The first half of the 1960s saw a boom in pop-culture interest in anything related to spies and espionage. This interest was not lost on Hollywood, and by mid-decade, the spy genre was permanently entrenched at the box office, centered around suave, formidable secret agents equipped with an array of advanced gadgets and who hopped from one exotic locale to another (and one bed to another). Of course, this provided tempting targets for spoofs, one of which was a TV series called Get Smart that debuted in 1965.
Get Smart would prove to be one of the most enduring and memorable creations of the era. A product of the wacky imaginations of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, the series centered around a bumbling secret agent named Maxwell Smart, played to perfection by Don Adams, who worked for a government agency with the contrived acronym of CONTROL. Partnered with the comely Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon), who provided a stylishly sophisticated and competent foil to his plain styles and clumsy mannerisms, Agent 86 battled the sinister, scheming KAOS organization for five delightful seasons, until the series' end in 1970.
Fast-forward to 1980, ten years after the original series ended. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon are distant memories, and the office they held now belongs to an ex-peanut farmer from Georgia. The colorful pschedelic pop music, fashions, and muscle cars are long gone, too, having been replaced by the saccharin glitz of disco, tacky styles and drab sedans.
One thing the passage of time has not diminished, though, is the nefarious presence of KAOS, and fortunately for society, still soldiering on to keep them in check is the original Agent 86 Maxwell Smart (Don Adams). KAOS has just announced its newest sinister threat to the common good, a device called the Nude Bomb capable of destroying all known types of fabric, and that threatens to leave people all over the world naked and shivering. After KAOS demonstrates the power of the weapon and demands huge extortion payments to hold back from its use, Smart is assigned by the Chief (Dana Elcar) to the case, and after a bumbling pursuit around the world, confronts the instrument's devious creators in their secret island lair (where else would it be?) in a final showdown. Will he prevail, or will the worldwide demand for sunscreen soar beyond all capacity?
Don Adams reprises his old role here after a ten-year hiatus, but co-star Barbara Feldon (Agent 99) does not appear in this film, and the original Chief (Edward Platt) had died six years before. Although others from the original cast appear in the film, notably Robert Karvelas as Larabee and a last appearance of Joey Forman as Agent 13, the absence of two of the three key original stars, whose chemistry and talent had supplied much of the magic of the original series, leaves an irreplaceable gap; this is not helped by the two-dimensional roles for the new women agents. Still, in the film's favor, Dala Elcar delivers a credible performance as the new Chief, Norman Lloyd succeeds in bringing the Bond "Q" parody Carruthers to life, and Vittorio Gassman provides a memorable villain in his role as a manaical fashion designer.
Following in the traditions of espionage spoofs the series had helped build, this film, like the Austin Powers series that would follow 17 years later, capitalizes heavily on campy, cliched elements. There are the scheming, European-accented foreign villains, the obligatory mountain lair patrolled by machine gun-toting underlings aimlessly milling about, and of course, the silly gadgets like the shoe-phones (now updated with touch-tone dialing and an answering machine). Unlike the blockbuster, big-budget films of Mike Myers, though, the imagery is sparse, the sets are modest, and the atmosphere is dated by the drab Seventies cars, tacky clothing and hair styles of the disco era, and even the brown shag carpet of Smart's apartment. In fact, this production is more suggestive of a made-for-TV special than a full-fledged feature film.
Still, it's a treat to have Don Adams back as Maxwell Smart again, and he doesn't disappoint, being in excellent form with all his old character's gags, mannerisms, and one-liners. Despite the general kitschiness, The Nude Bomb delivers on the humor. It's also quite clean, with nudity, sex, toilet humour, and offensive steretypes being absent, and the film easily earns its PG-13 rating. Simply put, there are a lot worse ways to spend an hour and a half than by sitting through this film.
Video: This is an older transfer, and it has shortcomings common with the laserdisc offerings of that era. It is formatted in 1.33:1 MAR instead of the 1.85:1 used for the theatrical release. The transfer suffers from a number of quality issues typical of older laserdisc: Edge enhancement is evident, there is color bleeding, occasional dot crawl, some dirt and grain, frequent aliasing and rainbow patterns, and chroma noise throughout. On the positive side, colors are reasonably saturated and there is a surprising level of detail. All in all, despite the flaws, with good equipment this disc is quite watchable, even on a large screen.
Audio: The disc has audio tracks in both digital and analog, with both being mono. The audio is unspectacular, but clean and well-defined.
Packaging: Cardboard sleeve with cover art and film credits.
Conclusions: Although the film doesn't match the greatness of the original series, we still get Don Adams back in his old role that for many of us baby-boomers is his defining one. Although campy and suffering from an apparent low budget, the The Nude Bomb is so silly you can't help but laugh at times. This laserdisc is long out of print, but copies do surface on eBay and Half.com from time to time (more common is the VHS version). Perhaps one day, it will be available on collector DVD (and along with it, the original series as well).