a cameo. Here’s an interview with Barbara Feldon that explains some of why she wasn’t there, and gives some insight into Don Adams, who would you believe, was a hero in World War 2?

If you really want to, you can see Don Adams’ ass if you watch this movie.

Beers Required to Enjoy: 1
Could it be remade today? Check showtimes
Quotability Rating: Low
Cheese Factor: High
High Point: Don Adams
Low Point: Don Adams’s ass
Gratuitous Boobies: Through a wet shirt, but quite nice and obvious.