"Nursie will give baby his candy" — looking back on Never Say Never Again
There's been a lot of heavy legal stuff written about the Thunderball/Never Say Never Again debacle. In short: Thunderball is an adaptation of the 1961 novel of the same name by Ian Fleming.
The novel was based on an original screenplay by Jack Whittingham, devised from a story conceived by Kevin McClory, Whittingham, and Fleming.
McClory and Whittingham sued Fleming shortly after the 1961 publication of the Thunderball novel. The pair claimed Fleming based the book upon the screenplay the trio had written in a failed cinematic translation of James Bond.
The lawsuit was settled out of court, and McClory retained certain screen rights to the novel's story, plot, and characters. Hence, we got Never in 1983 — a non-Eon Bond film. Some fans refer to it as an "unofficial" Bond film.
One suspects Sean Connery agreed to return to the role to stick two fingers up at Eon's Cubby Broccoli for not paying him enough. So, Sean is back, looking fitter than when we last saw him as Bond in Diamonds Are Forever, with a thicker Scottish accent and his famous pronunciation of 'S' beginning to really show.
As a kid, I didn't understand that this film differed from the other Bond films. The title song, title sequence, and opening training scene still excite me to this day. But enough about my emotions.
Bond and his "enemy" supposedly use blanks in the test sequence, so why Bond actually kills people is confusing. There are a few things Never does better than Thunderball, including the Bond/Q, underwater, and shark scenes. Kim Basinger's Domino is also an improvement over Thunderball's kept woman of the same name. Klaus Maria Brandauer is way better as Largo than Robert Rietti, who dubbed Adolfo Celi.
Barbara Carrera gives a powerhouse performance as Fatima Blush and is one of the best characters ever seen in cinematic Bond. Blush and Bond's sex scene is the most graphic yet. The fight between Bond and Lippe is up there among the best fisticuffs in the 'official' series. It has everything: violence, tension, excitement, brutality, and humour.
Yet there are a few things Thunderball does better: Felix Leiter, Blofeld, M, Moneypenny, the score, and the final climax. Never's final cave battle is a damp squib and lets the film down.
Sean Connery wanted a black Felix to make the character more memorable, but it didn't work. Bernie Casey is woeful. Rowan Atkinson attempts to offer some light relief but comes across as irritating. Look out for two actors who also appeared in Eon Bond films.
In that year, an ageing Sean in Never went up against an ageing Roger Moore in the Eon-produced Octopussy. Never gets one over Roger's swansong, A View to a Kill, by playing on Bond's advancing years instead of glossing over them. Never just doesn't have the panache of the Eon '80s films and looks uncolourful and dated, which is surprising, as it shares the same director as The Empire Strikes Back: Irvin Kershner.
While Roger's Bond was still out-shooting, jumping, and skiing his enemies throughout the '80s, Sean Connery's Bond was giving massages, playing computer games, dancing the tango, and riding a bicycle in a tight vest.
Is Never better than Octopussy? Definitely not. Is it better than Thunderball? It certainly has its moments and could be classed as more of a fun romp.
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Joe is Editor of For Bond Fans Only and a writer by trade. When he's not watching Bond, he can be found listening to The Beatles and worrying about West Ham. You can find him on Twitter @joeemerywrites