Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday Is Bond Day, #14: Never Say Never Again

The boys and I caught the second half of 1983's Bond double-feature this afternoon, and discovered that Never Say Never Again is as thin and tired as Octopussy, but in slightly different ways. Connery was actually younger than Roger Moore in 1983 -- as in every other year -- but his '83 entry is constructed as a story about an older Bond, perhaps a step slower but still deadly. (The official series, though, never notices that its Bonds get older and craggier before they change entirely.)

This is a remake of Thunderball, with many of the plot elements -- SPECTRE, a villain named Largo, the gorgeous Domino (Kim Basinger this time), the hijacking of two nuclear missiles and consequent blackmail -- basically intact. This time Blofeld is played by Max von Sydow in the deep background -- as in Thunderball -- though he oddly seems to be channeling George Bernard Shaw the whole time. Klaus Maria Brandauer is Largo, and is suitably Teutonically menacing when he needs to be. But his boat's name has been translated from Disco Volante to Flying Saucer, presumably to chase falling American intelligence levels, and the plot doesn't work nearly as well. The seven-day deadline for the blackmail payment to SPECTRE is essentially forgotten, and this becomes another one of those poorly-plotted films where Bond just pokes about and waits for things to happen instead of seizing control of events.

Connery is trying harder here than he was in Diamonds Are Forever, but he's still a bit old and doughy and slow for the part. Never Say Never Again is a C-minus Bond movie: it's watchable but equally forgettable, and the lack of the usual trappings (Desmond Llewellyn as Q, Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny, the John Barry theme music, the iris-and-shot cold opening) turns it into something more like a generic early-'80s action movie than a real Bond film.

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