The Nude Bomb (1980)

Get Smart! is one of those comedies from the 1960s that one can still appreciate.  It was one of the few that got making fun of James Bond and its imitators correctly, while being surprisingly innovative and exciting at the same time.  The fact that Mel Brooks was involved had more than a little do with it, but all the writers did a good job in keeping the show consistent.  And, of course, there was always Barbara Feldon as Agent 99, adding both sexiness and competence in her pairing with Maxwell Smart (Don Adams). 

The show lasted until 1970.  Brooks had moved on to making hit movies, and American television was moving on as well.  Still, the show remained popular in reruns so, 10 years later, a Get Smart! movie still sounded like a great idea.  The Nude Bomb is a prime example of how Hollywood is often a place where great ideas go, get a job waiting tables, get discovered, get worked over and then crawl away to die in a flophouse. 

Maxwell Smart may no longer be in CONTROL, but he still is out doing the secret agent thing.  After KAOS resurfaces with a new madman in control, Smart is called away from an undercover mission by PITS, a special intelligence branch of the U.S. government headed by the Chief (Dana Elcar) and supplied with new gadgets by Carruthers (Norman Lloyd). 

The new plan of KAOS head Sauvage (Vittorio Gassman) is to use a bomb that destroys all fabrics, leaving the world naked and freezing and dependent upon him for his weird designer fashions.  He is assisted by his number two, Nino Salvatori Sebastiani (Gassman), who is all in favor of killing Smart - something that Sauvage sees as unnecessary, as he is sure that Smart will fail spectacularly on his own.  And, besides, he has his own double agent in PITS.

As for Smart, he is given a new team, including three female agents, 34 (Sylvia Kristel), 22 (Andrea Howard) and 36 (Pamela Hensley).  34 is nominally in charge of the mission, while 22 (and her skill for hiding anywhere) accompanies Smart throughout most of his adventure.  Also along, over the objections of the Chief, is Agent 13 (Joey Forman), who has retained his ability to gather information by hiding in the smallest of spaces.

After Sauvage gives the world (including the UN) a taste of what his nude bomb can do, Smart and 22 begin to track him down in earnest.  Through a man named Jonathan Levinson Seigle (Bill Dana) they discover clues, including a dress, that lead to Sebastiani and to his wife, Edith Von Secondberg (Rhonda Fleming).  Accompanied by the amazingly strong Agent 34, he learns much about Sebastiani and Sauvage before KAOS agents show up.

Now suspicious of everyone due to constant KAOS interference, Smart soon roots out the traitor and, with the help of 22 and the rest of his team, infiltrates Sauvage's mountain fortress to destroy the nude bomb and save the world's dignity.

Poor Don Adams.  There was no way a Get Smart! movie was going to be made without him, and he had unfortunately been typecast in the role at this point.  He gives it all he's got, although it is obvious throughout that he is uncomfortable with the film.  Barbara Feldon wisely did not reprise her role (she did later for the superior made-for-TV movies), and without her there is not really anyone to work with.  Despite Sylvia Kristel and Rhonda Fleming getting hire billing, it is Andrea Howard that serves as Adams's co-star.  She does a game job, but there is no real chemistry between the two. Kristel and Pamela Hensley might as well not even be in the film for the little screen time (or anything really to do) that they have.

Did I mention the film is PG?  You put one of the hottest (at the time) international adult film stars and Princess Ardala from the Buck Rogers television series in a movie, call it The Nude Bomb, and then slap a PG rating on it.  Even in 1980 this meant you would typically see more of them in the poster on your bedroom wall than you would in the movie.  The whole nudity angle was meant rather as an excuse to put in a bunch cheap sex jokes, including one of Smart almost shooting Little Max before uttering one of his most famous catch phrases.  You can almost hear Adams sighing after each utterance.

From what I have read this originally involved some of the original writers (sans Brooks) and was supposed to simply be called The Return of Maxwell Smart.  The plot revolved around a flamboyant fashion designer using KAOS to foist his creations (without fabric-destroying weapons) upon a public, thus cornering the clothing market.  Silly, but pretty much typical for the old series.  Instead, the writers were eventually blocked from working on the finished film, as the producers added all the "titillating" elements and hired a direct, Clive Donner, who was clearly not comfortable making a movie of this type.

In the end, this was deservedly a financial failure.  It didn't keep Hollywood, to various levels of success and failure, from continuing to adapt old television shows as movies, but it did nothing to revive the series.  Heck, even the 2008 movie with Steve Carell did better.  Aside from the scene where Smart gets involved in car chase using a modified desk that is the only thing that truly recalls any of the joy from the original series, watching this will do nothing but make you sad.

The Nude Bomb (1980)
Time: 94 minutes
Starring: Don Adams, Andrea Howard, Sylvia Kristel, Dana Elcar, Vittorio Gassman
Director: Clive Donner

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