Saturday, July 10, 2010

Get Smart, Again - Spy-Spoof Movie Reviews by Robert Steven Mack

Would you believe that…this review is about two films that were more or less loosely based on the classic sixties spy spoof tv series Get Smart? Would you believe that I will first review The Nude Bomb and then Get Smart Again? As to The Nude Bomb, the original idea of this film was to relaunch the Get Smart franchise. Instead, it would almost destroy it!

Get Smart (NBC, 1965-1969, CBS, 1969-1970,) was originally the brain child idea of David Melnick and David Susskind, but later passed on to Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. It starred Don Adams, stand-up comedian, television director, and comic genius who spent more than five decades on television entertaining people. As Maxwell Smart Secret Agent 86, Don Adams plays a bumbling, dim-witted, accident prone, yet undeniably cool secret agent working for Control. Control is a top secret government agency formed to fight KAOS, an international terrorist group of not-so-nice people fighting for the meanness of rottenness. The free world’s only hope is CONTROL who is constantly fighting for the “goodness of niceness” because nice is…nicer.

Despite his intellectual limits, Agent 86 always manages to foil KAOS's plans to world domination. Running on his own thin luck, he is accompanied by brilliant Agent 99, a young attractive spy played by lovely and talented Barbara Feldon. Smart reports to The Chief, played by Edward Platt, who, by the way, you can catch in Alfred Hitchcock's ''North by Northwest" and in Disney's ''Pollyanna". The Chief is the frustrated head of Control and often a victim to Max's comic antics. It is said that the only reason why he does not replace Max is that if he leaves the even more dim-witted agent Larrabee, Don Adam's cousin Robert Karvelas, would take his place. Secretary to the Chief, Robert Karvelas was given many bit parts in episodes throughout the series before his big break in the fifth season. In any event, between Smart and Karvelas, the Chief would rather take Maxwell Smart. Reluctantly…

Joining the cast would be Bernie Kopel as Siegfried - Max's reoccurring nemesis, Leonard Strong as Craw (or is it Claw?).Joey Froman plays the great Hawaiian detective Harry Hoo, and Dick Gariter stars as robot Hymie. David Kechem plays Agent 13, whom you might come across as stashed in a trash can, an ice-box or maybe just hanging out with some monkeys on the ship's hold. If you think Number 13 enjoys his job, forget it! Victor French is Agent 44, and Jane Dulo plays 99's mother. Would you believe that the idea to a full length Get Smart film actually goes back to 1966 when the show was still running? Back then, other successful tv shows sparked the idea to make full length feature films. For example, the success of a full-length Batman feature inspired other television shows to release their own movies. Unfortunately, the only one completed thereafter was Munster Go Home which flopped in theaters. As a result all other films were canceled and the proposed Get Smart silver screen spectacular was dormant…for over a decade.

Would you believe….Why the Nude Bomb Bombed at the Box Office
Producing a Get Smart movie was a great original idea until it got into the hands of people who did not want, or did not know how, to recreate the original magic of the Great Smart potion. For one, it might be argued that The Nude Bomb bombed at the box office because it featured hardly any one of the original cast. Don Adams reluctantly returned as Maxwell Smart, Robert Karlvarlas reprised his role as Larabee, and Joey Forman taking over the role agent 13. Barbara Feldom refused to appear. As far as she was concerned, the series was over, and it was time to move on. “Chief” Ed Platt had well, deceased in '74. Although Guest stars Bill Dana and Dana Elcar had roles in the film, their roles were confusingly different from the ones of the original series. In addition, the film makers sprinkled in some 80’s sex and language…not the good kind. Well, you have the typical 80's nudeness that isn't really that Get Smart at all!

Clive Donner, a good director, was not right for Get Smart. He was in charge of the characters, music, and through it all created something that was totally opposite the original series. whereas both Leonard B. Stern and Don Adams lost all creative control that they had during the original series. Indeed Leonard Stern was actually banned from the set!'' To make matters worse, Control was gone and replaced by Pits. Well, that certainly stands out!
Yet, despite many of the short-comings, The Nude Bomb was no Casino Royale (1967 version, see blogsites archives for my review). Clive Donner's direction was good, although Don Adams would have probably done a better job directing a Get Smart film as he directed some of the show’s best episodes. Don Adams said in an interview: "I didn’t really like the script, and I felt that the director, Clive Donner, was wrong for the show. I don’t think that I should have done it in the first place. I probably should have backed out. It had 18 different drafts. It was a hodgepodge of scripts and wasn’t what Get Smart was all about. The best stuff ended upon the cutting room floor. I had no hand in that.''-Don Adams .

Perhaps, the main problem was advertising: To be sure, The Nude Bomb is a hip title, the theme song has an internal value. However, the Nude Bomb was advertised as a Get Smart film. Not surprisingly, when people went to the theaters to see just that, they found nothing of the kind! They saw a different Max. Agent 86 was still a bumbling guy saying Smart's catch phrases. Yet, he was a more concentrated agent who never worked for Control and never knew any agent 99. Would you believe there never was an agent 99? Max never married. It's like he erased his entire past of the world he now lives in. One can imagine, that to the average movie-goer in 1980 this is all rather disappointing. The sentimental viewer must have wondered what happened to everything and everybody that we held so dear, such as the Chief and lovely Agent 99? What happened to Control? (It is mentioned that Control was disbanded in the 70's but not explained why.

Yet, in perhaps another dimension…if you look at The Nude Bomb not as a Get Smart continuance, but as something different, perhaps just a fun crazy spy spoof, then you'll find it quite enjoyable.

Would you believe…Why Get Smart, Again Hit the Spot...
Luckily, in February of 1989 another Get Smart telefilm debuted on ABC. This time the outcome was a little bit different! Get Smart, Again starred Don Adams once again, reprising his role as Maxwell Smart. Also returning was most of the original series cast, such as Barbara Feldon as Agent 99, Dick Gariter returns as Hymie the Robot, Dave Ketchem as ''13", Bernie Kopel as Siegfried, King Moody as side-kick Shtacker, and Robert Karavelas as Larrabbee. The story was dedicated to Edward Platt (1920-1974) as our beloved ''Chief". The events of The Nude Bomb were completely ignored for continuity purposes. Unlike the previous get Smart feature this film was a reunion film and not a reboot: Control was disbanded in the 70's. Max, now acting as protocol officer, gets reactivated when KAOS holds a new threat on the world: a devastating new weather machine, and if demands are not met thinks could get a little different around here.

Get Smart, Again is a joy for the family, not only in terms of capturing original tone series, but also in its loyalty to the original theme - which is absent from the Nude Bomb. It is nice to see the original opening back again. Leonard Stern both wrote and produced this film and the original series director Gary Nelson was back in the director’s seat. Although a great television and film director, I found his direction for this film was slightly uneven. Once again, I wish that Don Adams were allowed to direct. Although all older, the cast was able to deliver incredible performances. The film is littered with hilarity, including sequences like the Hall of Hush and a Hover Cover sequence, where Max fights the KAOS agent without letting Agent 99 know. The film is filled with scenes that will make you laugh and remind you of the magic of the original series. The success of the film later inspired a revival series running in 1995. Unfortunately, I am yet to watch it, as I'm still working it out with my mother Diana and my father Alex. I have not heard the most favorable things about it. Don Adams and Barbara Feldon did reprise their roles, yet they were not the main focus of the series.

Would you believe...I arrived at the Conclusion

I can recommend both The Nude Bomb and Get Smart, Again. When you watch, please keep in mind that The Nude Bomb is not really a Get Smart film. Instead, it is the kind of movie that you might watch at a party complete with popcorn and pizza and any other kind of junk food you eat at a movie night. You either like it or hate it. Get Smart, Again on the other hand is of the more peaceful and relaxing (G rated) kind. As a closing comment, I would like point out how amazing it is that so many people have time and time again fallen in love with Don Adams, Barbara Feldon and just the show itself. Watch Max and Agent 99’s trip into foiling KAOS, facing danger, horror, a broken nose (for Max) - and loving it!

Robert Steven Mack's movie rating on 0-100 scale: The Nude Bomb 94/100 and Get Smart Again 95/100
Copyright 2010 by Robert Steven Mack (all rights reserved)