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June 24, 2008

The Nude Bomb

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Clive Donner - 1980
Universal Region 1 DVD

Would you believe that The Nude Bomb is hands-down the funniest movie ever made? Would you believe that The Nude Bomb is almost as hilarious as a typical episode of Get Smart? How about a couple of random chuckles, a grin or two, before the film wears out its welcome?

My own memory of the Get Smart television series was that of a show that was inconsistently humorous and entertaining. I never bothered to see this film in its original theatrical release for that reason, as well as the less than enthused reviews that were published. While The Nude Bomb was released as a DVD to cash in on the new film with Steve Carrell, time has not enhanced this first film inspired by the television show.

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The plot involves Maxwell Smart and his team of agents outwitting a villain with a bomb that causes all clothing to vaporize. The villain, Sauvage, is looking to the United Nations to pay him off in millions of dollars, or have him be the only provider of clothing for the world's people. A couple of demonstrations of the bomb's power ensue, with nude guards at Buckingham Palace, and a partially clad football team. As my viewing companion commented, this film was like watching Austin Powers without the laughs.

Don Adams was game enough to still do pratfalls at age 57. The Nude Bomb even starts with some promise during the first half hour, but the film drags on to the point where the madcap fight between clones of Maxwell Smart and Sauvage becomes uniinteresting. Having some of the female agents jockey for Smart's attention may have seemed funny on paper. Unintentionally, it makes the absence of Agent 99, played by the television series' not-so-secret weapon, Barbara Feldon, more pronounced. Also wasted is Sylvia Kristel, with Emmanuelle only a few years past, and not nude at all.

Saddest of all is that The Nude Bomb is a reminder of the steep decline of director Clive Donner. After a career peak with What's New, Pussycat?, Donner was able to make a pet project, Alfred the Great. Caught in the revolving door that was MGM at the end of the Sixties, this ambitious period film was barely released. Donner's career after that was one of a hired hand on films and television movies.

Leonard Stern, the original producer and sometime writer of the Get Smart series explained why the film went so wrong: "The Nude Bomb is something that disadvantaged all of us that were connected with Get Smart. Originally, Arne Sultan, Bill Dana, and I had an idea that we found delicious. A couturier, a foppish man with an insane fiendish desire to control the world, but not for the power and money, but for the idea that he could dress every single individual and become an international name. The Earth would be designed by him. It seemed marvelous if we could get the right flamboyant actor. It was never called The Nude Bomb, it was called The Return of Maxwell Smart. Then it got into the hands of people who simply did not want, and I can’t explain why, to duplicate the television show. They wanted to do it differently. I kept saying to them, well why did you buy it? Just leave it alone to rest in its present glory. It then became a battle of trying to maintain the integrity of Smart but not being welcome on the set. The director (Clive Donner), who was a good director, but he was used to doing intimate films was a strange choice. As was Vittorio Gassman as the flamboyant, possibly homosexual designer."

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Posted by peter at June 24, 2008 12:05 AM

Comments

would you believe, really funny?, April 10, 2008
By Scott Vandenberg (Pella, IA United States) - See all my reviews

Despite the naysayers, enough hysterical one-liners and bits of business make this worthwhile. OK, so 99 and others are missing from the cast but this has much better pacing than "The Return of Maxwell Smart", the TV movie. Nice backlot tour of Universal studios too. A generous amount of memorable, quotable lines, i.e.; "You haven't been the same since that accident when you lost your leg, your eye, your arm, your larynx. Whats WRONG with you"

Posted by: Scott K. Van Den Berg at June 26, 2008 02:41 PM