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Written by / 10/14/2014 / 1 Comment /

CONNERY BOND SEVEN: NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN

year: 1983 rating: **1/2
"I do hope we have some gratuitous sex and violence," says the new Q to the old Bond in NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, Sean Connery's return to the franchise during the peak of the successful Roger Moore era. But let's center on why this strange vehicle even happened, and how it could have been even stranger, and better...

Already an established cog of the James Bond legacy and covered on the Internet, books and 007 documentaries, to thoroughly rehash the battle between Kevin McClory and the producers who brought Bond out of the pages onto the big screen would be a license to overkill. 

McClory, fellow scriptwriter Jack Whittingham and Bond novelist/creator Ian Fleming worked on the screenplay for THUNDERBALL in 1959. This was planned to be the first Bond film. The deal fell through and Fleming wrote the book, not crediting either co-writer and was sued: thus Fleming lost the THUNDERBALL rights to McClory who would, for years, use that sword against heavyweights Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the Ion Production team responsible for classics ranging from DR. NO to THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (while Broccoli continued until bowing out with GOLDENEYE).

After the groundbreaking DR. NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and GOLDFINGER dominated the box office, a deal was worked out when, in 1965, THUNDERBALL was finally realized, crediting McClory as head writer and producer along with a cameo… Plus the stipulation that it couldn't be remade for ten years!

Poster Artwork
During that decade, Bond morphed from Sean Connery to George Lazenby (back to Connery) to mainstay Roger Moore... but there wasn't a peep from Kevin McClory.

Riding his one trick pony, he was waiting to pounce… And in 1975, the infamous “Bond Film That Almost Was,” titled WARHEAD, would have had atom bomb strapped robotic hammerhead sharks swimming in the sewers of New York City while The Statue Of Liberty served as a possible (?) location for the cat-petting Blofeld, the most famous Bond villain co-created by McClory himself. 

As the years rolled on, McClory attempted to get Pierce Brosnon in another THUNDERBALL remake after Timothy Dalton took over the coveted role… And then shot for Dalton after Pierce reemerged victorious… But here we’ll center on the film that actually did  happen...

Mr. THUNDERBALL finally got his wish when Sean Connery, who dropped out of WARHEAD in the beginning stages of pre-production, came back on board as an older, wiser, still fit and dapper 007 in NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, directed by EMPIRE STRIKES BACK hired-hand Irvin Kershner, which competed with the Roger Moore venture, OCTOPUSSY, in 1983…

Title Says It All
Ironically, one of the most exciting sequences in NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN never really happens: A practice trial-run where Connery’s Bond leaps and darts over rocks and bushes, makes his way into a castle and is ultimately "killed" by a princess held hostage… We cut to M (Edward Fox) lecturing Bond how unfit he is for duty.

The following scenes inside an exercise club where Bond gets back in shape pales to the original: although a wall-breaking fistfight with a giant henchman is fun to watch, and proves Connery is ready, physically, to roll.

Meanwhile, as the familiar plot about a highjacked jet plane transporting a nuclear warhead unfolds, Blofeld is present. Max Von Sydow’s blackmailing heavy isn’t bald or crippled but he does have his pussycat... and is more of a backseat threat here.

The most intriguing character is the bad Bond girl. As Fatima, Barbara Carrera has the sublime amount of wicked sensuality. Her spoiled man-hating girl-child glides with venomous rancor, providing Bond a fantastic chase as he tails her hotrod on a motorcycle along a mountainous terrain…

Great Bad Bond Girl
Yet the true villain is Maximillian Largo, played by Klaus Maria Brandauer. Performance-wise, both Largo and Fatima seem more in tune with a campy 70's exploitation flick than a mainstream '80s blockbuster, which isn't so bad if they only had more to do. 

On the flip-side, good Bond girl Kim Basinger is the trophy wishbone caught in Largo’s sinister clutches… His eccentric power reigns from England to The Bahamas, where most of the film takes place.

With such a bland template, those robotic hammerheads, or something equally creative and outlandish, was desperately needed. The original THUNDERBALL, as sharks stalked Bond in a swimming pool, was unique and suspenseful. Herein the killer fish, who don't seem very threatening to the mellow skin-diving spy, cruise around the ocean while a JAWS-like variation plays...

Sorry Sean, too little too late
Eventually leading to what is, arguably, the worst scene in 007 history as Bond battles Largo in a casino backroom by... playing a video game! The world map laser screen, appearing between the two joystick-wielding opponents, is seemingly voiced by a BATTLESTAR GALACTICA Cylon using British dialect – and this is considered excitement?

During the Cold War, right on the brink of a Presidential election wherein anti-nuke commercials and TV movies were rampant, NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN takes THUNDERBALL to the “modern” nuclear era: while having a few nice moments, it seems more an uneven jigsaw puzzle than anything else. And so, during a box office grudge match twenty years in the making, Kevin McClory's long-labored NEVER, while by no means a financial disappointment, lost to the Roger Moore vehicle OCTOPUSSY, a RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK style pulpy fanfare, better on every level: And that includes acting! So yeah, okay, Sean Connery was the original. And even Moore considered him the best Bond… But for the most part, he’s just plain sleepwalking here.
"Obviously, you frequently visit arcades, Mr. Bond... Or perhaps you have an Atari? ColecoVision?"
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1 comment:

  1. The one 'Bond movie' Ive never seen. I never had the urge to see it when it first came out. I still haven't the urge to see it now. I remember at the time thinking it was weird that we still had Roger Moore the current Bond around doing Bond movies and then here's Connery doing this other 'Bond' movie, was it a Bond movie, was it a comedy or farce, kind of a National Lampoons Bond flick? I remember being somewhat confused if it was 'officially' part of the Bond canon or not. So skipped it. Still skip it.

    Another great review.

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