Growing up in the 80s, there was always a fight between sophisticated junior high kids as to which actor was the real James Bond. The truly cultured never budged from Sean Connery being the real 007. However there were those who claimed Roger Moore was the real Bond since he was the one now in the movie theaters. The argument always ended with a peacemaker declaring that they were Bonds in different eras so you couldnt truly compare them. In 1983, 007 fans got to see who truly owned the character when Moores Octopussy and Connerys Never Say Never Again opened a few months apart. Connery played an aging secret agent compared to Moores Bond being in the prime of his life. But Connery is three years younger than Moore. Was it a fair fight?
Never Say Never Again is a reworking of Thunderball. Ian Fleming was working on a script with Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham. The project never went into production. When Fleming realized he owed another Bond novel, he turned the script into Thunderball without crediting his co-writers. A lawsuit ended with McClory owning the film rights to the book. Since he was a filmmaker, he wouldnt completely sell his rights to EONs Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltman. When he let them make Thunderball, he didnt even let the duo get screen credit as producers. He also maintained the right to remake this Bond film. Nearly two decades later he found the right way to launch this project by luring Sean Connery back into the tuxedo.
Spectres Maximilian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer) has stolen two nuclear warheads that were placed inside cruise missiles. Blofeld (Max von Sydow) holds the world hostage with the threat of blowing a few world capitals off the map. The only hope for humanity is James Bond tracking down Largo and shutting down the scheme. His biggest hope is to seduce Domino Petachi (Kim Basinger) to get on the inside of Largos operation. However Largo has Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera) out to blow Bond apart. Theres a lot of blasting in the Bahamas. The film does tweak the ending so its not the battle of Miami as seen in the original. This isnt a note for note remake of Thunderball like Gus Van Sants Psycho. Mainly because if the producers used any elements found in the movie, but not in the novel, EON could shut down the production.
Connerys return to the role is crafted for his age. He a little more wiser in his deductions and pursuits. Thats not to say that he turned into Matlock with a license to kill. Hes still got swagger. He doesnt mind hopping on a motorcycle and horse to make the action happen. He keeps hopping on the ladies, too. He didnt need little blue pills to make the magic happen. Before Viagra, Connerys sweat was the cure to E.D. He looks more like a stud spy in this film than on Diamonds Are Forever. Theres little comedy in Never Say Never Again when compared to the jokes and tone of the Moore films especially Moonraker? The main funny in Never comes from Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) as a British civil servant. His slapstick is kept to a minimum.
â€¨Who won the battle of the Bonds? Surprisingly enough the box office total could be considered a draw with Octopussy only snagging $57 million to Never Say Never Agains $55 million. Connerys Bond snagged the opening weekend crown with nearly $11 million to Moores $9 million. The best thing about Octopussy is being able to say the title in front of your grandmother. Theres just too much joy in saying, “Grandma, you want to see Octopussy?” After that, the movie really just gets dumber upon repeat viewing. Never Say Never Again brings the series back to its glorious tone with action, suspense, gadgets and just enough comedy to take the edge. For supporters of Connery, Never Say Never Again was proof that he was the better Bond.
The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic video. The Hi-Def image averages around 45 Mbps. The transfer spectacular when compared to how this film has been treated over the year. This Blu-ray is worthy of being shelved with the EON Bonds. The audio is 5.1 DTS Master Audio and Dolby Surround. The levels are proper. You can hear Connery catching his breath after fight scenes. There a Spanish and French mono dubs. The subtitles are in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean, Thai and Mandarin. That will make you hungry for Asian food.
Commentary with Director Irvin Kershner and James Bond Historian Steven Jay Rubin lets them chat away. Rubin does a fine interview job of interviewing Kershner to explain whats going on. Rubin also fills in details that Kershner didnt think about since he was too busy directing the film.
The Big Gamble (16:24) explains how Ian Fleming lost the rights to Thunderball to Kevin McClory. Theres a few pictures of Rushmores Jason Schwartzman as a kid since his dad was the producer of Never Say Never Again. People talk about how much they paid Connery to reprise the Bond role. The big gamble was that the remake had to stick to the book and not lift anything original to the original movie. There were lots of lawsuits during the production as EON tried to stop it. Irvin Kershners memories are mostly about the chaos and the unfinished script. He does praise working with Connery. He gives the star credit for the picture being finished.
Sean Is Back (8:04) has people praise Connery. How could they not? He wanted to promote the idea that this was an older Bond. He was irritated by the script problems. Its a shame they dont have any of the original promotional interviews from the time to give us a sense of how Connery sold this film.
The Girls of Never Say Never Again (10:07) discusses how Kim Basinger and Barbara Carrera were cast. They discuss how Kim was intimidated by being around Connery. Kims husband was the makeup man and her defacto director. Connery discovered Barbara by finding her in a Playboy spread. Barbara talks about slapping a cast member. Pamela Salem wasnt overwhelmed by playing Miss Moneypenny.
Theatrical Trailer (1:27) looks like a TV transfer since its 1.33:1. Its got that great early 80s semi-disco soundtrack running under the images. The catch phrase is “I hope we have some gratuitous sex and violence.”
Photo Gallery (3:12) is a montage of promotional stills from the movie including a movie theater promoting the release.
This is a major upgrade over the original Never Say Never Again DVD that came out a few years back. We finally get discussions about the making of the film. The film itself has aged better than anticipated. Sean Connery proves that even as an aging spy, hes still a better agent than those impostors that sneak into the role. For fans of his James Bond films, Never Say Never Again is the proper ending to his tenure at the agency.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment presents Never Say Never Again. Directed by: Irvin Kershner. Starring: Sean Connery, Kim Basinger, Barbara Carrera & Klaus Maria Brandauer. Written by: Lorenzo Semple Jr. Running time: 134 minutes. Rating: PG. Released on DVD: March 24, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: James Bond, Sean Connery