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.

Count de Money RIP … goodbye Harvey Korman

de Monet, de Monet…

Comedic actor Harvey Korman died yesterday at the age of 81, from complications of heart surgery. Harvey was a mainstay in the comedies I enjoyed growing up- Mel Brooks, the Carol Burnett Show. He usually played the straight man or the bad guy, and no one played a funnier villain if you ask me.

A video tribute to Harvey Korman.
Probably most famous for playing Hedy Lamarr (Hedley, HEDLEY!) in Blazing Saddles, Harve also appeared in some of Tim Conway’s best sketches on Carol Burnett, like The Dentist, and some of his own. Most memorable was their spoof of Gone With the Wind, where he played Rhett Butler. He could ooze slime and still give off a sympathetic weakness, as in Blazing Saddles when he could say stuff like:

“I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists.”

and then scramble in the bath tub for his little froggy toy. The sad fact about the Mel Brooks movies is that unless you can empathize with the characters, many of the jokes are just puns. Comedy is a lot different today, though Judd Apatow is putting good characters back into the genre. He’ll be sorely missed. So, I’ll leave you with the Carol Burnett video, and some of my favorite lines ol’ Harve uttered in his illustrious career.

Hedley Lamarr: My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.

Count de Monet: Don’t get saucy with me, Bearnaise.

Hedley Lamarr: Shut up, you Teutonic twat!

It Went With the Wind

Quest for Fire vs. Caveman

Is it possible to love both these movies? I know I do. Quest for Fire is an intellectual movie about early mankind, with no understandable dialogue and then unknown actors. Caveman has Ringo Starr throwing a dwarf into a giant pool of dinosaur ca-ca. They both came out in 1981, the same year that Mel Brooks made fun of cavemen in History of the World Part I. It was a good year to be a caveman, probably the best until Geico came along.
Quest for Fire is by Jean-Jacques Annaud, who also directed The Bear; he’s really good at films with little or no dialogue, and crafting a story without it. This story begins with a happy tribe of early man lazing around a fire after a feast, when they are attacked by a rival tribe of cannibalistic, and more primitive Neanderthals. They fight viciously, at one point driving a spear through the mouth of one of the marauders, but they lose and have to flee.
They take their fire with them but lose it, which can spell disaster, because they can’t make fire; they can only keep it and tend it. If you’ve ever tried to make a fire in the woods, you can sympathize with their plight.

Naoh, the leader, blows on an ember.

Three men are chosen to seek fire in the wilderness, whether to steal it from another tribe or find it naturally, and their adventure is the meat of the story. Ron Perlman is one of these nomads, and he’d appear later in Annaud’s adaptation of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, before he rose to stardom as that cat dude in Beauty and the Beast, and of course Hellboy. The movie is an intelligent version of 10,000 B.C.– there are sabretooth tigers, mammoths, tribes that are more advanced and tribes that are more brutish, rituals and discoveries, and Roland Emmerich isn’t there to make it stupid.

Sabre-tooth Ron Perlman

When they run into a pride of sabretooths, they climb a tree where they are stuck for days. The effects are really good for the time- they’re just lions with long teeth attached, but they sure look scary enough.
Later, when they are caught between a grazing mammoth herd and a tribe of Neanderthals, the leader crawls up and offers a mammoth a handful of grass, befriending it, so they are defended. That sounds really silly, but it works when you watch it. It’s a hell of a lot more likely than befriending a sabretooth.
They also come upon two mud-painted people tied to stakes by the Neanderthals- one of whom is missing an arm. I guess that’s the best way to keep meat fresh back in those days. They rescue them, and get a friend for life in Rae Dawn Chong, in an early role. The leader gets wounded in the crotch killing a Neanderthal, and she helpfully applies salve. She’s probably what those of us who were 12 when it came out remember best- she’s topless or nude for the entirety of the film, except for her tribal make-up. She’s also more advanced culturally than our caveman pals, speaking a language that neither they or we understand, but is definitely more familiar than the grunts they speak (Desmond Morris helped craft the languages).

Ancient refrigerator

There are more run-ins with cave bears, Neanderthals and other tribes who want to steal their fire; they also meet Rae Dawn’s tribe, who live on the mud flats around a swampland and seem to have a fertility cult going on. A big laugh for us at age twelve was when they cage our protagonist with one of their fertile Rubenesque maidens, and when he’s done he looks out and sees 4 more lined up. The film is full of funny little touches that usually make some sort of sense. Her tribe is all gangly and he is strong, so they want him for their string children. She escapes with him, since she has other plans for her man.
She introduces them to advances like spear-throwers (atlatls, actually), laughter, and the missionary position, in a very funny scene. Our leader finds himself growing attached to his new mate, instead of humping whatever ass popped up at the water hole. She decides to stay with him, as they bring fire back to his tribe. After nearly 2 hours of no talking, you find yourself riveted to the screen. There’s a fine mix of humor and action, and nothing breaks the spell- it’s a dirty, brutish life, and while a complete fantasy, it becomes utterly believable. In the tiny genre of movies set in prehistory, it’s got to be the most authentic and enjoyable. It’s certainly different, but I consider it a minor classic. I suppose I ought to compare it to Clan of the Cave Bear someday, but I try to only review good bad movies.

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How I adore 80’s tagline humor.

And then you have Caveman with Ringo Starr, in his first major role since Help!. He plays Atouk, a lowly caveman in his tribe, a lone thinker in a group run by Tonda, a big goon. He pines for Lana, played by Barbara Bach, and who wouldn’t? She’s spilling out of a fur bikini the whole film. They also have their own language, but all I can remember is that Atouk wants to zug-zug Lana, so you can figure out what it means. The humor is mostly of the idiotic pee-pee poo-poo variety, but it’s still hilarious in an extremely campy way.

I’d zug-zug her too.

Atouk gets banished by Tonda after trying to zug-zug Lana, along with his pal Lar (Dennis Quaid, who gets to demonstrate the difficulties of peeing during the Ice Age, at one point) and the rest of the outcasts. These include a blind old man with a cane, a dwarf, a gay couple, an Asian dude, and a flat-chested cavewoman unfit for breeding (Shelley Long). The Asian guy speaks English, to explain the caveman words to the audience, proving that the Geico cavemen are more advanced than the average moviegoer.

They have many humorous adventures along the way. They topple a giant pterodactyl’s egg into a volcanic geyser and make a giant poached egg. They think they lose the dwarf in a giant pool of dinosaur shit, and dig through it looking for him. When he comes from behind a boulder after taking a piss, they throw him into it, and give us the immortal quote “Doo-doo! Ca-ca. Shit.”

They run into an abominable snowman in an ice cave who chases them around. My favorite is when the blind man stumbles on a huge dinosaur, and thinks it’s a tree. He does the usual blind man pantomime of feeling around for what he bumped into, and the dinosaur likes it quite a bit… get it, he’s rubbing dino dong! Then he whacks it with his cane in the dino-nuts, causing it to attack our little band of cave-dorks.

Blind man vs. T.Rex balls.
They also have a giant iguana after them. Atouk shows his brains, by feeding the beast some goofy berries that make you high. Previously he proved his superiority by cracking his back and standing upright, inventing music, and using fire to burn the asses of his enemies. Including one who runs away farting, which is especially funny when you’re 12.

Lighting farts came soon after the use of fire.
I may sound condescending, but it’s actually pretty hilarious to watch. The cast is really good and get into the act, defiling their every shred of dignity for our entertainment. By the end, when Atouk defeats Tonda and gets Lana, you’re actually rooting for Shelley Long when she pushes the busty babe into bronto bull-caca. There’s something wrong with that. Even Ringo married Lana and he’s still giving her the zug-zug, as far as I know.

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With both these fine movies out there to entertain us, who needs Emmerich? It’s just a rehash of Stargate anyway, with pyramids and an ambiguously sexed tyrant. He hasn’t made a good movie since Independence Day, and that was just a remake of War of the Worlds. If you didn’t get enough disasterage in The Day After the Day Before Yesterday, he’s making a movie about the end of the Mayan calendar that includes volcanoes and such, because it ends in 2012. I wonder if he gets terrified when he finds out his Date Planner only goes to January 2009.

For the record, Rae Dawn Chong can apply salve to me anytime.

Young Frankenstein sings!

Our friends Josh and Daniel gave Sarah tickets for her birthday. Good guys with great taste in bad food and good musicals. The theater is decorated like a Disney theme park, which gave me pause. The show is great, however. The stage design is particularly stunning, and the cast is uniformly hilarious. They do a great job of taking the best of the movie and perking it up as a musical.

There’s the stage before the show. You can barely make out the castle. They use a lot of projection on back screens to add to the design, without relying on it too much. Roger Bart plays Dr. Frankenstein (Fronkensteen!) and does a great job. Gene Wilder’s shoes are impossible to fill, but he manages to create his own version of the neurotic, sex-starved scientist. When he gets manic and insane he screams in a way that is funny on its own. His first song is a clever bit of wordplay about the brain, sort of like the old “I am the very model of a modern Major General” and is almost too quick to catch half the jokes.

A montage advert from the show.

Christopher Fitzgerald plays Igor, he of the transient hump, and mimics Marty Feldman’s British accent. Not sure it was the wisest choice, but it works, and he’s quite funny as well, relying on a lot of physical comedy, including swinging from the castle door’s big knockers prior to that famous gag. His best scene is when he admits he used an “Abby Normal” brain for the monster. He’s sitting in a chair with a labcoat on, playing little games while the Doc fumes.

In our show Renee Feder played Inga, and she was fantastic. Quite a leggy knockout, too. They make an entire song out of the “roll in the hay” gag, and as usual it’s your risque Broadway tune. I think part of what I like most about Broadway shows is the burlesque unexpurgated quality. Calling back to the campy ending to Rufus Wainwright‘s concert, it reminds me of when America went to Times Square to be titillated, whether with tits, men in drag or gals in fishnets dancing to off-color songs. Maybe that’s why I go see shows like this, Avenue Q, the Evil Dead Musical, and Hairspray instead of dramas.

The rest of the cast is damn good as well, from Frau Blucher, who gets a funny song of her own to sing about being the first Doctor Frankenstein’s boyfriend, to Megan Mulally in the Madeline Kahn role. She does a great job with it, reinventing it as well because who can top Madeline Kahn? She does a fine job as the celibate socialite who gets to find “the sweet mystery of life” via the monster’s enormous schwanzstücker.

My favorite scene of the movie is Gene Hackman’s cameo as the old man. Here the hermit gets his own song, which is unfortunately too long. One of my minor quibbles with the show, it felt padded for time in that song. The slapstick scene is left as the original, which couldn’t be improved upon, really. The only clip I could find on youtube of the original movie was in Spanish, which loses all of Hackman’s great comedy work. It’s too bad he usually plays a tough guy, because he was hilarious in the movie.

The Puttin’ on the Ritz scene didn’t make it to my camera, but it would have looked crappy anyway. The movie scene is on youtube, thankfully. They change the finale of the movie a little, since it’s difficult to switch sets and show them using the Inspector’s mechanical arm as a battering ram. They move the scene to a gallows where the Doc is about to be hanged (and they don’t even make a “hung” joke!) The Monster arrives to save him, and everyone lives happily ever after of course. The only other iffy part of the show is a number called “The Transylvania Mania” that Igor sings to distract the villagers.

Puttin’ on the Ritz (movie version)

After the show we went to Fat Annie’s Truck Stop, which serves hearty American chow and other cardiological tragedies. For some reason they also sell raw oysters, which I avoided. Never order oysters in a truck stop, they are liable to be of the Rocky Mountain variety.
They serve po’boys and burgers and meat loaf and such, with a diner style interior slathered in chrome and vinyl. Authentic down the the NASCAR race on the televisions. Sometimes you can go too far with authenticity, but it was the Daytona 500, so maybe it would have been at any sports bar. What it lacked in atmosphere it made back with a different menu and a good burger. For appetizers we had the Frito Lay pie, which is a bag of fritos with chili, jalapeños, cheese and sour cream on top.

There ’tis in all its glory.

The menu was a bit scattershot with stuff ranging from Fried Cheese Curds from Wisconsin to Seared Yellowfin Tuna over mixed greens, which I wouldn’t order in any truck stop I ever heard of. We stuck with the basics, but Josh gave the meat loaf a thumbs down. The burgers and po’boys and appies were just fine, and the beer selection was decent with a good set of drafts. However the next time we’re in the neighborhood I’ll probably try the Irish pub next door which serves Irish breakfast all day.