Right then, let’s get this out of the way; “Never Say Never Again” is not an official Eon studio version of Bond per say, despite the fact that it uses the Bond character and characters in the Bond universe. Sean Connery reprises his role as the super spy that he last played in 1967 (12 years prior to this film). This is his 7th time playing the Bond role, the last outing being “007: Diamonds are Forever” (1971). He was 52 years old in this, which was still 3 years younger than Roger Moore who was playing official Bond in Eon’s “007: Octopussy” (1983) (released in the same year). The title of the film is a nod to the fact that Connery said he would never play Bond again, his wife joked; “never say never again”, and that was then adopted for the title. As far the content of the film goes, this is an unapologetic remake of “007: Thunderball” (1965) film which Connery also starred in, updated for a modern 80’s audience.
So, how did this come about then? What makes it not official? Well for a start it was not made by Albert R. Broccoli’s Eon Productions but by Jack Schwartzman’s Taliafilm in association with Kevin McClory. One of the original writers of “Thunderball“, Kevin McClory retained the filming rights of the novel following a legal battle in the 1960’s. It was released via Warner Brothers and to its audiences this felt more of an American Hollywood style action film rather than the British Eon Bond films. As it was a remake of “Thunderball” you may already know the plot, but here goes anyway…
Long-time Bond nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s S.P.E.C.T.R.E. organisation steals two nuclear warheads. Bond is ordered to investigate which eventually leads him to suspect Maximilian Largo of involvement. Largo happens to be high-ranking S.P.E.C.T.R.E agent. Along the way he works with various covert agencies, including working with Felix Leiter of the CIA, one of his long-term friends. Together they attempt to get the warheads, in order to defuse them and the threat that S.P.E.C.T.R.E. poses to the world.
I have mentioned that Connery returns to the role of Bond, and in fairness he does good. He is one of my favourite Bond’s and his performance is no worse than the then current Bond, Roger Moore. That is despite both being relatively too old to be double-o agents – according to MI6 suggestions in other films. There are times where Connery looks like he is enjoying himself, something that seemed to fade from his original run as the spy. Perhaps seeing how Moore was playing the role; relaxed with a bit of swagger and a lot of fun, relaxed Connery in the role a little too. There was talk that it was the money he was earning that made him smile, this could be partly true – but a lot of that money was put to good charitable use too. He donated a large proportion of it to education and the arts in Scotland. Klaus Maria Brandauer is Maximilian Largo, which is based on Emilio Largo character in the original version of the film, just a different name – he too does a great job in his performance. His performance in “Mempisto” (1981) sold it to the producers here, and they were rewarded with a performance which is as good as any Bond villain to date. Playboy model Barbara Carrera plays Fatima Blush, who was Fiona Volpe (S.P.E.C.T.R.E. #12) in the original. She actually turned down a part in “Octopussy” because she wanted to be in a Connery/Bond film. Kim Basinger plays the beautiful Domino Petachi, Largo’s girlfriend. She is great in her second major cinematic outing (after 1981’s “Hard Country“) – her ‘assets’ in particularly command a lot of screen time and probably needed their own agent after this film. Rowan Atkinson is in the film as a light-relief character of Nigel Small-Fawcett – not my favourite character, but a role which he can use for inspiration with his (2003) “Johnny English” films. In the reoccurring characters, Max von Sydow plays Blofeld, Edward Fox is M, and Pamela Salem is Miss Moneypenny. It is worth mentioning, that for the first time a black actor played the reoccurring role of Felix Leiter (in this it was Bernie Casey). This was thanks to Connery’s suggestion, and as it happens this is something that would eventually be repeated in the Daniel Craig run of Bond films some 30+ years later. All-in-all it is a good cast and strong cast that do the film credit.
Made with a budget of $36 million this did well, earning $160 million back at the box office. It was not quite as profitable as the official Bond film “Octopussy” though, which cost $27.5 million and gained $187.5 million. On it’s release this film actually did well with critics and fans too, they generally thought it was a decent film, still shy of the likes of “007: Dr. No” (1962) and “007: Goldfinger” (1964) which seemed to be everyone’s favourites – but good all the same.
For me, I enjoyed this. It does not matter if it was made by Eon or Taliafilm, it was still a decent adventure film. Watching the run of Bond films one after the other and then getting to this film allowed me to reflect on how much I enjoyed Connery in the role. It is like taking a quick look in a photo album, before getting back to the reality of Moore wearing the tuxedo. It is a little softer on action than recent Bond films of the era, but it’s good for character development and dialogue. There is a nice script, and considering it’s an update of “Thunderball“, it still feels fresh and exciting. I enjoyed it, and controversially, I do add it to any list of Bond film’s when asked.
In terms of Bond films this is a 6/10 from me. In terms of films in the history of cinema it is a 5/10.
Bond, James Bond, 007 – Ranking
|1||007: Goldfinger (1964) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|2||007: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Dr. No (1962) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: From Russia with Love (1963) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|3||007: Thunderball (1965) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Moonraker (1979) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|4||007: You only live twice (1967) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Diamonds are Forever (1971) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: For Your Eyes Only (1981) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Octopussy (1983) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|007 (Unofficial): Never Say Never Again (1983) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|5||007: Live and Let Die (1973) ⭐⭐⭐⭐|