There are two sorts of movie adaptations of TV shows…those that come many years after the original series, with a new cast playing the classic roles, and those that bring the original cast members to the big screen. Today’s film was based on the classic 60’s comedy Get Smart. Coming ten years after the end of the series, the only returning cast member is Maxwell Smart himself, Don Adams. It’s 1980’s “The Nude Bomb.”
The evil organization KAOS has developed a new weapon that when used will cause all fabrics to dissolve…leaving the world’s population nude. What else is there to do but bring back Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, to defeat his old enemies. The Chief (Dana Elcar…replacing the series’ chief, Edward Platt) quickly arranges for a team of new agents to assist Max in tracking down KAOS…including a brother and sister team of computer analysts (Gary Imhoff and Sarah Rush), The Q-like Caruthers (Norman Lloyd), and sexy Agent 36 (Pamela Hensley). But Max’s primary assistant is another lovely young lady, Agent 22 (Andrea Howard).
Meanwhile, KAOS is moving forward with their plans. They are led by a strange man with panty hoes on his head and a thimble on every finger. Along with his one-eyed henchman (Vittorio Gassman), they have already successfully launched a few of their “nude bombs” on several important targets. Meanwhile, Max doesn’t seem to be making much progress on the case. He spends way more time trying to explain to Agent 22 why Agent 36 is lounging in a bathrobe on his bed.
Soon, though, the investigation leads Max to a fashion designer, Jonathan Livingston Seigel (Bill Dana), who recognized that he had a model who wore a dress with the same pattern as the fabric worn by the head of KAOS on his TV broadcast…got all that?. This leads the agents to looking for the former fashion model who now works as a tour guide at Universal Studios. When they show up at the model’s home, she’s being wheeled off by the coroner…having been killed by a man with one-eye. But the landlady says the dress in question was one she kept in her locker at work. So, we head to Universal Studios, where a chase through the backlot tour ensues.
The team ends up learning the identity of the one-eyed man, which leads Max to a ski resort in Austria to talk with the killer’s ex-wife. While there, he is assisted by another shapely agent, Agent 34 (Sylvia Kristel…yep, Emmanuelle). The ex-wife ends up providing the crucial info to track down the head of KAOS. Now Max needs to head for the villain’s Dr. Evil-ish lair, but first he must deal with a possible mole in the agency, which could be Agent 22…who he’s falling for.
I loved Get Smart! It was one of those shows that would come on one of the local UHF stations during the summer months when I was a kid. Though I love Don Adams as Max, it is a bit disappointing that several of the other key players are not around for this film. Robert Karvelas, who played Larabee, is on hand for this film, but the Chief is not the Chief we knew from TV (Edward Platt passed away in 1974) and the character of Agent 13 (the guy who’s always hiding in odd places) is recast for the film as well. The most notable absence, however, is Barbara Feldon’s Agent 99…and believe me, she is missed. I dare say that part of what made Adam’s performance as Max work so well, was the way he and Feldon worked together. Here, no mention is made of 99, not even the fact that she and Max were married late in the run of the show.
Without some of these key elements, the film takes a while to hit it’s stride. For about the first 25 minutes, I was starting to feel like Maxwell Smart should’ve stayed on the small screen. But as things got going, there are some legitimately funny bits. It was starting to feel a bit more like the Max I knew from my youth. Well…sort of. One bizarre element of the film is that the filmmakers seem to try way too hard to take advantage of the fact that they don’t have to deal with the network censors anymore. There are several moments where characters awkwardly use not-safe-for-TV language…one F-bomb is even let loose in this PG rated film. Even stranger is the moment during the backlot tour chase where a bunch of tourists jump into the water at the spot where the tram drives through the parting of the Red Sea. A woman emerges from the water, sans bra with her top clinging to her like she was in a wet T-shirt contest at the MTV beach house. Talk about trying too hard. The whole backlot tour sequence is a lot of fun, though. Cheesy, yes, and obviously included to get people interested in taking the tour while on their California vacation, but still fun.
I can’t really call “The Nude Bomb” a finely crafted comedy, but, like I said, there are some funny moments. Don Adams certainly knows this character and how to make him work to Max-imum effect (pun intended). I would say he did better with the TV incarnation, but he still succeeded in making me laugh.