The James Bond series was a monumental series for me growing up and, as I planned on featuring one of the 20+ films in the series as a Key Movie, I just couldn’t choose. Since I can’t choose a single one, I am reviewing each and every Bond film continuing with today’s entry, Never Say Never Again.
Welcome to Key Movies Of My Life James Bond Edition.
Today’s Key Movie:
A funny thing happened in 1983. Not one, but two Bond films were released and the second one featured the original Bond Actor, Sean Connery. In this one, Bond has been retired as a 00 agent with the section being deactivated. Having become a teacher in the ranks, his new boss (replacing M) is still determined to keep him fit and ready for service despite his advanced age. Soon our intrepid agent is called into action once again to fight SPECTRE after they have stolen two nuclear warheads, using them to extort the world for billions of dollars.
Why this movie?
Some twelve years after the less than stellar final appearance as Bond, Connery was back and ready to…repeat much of the same adventure he had before? Yep. this is a remake of none other than the 1965 film Thunderball but done in a slightly different way. But why remake one of his old films, you ask?
Well, you see, the story of Thunderball is one of the only books not solely written by Ian Fleming. Based on a screenplay Fleming had worked on with Kevin McClory and Jack Wittingham, the Novel Thunderball fell into a a bit of turmoil as Fleming did not give any credit to his co-writers. Eventually they found an agreement that any Bond film made outside of Eon Productions could only be based on this story, allowing for the unexpected return of Sean Connery as James Bond.
Now what about that title? Shouldn’t it be something to do with Thunderball? The title itself is a bit of a pun as, After filming Diamonds are Forever, Connery swore he would never play Bond again. Having accepted this role, Sean’s wife, suggested the title and the producers agreed, and so we have one of the few ‘unofficial’ Bond films in the franchise. The other being the 1967 Casino Royale which no one really counts anyhow as it was more of a comedy than anything else.
Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?
To be honest, this is actually a slightly better version of Thunderball than the original 1965 film but still far from perfect. With a a few exceptions, like the horrendous opening theme song that sounds like a poor throwback to the seventies, the film has all of the clever beats of a Roger Moore Bond film but with the action and pacing of some of the later Bond films in the series. That being said, it is not the best of the films but it certainly isn’t the worst.
Our villains of the film are Maximilian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandaur) and Fatima (Barbara Carrera) . Brandaur’s portrayal of Largo is worlds better than that of Adolfo Celi, but still not great. He comes across as more of a creepy voyeuristic rich guy than a criminal mastermind, making him a little on the disturbing side but still better than what we had before. Bond and Largo face off in this one with an odd video game that could kill the loser with an electric shock. This certainly dates the movie a bit but it is a rather interesting touch.
Fatima (Carrera) is a much more intense and interesting version of SPECTRE Agent 12 than before but is more of a new character than the version we saw in Thunderball. In this one she is certifiably insane with a streak for Sado-masochism as she attempts to assassinate Bond throughout the film. She comes across as a wild, unhinged woman who can not accept failure of any kind, which ultimately spells her downfall.
Our Bond Girl in this one is none other than Kim Basinger in a role that really does not show off her acting chops in any way. Playing the role of Domino, Basinger is both the love interest to one of the lead villains, Maximilian Largo and, of course, eventually to Bond himself. Sadly, she really has no role in the film other than the damsel in distress who could easily have been replaced with just about any inanimate object and it would not have altered the story very much.
Now, let’s talk about Connery and his return to the role that made him an international success. This film fully embraces Connery’s age by starting the story with Bond having been retired from action and the 00 branch no longer active. It is careful to establish this as it’s own continuity not affiliated with the rest of the series, but also acknowledging the past with key characters and situations.
Although he clearly still has it when it comes to action films dominating the role as one would expect, however in his seduction scenes he comes across as more of a dirty old man than a sexy secret agent. There are moments in the film that are genuinely cringe worthy and almost make you feel sorry for the lecherous old man, almost…
Other characters of note include the fun inclusion of Felix Leiter, played by Bernie Casey, Max Von Sydow as Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE, and the odd character of Nigel Small-Fawcett (yeah, a punny name) played by Mr. Bean himself, Rowan Atkinson. The later really doesn’t fit the film or add anything other than a lengthy cameo of one of Britain’s funniest actors, so I am not sure why he was included in the first place.
Blofeld in this film (Sydow) is one of the best versions of the head of SPECTRE thus far. Sydow has a gravitas about him in every role he performs that permeates the films, and this is no exception. While he is not in the film for any real length of time, he is clearly in charge, presenting Bond with an adversary who sadly never really gets to come face to face with our hero.
As I mentioned above, the opening theme song is the worst. I really didn’t think it could get any worse than Moonraker or The Man with the Golden Gun but this one takes the cake. It is bad and really doesn’t fit the film, even forcing the title into it in a way that really doesn’t quite fit. So you can see what I mean, here it is:
Of note is the director of Never Say Never Again is Irvin Kershner who also has the distinction of Directing the film, The Empire Strikes Back.
All in all, this isn’t a bad Bond film but one that plays with all of the cliche’s and tropes the Bond franchise is known for, jamming them into one well produced rehash of a nearly 20 year old film. Connery still has what it takes to be the ultimate English Spy but it is clear that this would be his last hurrah in the title role, allowing him one last chance to star in his most recognized role. If you are a fan of the franchise, this is one worth watching just to see him at it one final time.
OK, where do I get this movie?
This one has become more available with the return of Bond resurgence of 007’s popularity in the mid 2000’s. It is getting harder to find in physical form but it is readily available in digital format from pretty much any of your favorite digital sources. I haven’t seen it up for streaming lately but it would not surprise me if it popped up with the release of Bond 25 sometime in 2020.
and of course, the trailer:
Late To The Game 4/4/2019
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
For more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here. and, If you dig Music, I have a semi regular series called Stand Out Albums that covers some of my favorite records I have come across in life.
As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!