Over the last several months, members of the CBn Forum have been reviewing all the James Bond 007 films in the “Countdown Threads“. If you wish to join in on the forum discussion all you have to do is register. Now here are some selected reviews, varying in opinion, of the rival Sean Connery 007 film, Never Say Never Again…
‘Never Say Never Again’ by ACE
The King Stays Across The Water
As a remake of Thunderball, stipulated by law, Never Say Never Again had narrow confines to work within. Thunderball, whilst spectacular, always had narrative problems getting too bogged down with the complex abduction of the warheads. Never Say Never Again could never overcome the fundamental structural problems of Thunderball which, I think, ironically for what was always meant to be a film script, works better as a novel. Therefore, Never Say Never Again had inherited deficiencies. Nevertheless, Never Say Never Again was to have been created as if there had never been a Bond film before in order to re-define and resurrect, both, the James Bond character and James Bond iconography and return to the human James Bond of Ian Fleming.
Never Say Never Again was an American Bond film with an American director from an American script by made by a company (and backed by a studio) who thought they understood who and what James Bond was but, in reality, didn’t understand at all. Irvin Kershner was too sedate in his pacing and his emphasis on character development, while interesting, elongated a film which needed tighter storytelling. Never Say Never Again did not need the slow grandeur he gave to The Empire Strikes Back. Like Diamonds Are Forever, none of the action scenes excite. All the fights (training, Shrublands, Palmyra, Tears of Allah battle) were too staged and slow. The chase sequences (motorbike and horse and SCUBA) were soggy and contrived without even being absurdly imaginative. The reliance on optical post-production effects, while novel for Bond, was distracting and came off badly especially in comparison to Octopussy‘s stunning but straight forward real-for-real thrills.
Lorenzo Semple Jnr’s screenplay was riven with cliches about the Bond myth. Bond by numbers. So much for no previous Bond films. Roger Moore’s influence was felt throughout the film in the obvious humour and characters like Nigel Smallfawcett. The idea of an aging Bond was interesting (Tom Mankiewicz, in Bondage #8, postulated an older Bond story where his timing is off and his reflexes a beat below par humanizing the supercool spy) but the film did not maintain that characterisation. There was not enough class in the film (although the fois gras, vodka and quails’ eggs suitcase was wonderful). Champagne and casinos, in themselves, are not enough – if that were the case, every Bond could be shot in Las Vegas. Some of the adult-humour and eroticism was dangerous and sexy and sophisticated, coming to the fore in the colour and casting of the villainy. Max Von Sydow, Klaus Brandauer and Barbara Carrera did not put a foot wrong and were the best things in the film, although they only emulated Adolfo Celi and Luciana Paluzzi (who were much more subtle in Thunderball). The Frenais and Clement re-write put a few good sit-com lines in place and the dialogue is witty and funny and quotable. However, the film has an innate US emphasis. All the Eon Bonds have had directors and writers of an Anglophilic/British sensibility. This has not been by accident and Never Say Never Again shows why.
Douglas Slocombe’s photography was not consistent, being sometimes dull (Shrublands), soft focus (casino) and muted (Palmyra). Nothing was crisp or even atmospheric. The framing did not do justice to the locales (compare with the South of France scenes from GoldenEye and the North African scenes from The Living Daylights).
Stephen Grimes’ design did not understand the scale and conventions of previous Bond but did not re-invent a modern approach. Some of the locations were exquisite: Kashoggi’s Nabila yacht doubling as the Disco Volante produced my favourite line from the film – “No, Mr Bond, I could run quite a large government from here!” Some other location work seemed ordinary (Shrublands) or artificial (Palmyra/Tears of Allah). The design “rules/keys” which made some of Ken Adam’s work so Bondian come from the world Bond inhabits – a traditional, ancien regime into which modernity had to be injected tastefully – the beauty of an oil painting sliding away to reveal a TV screen! The casino sequence had the right idea with the game of Domination being playing on exquisitely wrought furniture. However, they overplayed their hand as I think technology should be a throwaway in a Bond film. It should not lingered over lovingly so that the film-makers can show us how clever they’ve been! Domination went on far too long and the returns diminished. That technology must also be of (or slightly ahead of) the state of the art. I do not like the prolific use of lasers in the recent Bonds (hubcaps – The Living Daylights, camera – Licence To Kill, piton gun and Omega watch – GoldenEye, etc.) It belongs to cartoon Bond. While all these gags are throwaways, there must be a better way. Another Bondian design rule/key is that large sets must be interesting in scale and perspective and have elements of surprise in their usage and detail. The frame of the screen must be filled and distorted being split into different areas of activity and focus. The Tears of Allah cave was refugee from Indiana Jones and felt too closed and fake.
No So Legrand:
Michel Legrand’s music was the only innovation, completely throwing out the Bond rule book. I don’t think it worked but I liked the attempt. Jazz for Bond was an intriguing idea but it needed to be much heavier and atonal. The syncopation must never make the music too light as happens in this film. “Chase Her” was fun but the whole score was not streaked with the menace and danger and romantic lyricism which makes a score Bondian. Lani Hall’s title song was inappropriate, especially over those visuals, although it was a well-written, songwriter’s song. It lacked the dramatic sweep or the haunting introspection of the traditional Bond songs.
Sean Connery’s approach to Bond was considered and well-meant but off-beam. It was obviously influenced by Roger Moore’s comedic approach. It would be interesting to compare his preparation to do Never Say Never Again with the thought processes of both Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan for their debuts. Sean Connery displayed a certain complacency which is exemplified by his enjoyable but inconsistent and slightly lazy performance. Admittedly, Sean was unwillingly immersed in the problematic production His “old pro’s grace” was velvetly apparent but his edge really wasn’t sharp enough. A blunted Bond. Still, he wasn’t as bored as he was in You Only Live Twice and Thunderball and there is always a frisson seeing him as 007.
There were many good things in the film: opening training sequence, interview with M, introduction at Shrublands, fois gras de Strasbourg, Fatima Blush, Maximillian Largo, Bond meets Domino at massage parlour, Bond “provoking a reaction” and the amusing “your-place-or-mine” ruse and generally the dialogue and key performances!.
Never Say McClory Again:
Besieged by litigation, Never Say Never Again was a hurried, logistical nightmare which showed through in the uneven final result. I’ve never thought that Sean Connery was the only man for the job as Bond and I did not pin all my hopes on Never Say Never Again being the return of the proper Bond as a lot of older fans did. Throughout the late 1970’s and early 1980’s Connery was always like a king across the water waiting to overthrow poor Roger Moore. However, most ardent Connery fans realized that the king should have stayed where he was. Their disappointment was tangible and provoked a memorable Roger Moore funny about Never Say Never Again (“It’s the only film I was criticized for that I wasn’t even in”!). I thought the film disappointed the moment I saw it in the Hendon Odeon, London in December 1983. It has improved a over the years and the performances reward repeated viewing. In my honoured opinion, Octopussy won the battle of the Bonds and still stands up far better than Never Say Never Again.
No wonder Sean said “Never Again” after Never Again.
‘Never Say Never Again’ by Qwerty
Ah, the battle of the Bond’s. If you ask me, I’ll take Roger Moore’s Octopussy anyday, but Never Say Never Again does have some very good moments in the 007 series. We’ve got Sean Connery back, and despite his age, he gives yet another credible performance as agent James Bond. The supporting cast, mostly the villains, are outstanding. The psychotic Maximillion Largo portrayed by Klaus Maria Brandauer is simply perfect for a James Bond film. His scene with Domino upon arriving at his escape getaway is terrific; the way he taunts her. Also: ‘…then I slit your throat.’ Priceless.
Who can ever forget the delightfully evil femme fatale, Fatima Blush? Her introduction scene (or pretty much all of them) with Bond is top notch. She’s a controlling, powerful, and all evil woman, making her one of the series best villains. Almost a shame when she dies. Domino Petachi is good in the film, her dance scenes with Bond are interesting – but I prefer Thunderball‘s Domino.
If there is one aspect of Never Say Never Again that gives it success in my opinion, it’s the dialogue. It’s fun and rarely falls flat. Negatives for me include the score and title song, the latter by Lani Hall. All in all, not very inspiring. If comparing to Thunderball: Thunderball wins by far. However, Never Say Never Again is definitely a film for a Bond fan to try.
‘Never Say Never Again’ by DLibrasnow
Never Say Never Again: A franchise’s crowning achievement
Faced with not being able to include the iconic familiar gun-barrel sequence at the beginning of their 1983 Bond movie, Taliafilm (named after the wife of the producer and Rocky actress Talia Shire) had to cone up with their own motif. What they decided upon gives the first clue that we are about to experience something different, a breath of fresh air and a good kick up the rear end to a series of movies that had become stale through resorting to self-parody and recycled dialogue and villainy.
Yes, Never Say Never Again is a retelling of the Thunderball storylines worked out between Fleming, Bryce, Whittingham and McClory. It’s technically speaking not a remake of the 1965 picture though, but a different version of the story using characters that appeared in the earlier drafts (such as Fatima Blush).
And from the moment the screen fills up with all those 007’s and the audience is drawn in, we know right away that Connery is back and better than ever, and looking much fitter than he did in Diamonds Are Forever.
The title song has been attacked by 007 fans over the years, but I actually like it quite a lot (in direct comparison with the rest of the admittedly rather tame soundtrack). I have found myself over the past 20 years humming it to myself (sometimes at the most inopportune moments) and so it has obviously become seared into my consciousness as only a catchy tune can.
And here we come to what is the 1983 movie’s pretitle sequence. But instead of interrupting the flow of the story with yet more images of nude women and silly fluorescent effects the titles play out for the action allowing the audience to immediately find its feet and settle into the pace of this thrilling picture.
Of course it’s not the first time that we have seen Bond killed off in the opening minutes. We saw it first at the hands of Red Grant in 1963’s From Russia With Love and then again just four years later in You Only Live Twice. Here Bond is on a training mission and for those with keen eyes its really quite obvious (no muzzle fire from 007’s gun). As such it works a little better in the little details, and when 007 rescues the leggy millionaires daughter held captive she plunges a knife into him.
It is at this point that the factor of a new M really pays off. We see Edward Fox sternly watching the exercise on tape. We see another unidentified character (presumably Tanner). Its not until the very last minute that Connery’s 007 is revealed – alive and well.
Following on from a dressing down from M is one of my favorite sequences in the movie – namely Shrublands. It’s a favorite of mine because we really get introduced to my favorite character in the movie Fatima Blush. The 1965 movie has Fiona Volpe, but Volpe lacked the super-charged charisma, biting wit and ego-maniacal psychotic nature that Barbara Carrera simply oozes as Blush.
Look at the tenderness she shows to Jack, followed immediately by her bashing his head against the wall. Witness her dispatching of Jack and then crooning over her pet snake, and who can forget her final confrontation with 007 – “guess where you get the first one.”
Carrera steals every scene she is in. She dances on her way to kill Bonds French ally and like a black widow spider she seduces 007 and then attempts to kill him with a device to attract a special group of sharks attached to his air tanks.
The second highlight is the appearance of Indiana Jones alum Pat Roach as Count Lippe. Who cannot appreciate and revel in the fun fight in which Roach’s Lippe plays the indestructible Jaws role, minus the embarrassing buffoonery that Richard Kiel brought to the EON franchise. Bond throws everything at Lippe to no avail and then in an amusing conclusion the character is blinded by Bond’s urine falling back into a collection of glass cylinders and test tubes.
Connery’s reaction is classic.
In an attempt perhaps to counter the familiarity of the group of has-been actors inhabiting the SIS offices in the EON series at the time, this Connery movie has the most impressive list of actors to inhabit any Bond movie. In addition to the already mentioned Connery, Fox, Carrera and Roach we also have the incredible Klaus Maria Brandeur as Largo, the revered Max Von Sydow and Bernie Casey as a black Felix Leiter (hey, why not?!).
Brandeur plays Largo with just the right amount of understated menace and Casey is probably the second best Leiter of the series (after Hedison). You really get the feeling that he and Connery’s 007 are the best of buddies, their interactions and playful barbs appear genuinely affectionate and respectful of the other.
The one A-list actor who really lets down the rest of the team is Kim Basinger. She admittedly didn’t have much to go on, but it is in this one respect that Claudine Auger and the 1965 EON effort takes the honors.
Some have said that it is with Bonds arrival in Nassau, that this movie tends to wander a little. I respectfully disagree. It is here that the majority of Carrera’s scenes appear and here that Connery has his first confrontation with Largo. I have yet to really understand the computer game the two play, but it works nicely in building up some real tension and suspense (name a Moore 007-villain scene that achieved the same level of pent up pressure – I can’t). The final line from Connery – “I wouldn’t know, I’ve never lost” is also probably one of the best 007 comebacks in the entire series.
Yes, this section of the movie also features some of the best dialogue, the promise of which had been ably shown in the brilliant Q-scene earlier in the picture. The lines come thick and fast and are genuinely witty in comparison with some of the gags in the Moore series of pictures. In addition Rowan Atkinson nicely doesn’t outstay his welcome as comic relief and his “don’t know his mother” line always makes me smile. Other gags that work include the cigarette lighter gag at the casino and the “your place or mine” bomb at the hotel.
The ending in Africa is over a little too soon and the small battle in the underground caverns lacks the scope of some of the 007 pictures. But I think it works well in the context of the rest of the picture and is not the confusing, overlong mess that really mars the 1965 effort. Its cleaner and tighter, just the way I like it.
Yes, even though Roger Moore is my favorite 007 actor, Never Say Never Again is my favorite 007 picture.
Irvin Kershner, who directed the best of the Star Wars movies, again brings us a franchises crowning achievement with a steady directing hand, incredible witty dialogue, superb performances by an amazing cast and Sean Connery returning revitalized after a 12 year absence from the role that made him famous.
It’s the one 007 movie that I have watched more than any other.
‘Never Say Never Again’ by Double-Oh Agent
Never Say Never Again — ranks 19th on my list of Bond movies (for your information) before The Man With The Golden Gun but after A View To A Kill but this is an individual thread so we’ll ignore that and get on to the review.
Sean Connery makes a welcome return to James Bond after 12 years and (other than a little heavier and certainly grayer) is in fine form in this remake of Thunderball. Connery retains every aspect that made him James Bond and for many people, the one and only 007. For the longest time I thought Connery was the only Bond who could play an aging 007 effectively as evidenced by Never Say Never Again. I have come to amend that as I think George Lazenby could do so as well as he looks really good now, but that is neither here nor there.
As for the film itself, it has some high and low points that lend itself to mixed results and leaves one wondering what more could have been done although Kevin McClory and Jack Schwartzman are hamstrung in being able to use only stuff that was written for screen treatments of Thunderball back in circa 1959.
The low points: Michel Legrand’s score is by far the worst of any Bond score. Granted, he is handicapped by not being able to use the James Bond Theme or even the 007 Theme but aside from that, the rest of the music is just bland and does not seem anything like what should be heard in a Bond film. As for Kim Basinger’s Domino Petachi, I really enjoy her later work but she is not effective here. Her inexperience is too evident. How I wish we could transplant her from 6 to 10 years in the future back into Never Say Never Again. She looks a lot better in 1989-1993 than in 1983 and with that extra experience would have been a great Bond girl instead of just a so-so one. Also, the film loses steam when Barbara Carrera’s Fatima Blush dies, particualrly in the underwater scenes. I’m also not as excited with Bond’s allies in the home office (M, Algernon, Elliott, Moneypenny, Nigel Small-Fawcett). Something just seems to be missing with them for whatever reason.
The good: Connery, of course. Barbara Carrera is a scene-stealer in the femme fatale role. She really drives the movie. Another good point is Bernie Casey’s Felix Leiter. While Leiter is not black, the filmmakers cast a black actor to make Bond’s friend stand out and Casey does have a good rapport with Connery. To date, he’s probably in the top three or four Leiters in the series. Pat Roach’s Lippe is also great. He’s a very intimidating and dangerous presence at Shrublands. You definitely have concerns for Bond when they are fighting. And Klaus Maria Brandauer is good as Maximillian Largo. He does a good job of portraying Largo’s being psychotic, especially once Bond boards the Disco Volante, although I believe he falls short of Adolfo Celi’s sinister Emilio Largo in Thunderball.
All in all, an okay but not great film. While worth watching to see an older Connery returning to the role and to see what a faithful non-EON film would be like, it is nevertheless a terrific example of why the Bond movies should never be remade. Most are classics in their own right and would be difficult, if not impossible, to improve on.
‘Never Say Never Again’ by Harmsway
Ah, Never Say Never Again…
Never Say Never Again is a film that has been a film that has not only gone largely ignored by the Bond fan community, but often criticized. Some of the criticisms are more than valid, but in truth, this Bond film is much better than many would have you believe.
It was 1983, and Connery was back as James Bond. That casting alone makes this film worth watching, and what an interesting performance it is. Connery’s take on Bond this time is a Bond that’s a bit older, with a bit of a twinkle in his eye. This Bond has been around the block, seen the world, and is getting a bit tired of the game. It’s a nice twist that works well. The one-liners are stated with relish, and that great Connery charisma is all over this film. This is Connery’s Bond with a different flavor, but one worth no less relishing.
To add, the supporting cast is generally terrific. Klaus Maria Brandauer is a fine villain, giving a wonderful performance of a very youthful Largo, even if he lacks the elegance and menace of Adolfo Celi. Bernie Casey’s Felix Leiter is one of the best. Max Von Sydow has a cameo role as Blofeld, and does very well in the part. The real scene-stealer, however, is Barbara Carrera, owning the screen in the role of Fatima Blush.
The big casting flaw was Kim Basinger. Her acting is very poor, and she presents a very weak love interest for Connery. There’s none of the independence or toughness of the Domino of Thunderball (either in the book or film).
And here’s where the other flaws start to creep in. The direction and editing is pretty slow and poor at best. Legrand’s score for Bond is extremely poor and often annoying. The production design is nothing to match the grandeur of anything Ken Adam touched. The action is clunky, and the finale sags and is ultimately unfulfilling.
The success of Never Say Never Again largely rides upon Connery playing the part again. Put any other Bond in the role here, and you’d have a film that was much worse. Credit must also be given to the small moments of invention in this film that give it a bit of umpf. Moments like Fatima booby-trapping Bond’s room or Bond enjoying a tango with Domino make this succeed. The action may not impress, but who can’t help but chuckle with the manner in which Bond takes care of the casino doorman?
Ultimately, Never Say Never Again is a mixed bag. There’s good and bad all over the place in this film, but the good really edges out the bad. Connery’s great return to the role is worth the price of admission (or rental or purchase) alone, and there’s much more to hold your attention. Is it as good as Thunderball? Definitely not, though Thunderball isn’t perfect either. But is it worth seeing? YES!
‘Never Say Never Again’ by A Kristatos
Yes, Never Say Never Again, also known as the “imposter”. But still a pretty darn good movie nonetheless. The great Sean Connery (as opposed to the sleepwalking Sean Connery of You Only Live Twice) is back in full form here, though in a bit of different path in this movie. Connery is not the imposing, sometimes menacing figure he is in his earliest Bond incarnation, but rather relaxed, and taking the job of secret agent in stride. However, he is not boring as in You Only Live Twice, and he looks more fit than in Diamonds Are Forever.
Being an unofficial Bond film by a rival company, the trimmings that come with an official EON produced Bond film could not be used. Therefore, this movie lacks the trademark gunbarrel sequence at the beginning, and the familiar James Bond music. Having said that though, there is no reason the producers could not have hired at least a more John Barry sounding composer, if Barry himself would or could not compose the soundtrack due to contractual reasons. What we are left with is a bizarre sounding jazz soundtrack by Michael Legrand, that only on one occasion even remotely sounds like something even close to a John Barry cue. The offical title theme sung by Lani Hall was amongst the worst of all Bond themes, though at least the theme was well placed throughout the movie, poor theme or not.
The plot is basically a retread of the original Thunderball plot, but like Connery, the story moves at a much more relaxed pace. I don’t get the feeling of the impending threat of nuclear war watching this movie that I get from watching Thunderball. But again, it’s a refreshing change of pace to watch a Bond movie that has a more down to earth ending.
What really propels this film into the top half of the Bond hierarchy is the acting. Edward Fox plays the smarmy, self-centered M, who is forced to reactivate the 00’s when a madman demands ransom for SPECTRE in exchange of the location of two stolen nuclear missles. While not highly regarded, I liked Fox’s take on the MI6 boss! While Q and Moneypenny were rather forgettable, the usually more likeable Rowan Atkinson was downright irritating as Bond’s Bahammas’ contact, Nigel Small-Fawcett (Okay, okay! We get the joke already! And one can see why….oh, never mind)! However, the good heavily outweighs the bad, as the two main baddies in this movie, Maximillian Largo and his hencewoman, Fatima Blush (portrayed by Klaus Maria Brandeur and Barbara Carrera, respectively) are sensational. Brandeur’s portrayal of a gentler, but far more psychotic Largo nicely complements the more sinister, threatening Largo played by Adolfo Celi in Thunderball. And as has been said many times before, Carrera steals every scene she’s in as she plays the goofy, seductive Blush. I dare anyone to find a greater portrayal of a Bond girl villian, and death scene in any of the offical Bond movies! Finally, Bernie Casey plays a great Felix Leiter, while Max Von Sydow comes off as too “prim and proper” to be believed as Blofeld. And Kim Basinger comes across as a thoroughly forgettable Bond girl.
When all intangibles are added up, I find the return of Sir Sean Connery a great experience. Though the film loses some punch after Fatima Blush is killed, and the official Bond music would have really spiced things up even more, the positives far outweigh the negatives in this film, therefore adding up to a solid Bond film, unofficial or not. This would definately rank amongst the top third of my rankings of all the official Bond movies.