James Bond: Classic, Cheese, or Crap? – BONUS “Never Say Never Again”

“Never Say Never Again”

1983

Bond: Sean Connery

Classic, Cheese, or Crap?: CRAP

In 1958, Ian Fleming began trying to bring his famous spy to the big screen. He was introduced to a writer named Kevin McClory, and together (eventually joined by screenwriter Jack Wittingham), they began work on a screenplay they would eventually title, “Thunderball.” Due to the failure of McClory’s first feature film, however, Fleming lost interest in the collaboration. Instead of pursuing the screenplay further, he cannibalized the major elements (including SPECTRE and Blofeld) and turned them into a new novel of the same name.

The story would eventually make it to the big screen once Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman began adapting the books.

But behind the scenes, Kevin McClory was fighting in the courts for his rights to the original Thunderball screenplay. It was a legal fight that would lead to the death of Blofeld, the end of SPECTRE, and eventually, “Never Say Never Again”.

Kevin McClory began his legal crusade over Thunderball even prior to the publication of the novel. He received injunctions prior to “Thunderball”‘s release, and eventually he and Fleming reached an out of court settlement. In order to bring the book to the screen (after Fleming’s death), EON Productions cut McClory in as a producer on the film, and in return he promised not to pursue any other avenues with his rights to the novel for a period of ten years. In 1976, after the ten-year period expired, McClory began announcing his intention to remake “Thunderball” under the title “Warhead”. Again, a protracted court battle ensued… and in the aftermath EON Productions “killed” Blofeld, (and symbolically, SPECTRE) at the beginning of 1980’s “For Your Eyes Only”.

In 1983, the final legal hurdle was cleared, and the McClory led remake of “Thunderball” was underway. They weren’t allowed to use many of the elements we’ve come to associate with James Bond films – those belonged to EON Productions. So there was no gun barrel opening, no 007 logo, no Bond theme. But they did have one thing that fans associated with Bond… Sean Connery.

Returning to the series for the second time, his motivations have been widely speculated upon. Conjectures range from him having a grudge against Cubby Broccoli to not wanting Roger Moore to have more films as Bond than he did to the fact that his career was in a bad place in the early 80s. What is known is that Connery was given creative input on the film, $3 million up front and a share of the film’s profits. An enticing deal for any actor.

Irvin Kershner was brought in to direct, fresh off of his enormously successful work on “The Empire Strikes Back”. The pressure was on, too, as EON and Roger Moore were also releasing a Bond film that year – “Octopussy”.

The film itself is a loose retelling of the core “Thunderball” plot with SPECTRE, led by Bolfeld and Largo, stealing nuclear warheads and attempting to blackmail billions for their return. Bond gets involved in the plot after a visit to a health club. “Never” treats Bond’s age frankly. Connery was 52 at the time, and the film makes no bones about it. He still gets involved with his share of ladies, though, notably Kim Basinger in one of her earliest roles and Barbara Carrera in one of the most over the top performances ever given by a Bond girl. Klaus Maria Brandauer (Largo) and Max von Sydow (Blofeld) are the villains, but I dont find either of them to be particularly memorable. I’ve never thought Brandauer was all as great as he was cracked up to be, and von Sydow is only given a couple of quick kitty petting scenes.

Between Connery’s age, the lack of official Bond elements, and the fact that the script is a retread, you have all the makings of a very poor movie. Throw in a dash of Carrera chewing scenery and Kim Bassinger tossing her hat in the ring for blandest Bond Girl… and now we’re really talking something crappy. To top it all off, I realize that a lot of Bond films incorporate technology that seems dated in retrospect… but the video game sequence where Bond faces down Largo is positively archaic now. Completely out of date. The film has a couple of moments of note… the motrocycle chase and the horse stunt are cool, but overall, this is one of the worst (non-official) entries into the Bond canon.

Oh. And Roger Moore and EON won the “Battle of the Bonds”. Although both films were financially successful, “Octopussy” outgrossed it, $188 million to $160 million.

They should have said “Never” just one more time.

26 thoughts on “James Bond: Classic, Cheese, or Crap? – BONUS “Never Say Never Again”

  1. Definitely CRAP. I just watched it recently on BD (I have all the films in one form or another) and there were many things wrong with it. The thing I noticed most was the crappy music by Michel LeGrand (Hope I spelled that right). It wasn’t Bond type music and in the scene where Bond is fighting in the spa, there is NO music at all. The opening sequence should have had action music. Instead there’s this crappy love song that doesn’t add to the action. Also Rowan Atkinson was a waste as comic relief (Sort of like that redneck sheriff from the Moore pictures.)

    • Agreed, sir!!

      An excellent call on the crappy music. The score to that film is terrible, on top of that fact that the viewer SORELY misses the Bond theme at the major moments.

      At least Atkinson isn’t racist though, as far as I can recollect. LOL

      • Several years ago I downloaded a fan edit of Never Say Never Again.

        The editor inserted the gunbarrel sequence, replaced the crappy music with the classic Bond themes, and made a few trims to the movie here and there.

        Overall, it worked a lot better. It’s amazing how much more likable the movie was with the classic Bond stuff thrown in. That’s not to say it was good, but it was certainly far more watchable.

        I will say that I liked the way they handled the underwater stuff better than it was done in Thunderball. It was shorter and not as bloated a scene in NSNA, and seemed to have more impact.

        That fan edit is an interesting oddity all Bond fans should try to dig up just to see it.

      • I havent watched that fan edit all the way through, but I checked it out probably at the same time you did, when it was first released/making waves, etc…

        Definitely worth checking out, as you say.

        The underwater stuff is probably done better – mainly because its kept shorter… but that doesnt mean I like it better. When I watch Thunderball, I always let myself revel in the “different era” aspect. That underwater stuff would never get made today. Audiences would be bored stiff. But at that moment in film history, that was some exciting stuff… Thunderball was an enormous smash, people loved it. So I always respect it in that regard.

  2. I was 8 years old when Never Say Never Again was released and I remember seeing it at the movies. It was my first “Bond” film and I loved it! Of course, I can now chalk that up to being very young and naive.

    As I became older and started watching the Bond films from the beginning, Never Say Never Again became a memory. Not the kind of memory you keep in the forefront of your mind, but more closely resembled something terribly embarrassing that happened to you that you couldn’t forget soon enough. Years later after a re-watching, and remembering that I had seen the film in the theater I realized that the movie that gave me James Bond wasn’t very good, and better yet not even part of the franchise. Kim Basinger, was young and dull, lacked sex appeal and displayed no personality on screen; Klaus Maria Brandauer’s Largo was a far cry from the antagonist we’d seen in other Bond films, and there wasn’t enough of the sexy Barbara Carrera. Max Von Sydow was more or less a non-factor in the film. There’s very, very little worth remembering and it’s best left stored far in back of our minds.

    It’s sad that Never Say Never Again would be the last time we’d see Sean Connery in this iconic role.

    Classic, Cheese or Crap? Elephant sized load of crap!

    • Elephant Size LOAD of Crap. LOL I wish I had that rating early on for “The Man With the Golden Gun”

      No one should have “Bond guilt” for their introduction to the series, though. Mine was Moonraker I’m pretty sure, and that movie isn’t a shining example of the series, either. The trick is coming to through those early experiences unscathed and learning to love the franchise anyways… sounds like you have. But can you imagine how many people saw some of the crappier entries to the franchise and just turned their noses up at it? Like… what’s the big deal about James Bond? That kind of thing?

      Its a sad thought.

      Meanwhile, totally agree with you, this one is majorly crappy. And it is surprising that Kim Basinger – who would go on to become a sex symbol in a few years – was such a dud here. Honestly. I consider the two Bond girls here amongst the worst in series history. She’s lame and then Carrera is like… insane. Its hard to watch her, she’s just… unstable.

      • It’s definitely a sad thought to think of the people that saw a disappointing Bond film or one they didn’t get and never took the time to revisit the series.

        My wife isn’t a fan of the older Bond films, because she feels there isn’t enough of action in them. However, she jumped on board with Brosnan and seems to enjoy Craig, so far.

        I’ve dated girls like Fatima Blush, as unstable as they are…they can be kind of sexy too! :)

  3. I think I saw this once and never, never again. I can’t recall much of it. I think that says it all. Though interesting read about all the stuff that went on behind this film. I was pretty much clueless to that all.

  4. Craaaaaaaaaap! and yet, still less crappy than Quantum. Also less crappy than Octopussy but not by a lot. As old as Connery looks in this, he still looks better than Moore did in Octopussy.

    But CCCCCRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAPPPPPPPPPPPPP!

  5. Aw man, I was quite looking forward to blowing the dust off of this and re-watching but this review’s just killed my Bond-boner worse than thoughts of dead puppies!

    Definitely going to pass on this for another couple of years.

  6. At last I thought, the real James Bond is back! When in movie history(or show business for that matter) did a star come back to their name-sake franchise? After all, the Beatles never came back! How bad would the Beatles have to be for people not to want them back? NSNA just isn’t that bad. The film was more personal than tech oriented but all the basic Bond elements were there. Some better some worse than others. What I remember is the young Kim Basinger showing her potential(Oh Yeah!) and Barbara Carrara’s insanity. Mostly I remember Largo. Brandauer’s villain is anything but cliche. Sense of real evil there. The video game showdown would have been better if they played Pong(not kidding). But the film doesn’t fall into your triple C ratings. It’s not classic, cheese or crap. Maybe it should be a separate sub class Bond. Like Woody Allen’s “Casino Royale”. Given that it’s a sub-classification, I give it a Thumbs Up!

    • We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one then, buddy. This is at the bottom of the barrel for me. One of the worst Bond films ever made. Slow, Bond is Old, no great action sequences… I’m not a big fan.

      I was excited by the return of Sean Connery, too, who wasn’t? But they didnt pull it off.

      As for not falling cleanly into the categories? There are some films that dont – Quantum of Solace and Live and Let Die for example. But not this one. This is the very definition of “CRAP”
      :D

  7. I thought the video game sequence was pretty awesome, actually! If it’s the one I remember about playing ‘world domination’ or some such thing. Thanks for all the studio backstory, too… I had no idea and did not remember the elements you mentioned being missing. Come to think of it, the video game sequence is about all I DO remember from NSNA.

    • LOL. I can see how that might happen, seeing as the rest of it is pretty unmemorable.

      In fact, to me the biggest thing about NSNA IS the backstory/legal issues/non-franchise nature of it. Aside from that, I’m just not a big fan.

      If you havent rewatached it in awhile ernest? There’s about 20 other Bond films I’d recommend catching up with prior to that one! LOL

      Hey, thanks for commenting though, always love hearing from visitors! :D

  8. fun movie fact – Steven Segal broke Sean Connery’s wrist when he was teaching him martial arts during the filming of Never Say Never Again.

  9. Crap: The Score. Not a single thing memorable about it
    Cheese: M, Mr. Bean, Kim Basinger
    Classic: Opening Training Scene; Klaus Maria Brandauer (he makes choices as an actor that made his Largo a hundred times more interesting than most of the Bond Villains.)

    Crap: Pacing of the film. Too slow at times.
    Cheese: Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush, but the kind of cheese that goes with a fine wine. She has way too much fun with the movie.
    Classic: The basic plot, which has been the basis for a thousand films still works.

    • You know? Brandauer actually gets a lot of talk for his role there, but I’m not the hugest fan… And I hate Carrera here. She goes WAY over the top. Do not like! I will definitely agree that that training scene was classic though. I do really like it. In fact I thought we were going to get a kick ass Bond movie the first time I saw it! And of course, it IS the Thunderball story, so… that’s cool. :D

  10. Pingback: Ranking the Family of Bond | It Rains… You Get Wet

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