May 18, 2011

∴ #5byBond: Never Say Never Again

This week's #5byBond film is Never Say Never Again. It's both the return of Sean Connery to the role of James Bond and the last time he'll play it. It's also the last of three infrequent non-EON James Bond productions.

Never Say Never Again is a 1983 remake of the 1965 film Thunderball. Connery played Bond in that earlier film, as well. The production of this week's film was the result of a legal dispute between Kevin McClory, a collaborator with Ian Fleming on the screenplay forThunderball, and United Artists. McClory retained the rights to the story after Fleming died and produced this differently titled version.

This outing was a disappointment. It's the only case where we have two versions of the same story to compare, and Thunderball is clearly superior. The writing was snappier, the direction tighter, and the story moved right along as a result. By the middle of the second hour of Never Say Never Again I just didn't care anymore.

Much of the Bond mystique is squandered in this film. Exotic locations are treated like a studio backlot. Brandauer's Largo chuckles and smirks his way through the story. I thought it was his acting style, but after a while he comes off as a nutball. The notion of an aging spy, his yearning for days gone by, and trepidation for coming retirement, are ignored. Hell, they could have made half a movie on those aspects, alone.

My notes:

  • Sean Connery is wearing a toupee. I guess a balding Bond wouldn't do, even though the character is coming out of semi-retirement for this mission.
  • The clinic scenes are longer in this film than in Thunderball, but with less feeling of consequence.
  • "Let's hope we never have to use the real thing." - launch director for cruise misslie test. Anti-nuclear and anti-US sentiment were running high during the time this film was made, especially after the installation of the popular Mikhail Gorbachev as party chairman of the USSR. Kinda dumb ot put those words in the mouth of the US military, though.
  • The bomber was a British model in Thunderball. In this update the bomber is an American B-1.
  • Camera in skull to shoot video of SPECTRE's demands. Dumb.
  • Interesting that M says the Americans, NATO and the Japanese are collaborating with the Brits. At the time, Japan was ascendant in economic output and many of the western nations (and workers) feared them. How times have changed.
  • Largo's command lair has a window onto his girlfriend's dance studio?
  • And Largo's girlfriend is played by Kim Basinger. Ugh.
  • Remotely controlled shark? The electronic thingy attached to Bond's scuba tank seems to call the shark, which has some kind of radio device on its dorsal fin.
  • Bad editing of the shark pushing back-and-forth with Bond at the door on a sunken boat.
  • Some really bad music in this movie. Not just dated, but bad, even at the time.
  • Felix Leiter is played by a black actor, Bernie Casey. This is the only such casting until Jeffrey Wright in the 2006 version of Casino Royale.
  • Low automobile budget. Nothing Bond-worthy in sight.
  • The film slows down once Bond reaches the Bahamas. We've reached the point where this one goes downhill. (The location shots look more like Rio de Janeiro.)
  • More ugh. Basinger's character, Domino, steps away from the casino gaming tables to play an arcade video game. Another sign of the times. No class.
  • Largo is played by Klaus Maria Brandauer. He appears to play the role as if he's playing a prank. He's easily the least-convincing Bond villain to date.
  • Fatima Blush explodes! And disappears! Is she Houdini?
  • The plot gets muddy and generally uninteresting beyond the 1:30 mark.

This one wasn't worth a rainy Saturday afternoon, even. Take a nap, instead.

Up next: A View To A Kill, Roger Moore's last turn as the British spy, and the fourteenth Bond film overall..

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