Pheasant under Glass
Get Smart

The Hayward & Sultan teleplay opens on the moon, where stepping off a LEM 86 and 99 receive an assignment from the Chief. Traffic has increased since the Apollo landing, they’ll have to meet elsewhere for secret rendezvous from now on.

The theme is magnified by the assignment. Professor Pheasant, a top scientist, is a prisoner of KAOS. He must be freed from a glass cell in the basement of KAOS headquarters, a country house in New Jersey. The impermeable glass is finally shattered not by Rosa La Costa singing “Una voce poco fa” (all KAOS agents are opera fans, says the Chief) but by a physical charge against the cell with her considerable presence where silent machine-gun and laser gun have failed before.

Furthermore, 99 is expecting. Disconcerted Max knocks over a phone booth while driving and must take the vital call lying down. His picture goes in the papers under the caption, “Secret Agent Not So Secret”.

Dr. Hector Proctor disguises him as Martin Landau and Phyllis Diller in turn so that he can pretend to accompany the soprano pianistically on a computerized instrument. One more attempt gives him a bulbous nose and mustache that fall off under the hot lights of the recital, he pastes them back on anyhow and adds an hors d’œuvre dropped by ravenous 99.

The complexity of the writing, which is strictly composed of gags, calls for very fast and nimble direction. Cogent setups are the rule, simple and direct. A camera movement brings space-suited Max and 99 moonwalking slowly right to include the Chief awaiting them. 86 spills over his piano bench while practicing in his apartment, tumbles flounderingly and sits on the end of the couch to jauntily take a phone call, the action unfolds continuously while the camera waits more or less patiently in the right foreground by the piano.