Never Say Never Again (1983) Starring Sean Connery, Kim Basinger, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Max Von Sydow, Barbara Carrera, Bernie Casey, Alec McCowen, Edward Fox, Rowan Atkinson, Ronald Pickup, Robert Rietty, Valerie Leon, Milow Kirek, Pat Roach, Anthony Sharp, Prunella Gee, Gavan O’Herlihy, Vincent Marzello, Billy J.Mitchell, Manning Redwood, Sylvia Marriott, Guido Adorni, Michael Medwin, Brenda Kempner, Jill Meager, Roy Bowe, Paul Tucker, Wendy Leech, Rocky Taylor.
Directed by Irvin Kershner.
Running time: 137 minutes.
Aging superagent James Bond battles the forces of SPECTRE (the Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) once again. This time he has to stop SPECTRE #1 Largo who has stolen two American nuclear warheads and is blackmailing the world.
The jazz-fusion score highlighted by Herb Alpert trumpet solos is absolutely nauseating. The title theme performed by Lani Hall is quite possibly the worst of the series.
SPECTRE as represented here has its offices in the basement of a bank where its chairman Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Von Sydow) presents extraordinary board of directors meetings. Blofeld got killed back in You Only Live Twice back in 1967. For whatever reason (depending on the film) he just kept coming back. Since this is a remake of Thunderball which was written in 1961 it is reasonable that he should be here.
Thunderball did not need to be remade. This one pails in comparison to the original and Connery is clearly not what he was here.
Audiences seemingly need to be reminded that Bond can be killed at any time. His death is simulated at the beginning of the film here in a training exercise as it was in From Russia With Love (1963).
Producers managed to bring back Connery for the Bond film Diamonds Are Forever in 1971 after he had retired from the role for the first time in 1967. Producer Kevin McClory who had been awarded the rights to remake Thunderball managed to woo back 53-year old Connery a second and final time (the 7th overall) for this disguised remake of the 1965 Bond classic.
The type of projects Connery did outside of the James Bond franchise after the critically and commercially successful The Man Who Would Be King (1975) varied in quality and many were flops. That he was lured back to portray Bond for the last time suggests he needed a box-office hit to maintain his star status and high asking price.
American director Irvin Kershner who had helmed A Fine Madness (1966) in which Connery had starred was brought in presumably at Connery’s suggestion. Possibly other past directors in the Bond series like Guy Hamilton, Peter Hunt or even Terence Young could have been pressed into service on this project but might not have let Connery have as much say in what was done. Kershner had also directed The Empire Strikes Back (1980) which grossed enough money to impress producers going into this production.
The casting in this rogue production actually suggests it is not a ripoff of Bond but an improvement upon it. It boasts the most distinguished acting roster of any of the Bond films. M is portrayed by Edward Fox who starred as the title character in the superior thriller The Day of the Jackal (1973). Q is played by noted British actor Alec McCowen who appeared as the police detective in Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972). Max Von Sydow who played the icy assassin in the spy thriller Three Days Of The Condor plays Blofeld, chairman of SPECTRE. The villain Largo is played noted actor Klaus Maria Brandauer, generally known for serious dramatic roles. Brandauer is particularly spectacular in this and one of the very best Bond villains.
Connery himself was an A list Hollywood star by this time. Leading lady Kim Basinger would make the A list within a few years after this film was completed. As a result star power was a factor in a way it never had been. In previous entries the producers had trawled Bond spoofs and rip-offs for talent. They had also used undiscovered new performers and/or foreign actors. They had cast B-movie refugees and TV castoffs. In a pinch they used the same actors from previous productions in different roles. Much of the time those people were hired at a fairly cheap rate.
It can hardly be called a spoof of Bond films as some suggest. The Bond series, was in itself a spoof. Connery was the definitive Bond and the material is drawn from a closer interpretation of the Fleming books. They also utilized a number of performers from the official series past and performers who would go on to star in future Bond films. Though this is a rogue production there apparently was no blacklist for performers who worked in rogue productions. In fact it would seem the Broccolis used these films for scouting.
Valerie Leon who had a bit part in The Spy Who Loved Me has a turn here. Robert Rietty who played numerous small roles in the Bond films (including the Chef de jeu in OHMSS) appears here as an Italian minister. Manning Redwood who played General Miller here, went on to play Bob Conley in A View To A Kill. Billy J.Mitchell who played Captain Pederson here went on to play Admiral Chuck Farrel in Goldeneye. Vincent Marzello who plated Culpepper here had a walk on in The Spy Who Loved Me.Wendy Leech, who plays the hostage girl at the beginning did stunts on The World Is Not Enough and had a walk on in Die Another Day. Andy Bradford who co-ordinated stunts on this production played 009 in Octopussy and played a guard in For Your Eyes Only. Rocky Taylor who did stunts on numerous Bond films has an uncredited turn here as one of the hostage guards.
Certain other aspects are different from the Bond series. For example in the 1965 version of the story the villain Largo is named Emilio and he is Italian. Here he is named Maximillian and is Romanian. Largo’s Yacht in the original was named Disco Volante. Here it is called Flying Saucer, an English version of the name Disco Volante.
Ex-Nicaraguan model Barbara Carrera was more than passable here as villainess Fatima Blush – SPECTRE # 12, in adding a presence generally utilized only in appalling b-movie rubbish. Whatever talent she has as an actress has tended to be overlooked by schlock producers looking to exploit her sensuality on screen. Here she is apparently given the task of showing the dangers of private healthcare.