One year ago this week, this site ended the 007 in 23 series with Skyfall covering all 23 EON produced Bond films in celebration of 50 years of the film franchise. Yet, another Bond film still lurk behind the EON produced films. Back when optioning the film writes of the character, producer Kevin McClory met with author Ian Fleming in order to create a story that would fit perfectly on the big screen. Plans fell out of the ordeal and Fleming took the idea and turned it into Thunderball. When the franchise finally hit the big screen, Thunderball was turned into a feature and began a lawsuit by McClory to get the rights to Thunderball back resulting in vicious feuds and bad blood to be spilled. Fleming passed during this whole ordeal and McClory got what he wanted: the right to make his own vision of Bond and possibly his franchise. McClory was a bit of an ass throughout all of this, but got to realize his dream in producing his retelling of Thunderball and bringing back the Bond everyone wanted. Sean Connery returned after saying ‘never again’ to playing the Bond role and with the film titled to take claim of that comment. In 1983, the Battle of the Bonds began with Roger Moore’s take on the EON produced Octopussy, which I personally disliked, and McClory’s produced Never Say Never Again.
As always, we need a Bond song to begin.
The first and so far only non-EON produced Bond film (1967’s Casino Royale is not counted for since that is merely parody) is not great, but not terrible. It is quite mediocre, but still retains some fun expected in a Bond feature. Directed by Irvin Kirshner, who is best known for Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, stepped up to the plate to tackle a new vision of an aging Bond trying to stop SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) from once again taking nuclear warheads in order to hold the world ransom by Ernst Starvo Blofeld, played by Max Von Sydow this time around.
Pretty much, it’s Thunderball all over again and if you are one of the fans who did not like Thunderball, this film will not change your opinion about that movie and that’s a good thing. Rather than be the bore Thunderball was, Never Say Never Again goes whole hog and delivers a much better version of the tale that is fresh.
It has all the characters you remember, abliet with minor changes.Domino, played by Kim Basinger, is now a dancer and lover of Emilo Largo, now named Maximilian Largo, played by Klaus Maria Branduer. Felix Leiter, played by Bernie Casey, is now an black man rather than the percieved White Anglo Saxon we have come to expect and is a nice change of pace from just another average white guy. In fact, this predates Jefferey Wright’s portrayal of Felix Leiter in Casino Royale in 2006. M, played by Edward Fox, is a much angrier British man, Q, played by Alec McCowan, is a cranky old guy who says ‘bloody’ a lot and Moneypenny, played by Pamela Salem is, well, Moneypenny.
The action in the film is as great when compared to Thunderball with Kirshner’s tight direction in tact and building set pieces that are stellar, including the opening sequence that shows Connery is back to take names for good, even if it just a test run. The oddest sequence though is Bond going against Largo in a game called Domination against Largo. It’s like if the film suddenly turned into The Wizard and it’s kind of awesome to say the least.
This film even features Connery going toe to toe with famed British stuntman Pat Roach, most famous for getting his ass handed to him in all three Indiana Jones films (excluding the forth one because he passed away beforehand). This scene is probably the most memorable for showing the natural talent both actors had in their fighting style and added some moments of humor, including the fact that James Bond’s piss packs quite the punch.
The acting is decent with Connery as the highlight, back in full form never missing a step, still smooth as ever and can pull off a terrible one liner with ease. Basinger is a neat Bond girl, yet a tad forgettable and Von Sydow’s Blofled is not as great as the way it was handled by Telly Savalas in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service or Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice, but still a hell of a lot better than Charles Grey in the terrible Diamonds Are Forever.
The theme song is cheesy and generic, but judging by the other Bond theme that year, that is what was in that year. The score is quite generic as well and not a memorable as John Barry’s famous Bond scores that are full of jazz infused sounds and bombastic nature. Heck, we still had another two years till we got another fantastic Bond theme song.
Also, any excuse to play Duran Duran’s ‘A View to a Kill’ during a review is fine by me.
The major downfall of this film is exactly what the first paragraph states: it’s Thunderball again and many knows what is going to happen already. Heck, it even ends in an underwater fight. Never Say Never Again is not the best of the Bond features as a whole, but it is worth a watch if you are into the franchise as a whole.
And being this the anniversary of the series that was the prequel to Film A Week, time to give it the classic rating from then.
Assignment Status: 3 out of 5
Next week on Film A Week will be a different type of review. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father documents the life of Andrew Bagby and his murder at the hands of his wife. Then, out of the bleak nature of the murder, a son named Zachary was born. This true crime documentary takes a look at the flaws of the judicial system, the mental state of a convicted murderer and the wonderful people taken away. This is going to be a difficult one to write.
Film A Week 45: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)
A Special Film A Week Devoted to the Lives & Deaths of Andrew & Zachary Bagby
Saturday, November 16th