The Nude Bomb (1980) poster

The Nude Bomb (1980)


USA. 1980.


Director – Clive Donner, Screenplay – Bill Dana, Leonard B. Stern & Arne Sultan, Story – Arne Sultan, Producer – Jennings Lang, Photography – Harry L. Wolf, Music – Lalo Schifrin, Production Design – William Tuntke. Production Company – Universal.


Don Adams (Maxwell Smart), Andrea Howard (Agent 22), Vittorio Gassman (Nino Salvatore Sebastiani), Dana Elcar (Chief), Sylvia Kristel (Agent 34), Bill Dana (Jonathon Livingston Seigle), Pamela Hensley (Agent 36)


Agent 86 Maxwell Smart and his new partner Agent 22 are sent to stop mad KAOS clothing designer Jonathan Livingston Seigle who is threatening to detonate a ‘nude bomb’ that will destroy all clothing in the world.

TV’s Get Smart (1965-70) was one of those cult successes. Producer Leonard Sheldon came up with the idea of turning the spy shenanigans of the James Bond films and particularly tv’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-8) into a unique deadpan farce. The series was originally pitched to Mel Brooks, then a stand-up comedian and tv gag writer and not at that point having made his name as a director (which would have to wait until The Producers (1968), which Brooks always claimed the success of Get Smart funded). Brooks’ influence on the show however has been over magnified – he only wrote several episodes and then bowed out, although he was the one who did come up with the shoe phone gag and the name of the central character. The majority of the show was written by Brooks’ good friend Buck Henry, a screenwriter and comic who has over the years written films such as The Graduate (1967), Catch 22 (1970) and To Die For (1995). Get Smart was a hit that stayed on the air for five years before going onto a permanent afterlife in syndication. Don Adams was forever typecast in the role and spent years afterwards making appearances in commercials as Maxwell Smart.

The Nude Bomb was one of the first in the 1980/90s fad for big-screen revivals of 1960s tv series. However, in comparison to Get Smart, The Nude Bomb has all the liveliness of a wet dishrag. It looks cheaply made – the sets have the tatty, tawdry look of low-budget 1950s science-fiction. In the Swiss sequences, there are visibly obvious backdrops and even black-and-white footage inserted in lieu of an avalanche sequence.

Clive Donner’s direction is drab. He seems to abandon sequences in the midst of the scene after the end of the gag – the opening skydiving sequence is one such example where as soon the principal gag of the scene is over, Donner forgets entirely about Max’s parachuteless mid-air fate. One extended chase sequence seems inserted for no other reason than to act as an advertisement for the Universal Studios backlot tour.

Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) driving the deskmobile in The Nude Bomb (1980)
Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) driving the deskmobile

Mostly though, The Nude Bomb is a film made without the creative talents behind the original Get Smart involved. The only returnee from the series is Don Adams who is on customary form – and yet the absence of Barbara Feldon’s Agent 99 is noticeable. Crucially, the film lacks the original’s zaniness. The old Get Smart twinkles momentarily – like the shot of a sign with a painted skull saying ‘Achtung’, to which is commented “I suppose we’ll have to watch out for deadly Achtungs,” but as a gag it looks lonely.

A much more successful revival was the tv movie Get Smart Again (1989), which brought back many of the original cast and much more successfully recaptured the original’s wackiness. There was a further attempt to bring the series back with Get Smart (1995), which reunited a now aging Don Adams and Barbara Feldon and featured Andy Dick playing Smart’s son, but this was dismal and only lasted a merciful seven episodes. Get Smart (2008) was a big screen remake of the tv series starring Steve Carrell as Maxwell Smart and with Anne Hathaway as Agent 99.

Trailer here

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