THE SUPPORTING CAST: James Fox (“M”); Bernie Casey (Felix Leiter); Pat Roach (Lippe)
CREDITS: Direced by Irwin Kershner; Produced by Kevin McClory and Sean Connery; Music by Michael LeGrand; Title Song by Lani Hall; Filmed on location in Nice, France; The Bahamas and North Africa
In a legal battle too lengthy to get into here but covered thoroughly in our Movie fa”Q” section, Producer Kevin McClory secured the right to do a remake of the 1965 Bond film Thunderball. Kevin was a player on the original team who helped develop what would eventually become the book Thunderball, by Ian Fleming. Thunderball was a huge success in 1965, and McClory should have left well enough alone. He didn`t, and thus we have Never Say Never Again.
Although the film is a remake of Thunderball, it oddly manages to get wrong everything that made the original work so well. To its credit, the film makes a knowing nod to Connery`s age and incorporates it into the story, first sending Bond off to Shrublands to get back into shape after a failed training exercise.
While Bond is working out at Shrublands, SPECTRE has put into motion its plan to steal two nuclear warheads and hold the world for ransom. Only two? To do this, SPECTRE has corrupted an American Air Force pilot on station in England by getting him addicted to heroin. His addiction is all the more ironic, and funny, because his nurse, SPECTRE agent Fatima Blush, is giving it to him. Colonel Petachi has had a retina transplant. The new retina is identical to that of the President of the United States, and with the combination of secret codes and a retinal scan, SPECTRE is now in a prime position to get the warheads. SPECTRE sends Colonel Petachi and Fatima Blush to Shrublands to rest and prepare for the operation.
It is at Shrublands that Bond sees Fatima and Colonel Petachi, and his sixth sense kicks in. Bond senses that something is not quite right, but Fatima recognizes 007 before he can put a plan into operation. Blush orders Count Lippe to kill Bond.
Bond kills Lippe but only after it is too late. By the time Bond is able to digest what has been happening, SPECTRE has acquired the warheads and killed off the now useless Colonel Petachi. Fatima retreats to Nassau to await further instruction and Bond tracks her down there while initially on a search for Largo and his boat, The Flying Saucer.
From this point on there is almost no plot development. Bond suspects Largo from the very beginning, and even deduces that he has the two warheads on his yacht without having to do much spying at all. And moving the action to the Bahamas does absolutely nothing for the plot. Everything from Bond`s entrance into Nassau to the point in which he finds out The Flying Saucer has sailed for the French Riviera is completely unrelated to the rest of the story and only serves to fill time. Bond could have placed a call prior to going down to Nassau to find out if The Flying Saucer was in port. Did he really need to go to The Bahamas to find out if a boat was still in port? No. Kevin McClory just wanted to make sure some of the film took place in his home country. It`s only through the dynamic performance of Barbara Carerra that these scenes are remotely interesting. She gives life to even the most mundane tasks, whether it be water skiing, dancing in a carnival, dancing her way up the stairs as she gets ready to plant a bomb in Bond`s room, or the ice cold look of indifference as she blows apart the hotel room.
On virtually every level the film is a disappointment. Let`s start with the star attraction of the film: Sean Connery. His return to the role that made him famous is a washout. Connery lacks the charisma and strength that carried him through the first five films. He returned to the role, in part, to get back at Albert Broccoli for his perceived slights at Connery, rather than a genuine interest to *be* Bond. Connery recognizes he`s old, and the script is tailored to reflect that understanding. But still, as a producer of this film, Connery seemed to be juggling too many responsibilities.
The Bond Girl, in the form of Kim Basinger, would be the worst Bond girl ever, except for the fact that Mrs. Basinger can act. Still, her `Domino` is a pale, fragile, washed out, on-the-edge mistress to Largo. Basinger isn`t as sexy as Claudine Auger (the original Domino), or as exotic. She`s a real downer, and takes a lot of the energy out of the film whenever she`s in it.
`Never` does have two redeeming qualities, namely the villains. Klaus Maria Brandauer gives a wild performance as the neurotic, jealous and easily inflamed Largo. Never Say Never Again`s scene stealer though is Barbara Carrera. Her character, Fatima Blush, is a loosely interpreted variation of the Fiona Volpe character from Thunderball (and wickedly played by Lucianna Paluzzi). Fatima is a character who believes in the inherent superiority of women over men, and killing James Bond would drive the point home. Carrera gets all the best lines of the movie, and whenever she is on screen, the film instantly gets a lift and is fun and energized. In fact, only Brandauer and Carrera seem to be having any fun on the set. The film makes a crucial mistake killing Blush off with another 40+ minutes of film left to go.
The plot is straight out of Thunderball. Legally it had to be. Despite how closely the film had to follow the original version, this script still seems incomplete and haphazard. The direction is a failure as well, primarily because the director and editor allow too many stretches of long, boring sequences to make it into the film. The scuba sequences bog down the pace of the film, and were better in the original.
The soundtrack is the worst for any Bond film. It is completley wrong for this type of film and begs to be redone. The jazz tunes written by LeGrand completely destroy any and all impact the action sequences might have had. And the theme song is just as dreadful. It`s hard to imagine any singer lower on the musical totem pole than Ms. Hall. The action sequences, with the exception of the motorcycle chase through the streets of southern France, are uninspiring and your basic B grade action flick stunt fare.
At the end of the film, Connery`s 007 goes back into retirement, only to be prodded by Nigel Smallfawcet to come back out and save the world. 007 says “No, never again.” After viewing this film, let`s hope that all involved in this film keep that promise.