Bond: Never Say Never Again
As I mentioned in my OCTOPUSSY review, 1983 was a big year for Bond, as there was not one, but two Bond films coming out that year. This is due to the fact that, years before the official James Bond franchise began, Ian Fleming worked on a film treatment for the character with Kevin McClory. The script was not picked up, and Fleming turned the story into his novel, THUNDERBALL. When the film version was produced, McClory was given a co-producer credit on the finished film. Afterwards, an agreement was reached giving McClory the right to produce another film version of THUNDERBALL in ten years- as Cubby Broccoli & co., assumed the franchise would have run it’s course by then.
Of course, the series went on, and McClory started work on his own film in 1975. It never got off the ground, until the early eighties when McClory teamed up with producer Jack Schwartzman (father of actor Jason Schwartzman, and husband of Talia Shire), who managed to sign Sean Connery to play Bond. This was huge news at the time, and everyone assumed that the resulting film, NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN would destroy OCTOPUSSY at the box office. Alas, OCTOPUSSY was a much more successful film, and NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN has been more or less forgotten. Is the film worth revisiting?
PLOT: SPECTRE hijacks two nuclear missiles, and an aging James Bond, now considering retirement, is sent to recover them.
REVIEW: I’ve never been a huge fan of this film. I think it was a real missed opportunity, as the mere fact that Connery was willing to return to the role at this point in his career, promised a much better film than the one we ended up getting.
There are many reasons why this film doesn’t quite work. One major reason is Irwin Kershner’s direction. Yes- I know he directed THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK- but at the end of the day, no one would call that “an Irwin Kershner film”, it’s George Lucas’ film. In order to compete with the official franchise, they needed to make NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN an epic- but the finished film is anything but, and it plays out like an expensive TV movie.
NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN’s only redeeming feature is the cast- which is top notch- led of course by the one and only Sean Connery. We also get Kim Basinger, Barbara Carrera, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Max Von Sydow, and even Mr. Bean himself, Rowan Atkinson- who shows up as bumbling agent Nigel Small- Fawcett (cheeky!), and would essentially recreate the role for his own spy spoof, JOHNNY ENGLISH, yeas later. There’s also a pretty rad motorcycle chase mid way through- but even that pales in comparison to any of the action scenes in OCTOPUSSY. It’s not a surprise that OCTOPUSSY cleaned it’s clock at the box office.
Sean Connery returns to the role after twelve years. Surprisingly, Connery is actually in better shape here than he was his last “official” Bond, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. While he was in his fifties, he was still very fit, and looked great- although he wears a particularly unconvincing toupee in this outing (which actually slips off at one point if you look carefully). Despite the long absence from the role, he doesn’t miss a beat, and picks up right where he left off. The film may not be good- but Connery sure is! Also- the title was suggested by Connery’s wife, as a dig at his constant vow that he would never return to the role.
Max Von Sydow fares less successfully as Blofeld- as he’s only onscreen for a few minutes, and seems way too grandfatherly and passive to be playing such an evil character.
Yum- twenty nine year old Kim Basinger as Domino. Her screen time is fairly limited, but she’s gorgeous, and makes a great Bond girl.
I also really liked Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush- the villainess. She was so good in the role that she actually earned a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actress in a dramatic film.
BOND MUSIC: Ughhhh!!! Michel Legrand is on hand to provide a truly horrendous musical score. I cannot believe this did not get re-scored, and the music is truly wretched. There's also a fairly lame theme song by Lani Hall.
BODY COUNT: Bond silences a mere two baddies in this film.
NUMBER OF WOMEN BOND SLEEPS WITH: It’s Connery, so he ends up sleeping with four women in this one. Welcome back Sean!
BEST ONE- LINER: There’s a great line where Bond meets up with Fatima Blush. She’s water skies into him, soaking his suit. She says, “Oh no, I’ve made you all wet”, to which he replies- as only Connery can, “yes, but my martini’s still dry.” Classic.
BEST DOUBLE ENTENDRE: A great one. Blush is about to blow Bond’s balls off, but first she wants to here him say that she’s the greatest sex he’s ever had- to which he coolly replies, “Well, to be perfectly honest, there was this girl in Philadelphia...”
BEST GADGET: Bond’s fountain pen/ rocket launcher is pretty awesome (and practical).
RECEPTION: While OCTOPUSSY beat it at the box office, it was still nonetheless a very successful film, pulling in $55 million in North America, and $160 million worldwide.
GRADE: 5/10- overall a very mediocre film, saved only by the top notch cast.
Previous reviews: DR. NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE , GOLDFINGER, THUNDERBALL, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER , LIVE AND LET DIE, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, MOONRAKER, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, OCTOPUSSY