Lost in Translation has covered Get Smart! before, reviewing the 2008 remake starring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway. The original series ran from 1965 to 1970 and starred Don Adams as Maxwell Smart, Barbara Feldon as Agent 99, and Ed Platt as the Chief of CONTROL. There were several recurring characters, including KAOS agent Seigfried, played by Bernie Kopell, and his right-hand man Shtarker (King Moody), master of hiding Agent 13 (David Ketchum), the Chief’s aide Larabee (Robert Karvelas), and the robot Hymie (Dick Gauthier).

The series, created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, was a parody of popular spy films and TV series of the time. Gadgets were common, with various degrees of usefulness. The Cone of Silence, a way to speak with complete security, never worked as advertised and created more problems than it solved. Over the run of the series, several running gags and catch phrases developed, including Max’s “Would you believe?”

With 138 episodes, the series easily found a second home in syndication. A half hour series fits well in the afterschool slot between the end of the school day and the six o’clock news. Get Smart! built up a second audience, even if some of the parody went over its head. The Nude Bomb, released in 1980, was the first attempt to take advantage of the larger audience, but other than Don Adams, none of the original cast appeared in the film.

Still, secondhand syndication kept the series in audience’s minds, to the point ABC aired the reunion movie, Get Smart, Again!, in 1989. This time, the film brought back as many of the series’ cast as possible. Unfortunately, Ed Platt had passed away in 1974, but Adams, Feldon, and the regular recurring actors reprised their roles. The movie brought the series up to date to 1989, with time having passed since the end of Get Smart!. Joining the cast are Kenneth Mars as Commander Drury, the head of the United States Intelligence Agency, John de Lancie as Major Waterhouse, an agent of the USIA, Steve Levitt as Beamish, an analysis for the USIA, Roger Price as the mad scientists Hottentot, and Harold Gould as Nicholas Dimente, the publisher of 99’s in-progress memoirs.

The movie opens with the President of the United States on a video call with the senior members of the USIA, including Drury and Waterhouse. Hottentot is threatening the world with his weather control machine. To prove it works, Hottentot started a blizzard in the Oval Office. Beamish determined that KAOS is behind the extortion. The USIA isn’t familiar with how KAOS works, but Beamish knows the location of one of CONTROL’s top agents and provides the direct number to Agent 86’s shoe.

Much like the first episode of the original series, where Max received a phone call at the theatre, the call comes in while Max is a pallbearer at a funeral, while carrying the coffin. He lets go of the coffin to take the call. To be explicit, in 1989, cell phones were rare, not ubiquitous like today, so a ringing phone at the theatre or a funeral wasn’t rude, it was unknown. Max finds a quiet spot to take the call but call waiting cuts in; 99 was calling in on the other shoe.

After being reactivated, Max seeks out some of his old comrades. Agent 13 is part of the CONTROL files held by the USIA. Hymie is working at a car crash test centre as the dummy. Larabie is still at the abandoned CONTROL office, still maintaining the plants in the Chief’s office. All three are happy to be back in action. Rounding out the team is Beamish, who gets to learn how to be an agent from one of the best.

The investigation attracts the attention of Siegfried and Shtarker. Siegfried sends a number of KAOS hitmen to stop Max, though through skill and a lot of luck, 86 is able to get the upper hand. Max finds Hottentot and tries to find out why he’d sell out his country. However, Hottentot is killed just before he can reveal who he was working with and why he sold his weather machine to KAOS. Hottentot’s killer turned out to be the mole, who left enough of a clue behind, thanks to KAOS tailoring, for Max and 99 confront the mole at his home.

The big break in the case is the arrival of Professor Helmut Schmelding, Hottentot’s partner in the building of the weather machine. Schmelding has an uncanny resemblance to Siegfried. Turns out, Helmut is one of Siegfried’s triplet siblings, with the third being a sister. Helmut just uses his mother’s maiden name. Max recruits Helmut for a plan he has in mind.

Max agrees to meet with Siegfried with the two hundred and fifty million dollars KAOS is demanding to not use the weather machine. At the meet, when Siegfried is ready to kill Max, the trap is sprung. Helmut and Siegfried have a quick family reunion, then they trade clothes and places. Helmut returns to Shtarker with Max and 99 following. Shtarker soon sees through the ruse; Helmut just doesn’t have the ruthlessness of his brother. Max and 99 are soon captured after that.

The KAOS mastermind behind the scheme reveals himself. His motives make sense for an evil mastermind with a profit motive. He still makes the one mistake – he leaves the heroes in a death trap. Max uses his gadgets to escape and, in the final fight, defeats the mastermind.

The movie fits in with the original series, updated for 1989. The script forces a lot of the running gags and catchphrases into the first half hour but settles back once the action gets going. The Cone of Silence makes an appearance, but so do replacements, including Hover Cover, three helicopters hovering over the conversation, and the Shush Room, which turns spoken works to written. The new approaches work just as well as the Cone of Silence.

The film did get creative with fight scenes, adding new difficulties. An early fight in the USIA file room used remotes to open drawers. A later fight at the Smarts’ home had the added complication of Max trying to not disturb 99 upstairs, so anyone falling or screaming had to be muffled. Overall, the return of the characters was like a return home. Everyone was comfortable back in the roles, the new characters fit in, with Commander Drury quickly getting to the exasperation point the Chief had in the original series.

Helping with keeping the proper feel is having Leonard B. Stern as one of the writers and the man who created the movie’s story. Stern was the producer of the original Get Smart! and wrote seventeen episodes. The familiarity with the characters went a long way to making the reunion movie feel right. Several of the old sets were used, including the long walk during the original’s opening credits and the Chief’s office. The reuse of the original theme music, with the hints of it in the pre-credits scene, evokes nostalgia.

The gadgets also played a role. Max still had his shoe phone, updated with the new technology available in 1989 like call waiting. The new suit is computerized, with cuff buttons starting different uses. The suit also has a built-in phone, with one arm and lapel for local calls and the other for long distance. A credit card is used against a modern lock, said credit card having a laser in it, thanks to miniaturization.

There is satire going on as well, much like the original. The discussion of the ranking of a KAOS hitman separate from performance. The trading of hitmen and muggers between KAOS and THRUSH is treated as a move in sports. The rituals involved during a meet between opposing agents. Spying is still a job, no matter how glamorous it looks.

Get Smart, Again! is like meeting old friends after a long separation. People have changed, grown older, but they’re still the people you remember. The reunion movie is a worthy addition to the original series.


This article was originally published at THE REMAKE ZONE.

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