Our Word Is Our Our Bond continues with Dawn Dabell reviewing Never Say Never Again (1983), a non-Eon remake of Thunderball (1965) in which Sean Connery returns to the role of 007. Also starring Klaus Maria Brandauer and Barbara Carrera.
When the independent film company Taliafilm decided to remake Thunderball, Sean Connery was brought back to the role of British secret agent 007 for the seventh time, making him and Moore the top appearers with seven entries each. After working on You Only Live Twice (1967), Connery had left the role of Bond behind, but returned a few years later for Diamonds Are Forever (1971). After finishing Diamonds, Connery reportedly had a conversation with his wife Micheline, telling her he would never return to the role of Bond again. Her response was “never say never again”. Connery’s output after that saw some of his best work, such as The Offence (1973), Zardoz (1974), The Man Who Would Be King (1975) and Robin And Marian (1976) to name a few. He was hell-bent on leaving the Bond persona behind, so it seems surprising that he eventually did return for one final time in Never Say Never Again. The film’s title was taken from the conversation he had had with his wife soon after Diamonds Are Forever wrapped; indeed, the end credits of Never Say Never Again even mention her and attribute the title to her.
SPECTRE have captured two nuclear missiles and are holding the world to ransom. M (Edward Fox), head of the British Secret Service, reluctantly sends his best agent James Bond (Connery) to find them before a worldwide holocaust takes place.
Bond heads to the Bahamas where he meets, and is almost killed by, enemy agent Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera). He then follows another lead to the south of France, where he discovers Maximilian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer) may be behind the theft of the missiles. Largo’s moll, Domino (Kim Basinger), is the sister of a now-dead Air Force officer who seems linked with the initial snatching of the nukes. Bond attempts to seduce Domino to get close to Largo… but the clock is ticking, and the safety of the world is hanging by a thread.
It’s obvious that Connery isn’t in his prime in this film, often seeming to be wearing indecent amounts of make-up in an attempt to make his face look more youthful and believable for an adventure-loving, womanising secret agent. If the intention was to emphasise his sex appeal, it’s safe to say the make-up department fail on this count. To be fair to Connery though, Moore doesn’t look particularly fresh-faced in Octopussy either (both men were, at this time, in their 50s). Looks aside, though, Connery does seem to be putting in a decent enough effort, as one has come to expect from him. It just feels as though he is too old to be playing the part, although his heart certainly seems to be in it more than it was during his last ‘official’ 007 film, Diamonds Are Forever.
Bond villainess Barbara Carrera was originally approached to play the title role of Octopussy in Eon’s rival film, but she had already agreed to play Fatima Blush in Never Say Never Again and was obliged to decline. She plays her role here with bags of enthusiasm, and makes for one of the kookiest female Bond villains of all-time. At times, though, she comes across a little too mad (in the ‘crazy’ sense) and ends up being annoying more than anything else. Her outfits are equally crazy, possibly taking top-sport for the Worst Wardrobe To (Dis)Grace A Bond Movie… even worse than some of the monstrosities worn by Grace Jones in A View To A Kill (1985). Surprisingly, Carrera was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes but lost out to Cher’s role in Silkwood (1983). It seems Connery’s wife found Carrera extremely convincing in the love scenes with her husband, and felt the chemistry between them was too real for comfort. It caused Micheline to feel pangs of jealousy for the first time over any of her husband’s many glamorous female co-stars.
Kim Basinger is cast as Domino, a role played by Claudine Auger in Thunderball (1965) although in that film the character’s full name was Dominique “Domino” Derval. Prior to this movie, Basinger had acted primarily in TV and a handful of films, but her casting here, launched her into the public eye as a leading lady. The choice of casting here was down to Connery’s wife, who had seen Basinger in a hotel lobby and felt she would be perfect to play Domino. As a way of promoting herself, the role and the film, Basinger posed in the February ’83 issue of Playboy in an 8-page special. She was also the cover girl for the same issue. As well as featuring nude pictures, it also included an article about her, with plenty of references to Never Say Never Again. Basinger plays the role of the vulnerable Bond girl convincingly enough and it’s easy to see why she went on to have a decent career as a leading lady in Hollywood. Basinger gives perhaps the best performance in the film.
It’s great to see an actor of Max Von Sydow’s calibre in a Bond movie but it feels he is wasted here as Blofeld. His role is simply too small, virtually a cameo and evidently lacking in screen-time. It would have been great to see him on screen for longer or, indeed, for him to star in one of the other Bond films as the main villain. The main villain in this film is Maximillian Largo, played by Klaus Maria Brandauer. Brandauer isn’t terrible in the role; to be fair, he succeeds in making your skin crawl… it just that he’s no Von Sydow!
A number of other familiar faces crop up in the film. Valerie Leon, one of the ladies of Hammer, is cast as ‘Lady in Bahamas’, hardly a massive role but she does have the pleasure of bedding Bond. Rowan Atkinson also appears as Small-Fawcett, (yes, you heard me right, that really is his character’s name!) This was Atkinson’s first feature film, having only worked in television and live comedy up to this point.
As the film was released in the same year as Octopussy, both studios tried to beat the other to release their Bond film first. Never Say Never Again missed out by four months and it grossed significantly less than Octopussy. Both films featured a Bond who is past his sell-by date as a genuine action hero; even though Connery is, in fact, three years younger than Moore he still looks too long in the tooth for this sort of thing. Never Say Never Again isn’t the worst Bond film out there (that dishonour I’d hold for the
Brosnan offering Die Another Day), far from it… but it’s by no means at the better end of the spectrum. I’d place it somewhere smack bang in the middle, which is, I think, reflected in my rating of 6 out of 10.
MoM Rating: 6/10