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  Nude Bomb, The Missed It By That Much
Year: 1980
Director: Clive Donner
Stars: Don Adams, Sylvia Kristel, Rhonda Fleming, Dana Elcar, Pamela Hensley, Andrea Howard, Norman Lloyd, Bill Dana, Gary Imhoff, Sarah Rush, Vittorio Gassman, Walter Brooke, Thomas Hill, Ceil Cabot, Joey Forman, Patrick Gorman, Earl Maynard, Alex Rodine
Genre: Comedy, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Agent 86, Maxwell Smart (Don Adams), is on a plane with eighteen enemy agents, preparing to parachute out as he works undercover, when the telephone rings. It is his shoe phone, and difficult to ignore, especially as it has drawn attention to him; the main heavy tells him to answer it so he does, finding himself talking to the Chief (Dana Elcar) who demands he return home immediately. Realising the enemies have seen through his disguise, Max pushes the leader out of the plane and tells the others he will go and bring him back, then skydives from the scene with seventeen angry spies chasing him. But the Chief has a more important job for Max.

Which is to try and save the big screen spin-off from the hit television comedy Get Smart, a task which proved too much even for Agent 86, perhaps because the old team who had served him so well were noticeably absent. The Nude Bomb, with its lame attempt to grab moviegoers' attention through that terrible title, was generally regarded as a possibly promising idea - bringing back a popular character in a high profile vehicle - but that was before production began and almost everyone involved wound up realising they had become stuck with a turkey, with the studio pulling in one direction and the writers and actors pulling in another. Sure enough, this became a bomb all right.

Don Adams, who had created for sixties television along with his writers Mel Brooks and Buck Henry an American Inspector Clouseau in a spy setting, was on record for detesting this update, and though he remained professional in the role so you could tell this Maxwell Smart was not a million miles away in personality from the one fans knew and loved, the script he was asked to deliver was a horrible travesty of the original, with too many groaning double entendres and humour trying to be daring when what Max needed was far more wholesome and fun to contrast with the James Bond influence which was continuing into the era of the ten years after recreation. To see Agent 86 try his hand at being Roger Moore was a bad idea in a film packed with them.

The screenwriters were veterans of the source: this was actually intended as a TV movie called The Return of Maxwell Smart until Universal saw profits could be made by releasing it to cinemas. But those writers were sidelined by the production when it was clear their more goofy ideas were not chiming with the more grown-up approach the powers that be ordered for the film, leaving a work which was too silly for the adults and too often inappropriate for the children. The title referred to a "bomb" which when set off will make clothes disappear, all the idea of criminal mastermind Vittorio Gassman to... well, it's not all that apparent why he would want to do this or what his exact goals were, but by the point he was explaining them you would have probably lost interest.

There was no Agent 99 here, Barbara Feldon not even having been asked and glad of that when she saw the material, so to substitute were three agents, the 99 stand in Andrea Howard, popular TV glamourpuss of her day Pamela Hensley, and for some reason Sylvia Kristel, Emmanuelle herself, keeping her clothes on and giving comedy a try though typical of her bad luck she opted to appear in a completely laugh-free effort. There were nods towards the humour of the series, but it all fell flat, from the stunts with Max driving his desk around the streets of Los Angeles or a gratuitous plug for the Universal Studios tour which pads out a few minutes, to the more throwaway gags such as the agent who hides in such things as toilets to pass on information to Max. In fact, there was only one thing which actually came alive as a moment of inspiration, and that was at the finale where a cloning machine creates an army of Adamses and Gassmans (actually obvious doubles) who each pair off for fisticuffs. It wasn't worth watching this to get to that. Music by Lalo Schifrin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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