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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Irvin Kershner
Cast:
Sean Connery, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Max von Sydow, Barbara Carrera, Kim Basinger, Bernie Casey, Alec McCowen, Edward Fox
Writing Credits:
Kevin McClory (story), Jack Whittingham (story), Ian Fleming (chracters, story), Lorenzo Semple Jr.

Tagline:
If you haven't seen Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again then you haven't seen James Bond 007!

Synopsis:
Sean Connery is back for his final performance as superagent James Bond in this high-velocity action thriller from the director of The Empire Strikes Back. When two atomic warheads are hijacked by the evil Spectre organization, Agent 007 is hurled into an explosive, pulse-pounding race to save the world from nuclear terrorists!

Box Office:
Budget
$36 million.
Opening Weekend
$10.958 million on 1 screens.
Domestic Gross
$55.432 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS

Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Monaural
French Monaural
Subtitles:
Spanish
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 134 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 3/24/2009

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Irvin Kershner and Film Historian Steven Jay Rubin
• “The Big Gamble” Featurette
• “Sean Is Back” Featurette
• “The Girls of Never Say Never Again” Featurette
• Trailer
• Photo Gallery


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Never Say Never Again: Collector's Edition (1983)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 21, 2009)

For the second time in history, 1983 saw two competing Bond films hit movie screens. The first occasion occurred in 1967, but that instance was not much of a competition. The "official" Bond release - You Only Live Twice - went up against a silly comic spoof called Casino Royale. Though the latter attracted its own audience, there was no real sense of competition, since Royale didn't attempt to top the "real" Bond picture at its own game.

However, that wasn't the case in 1983, when the stakes escalated quite high. In June, Octopussy - the "official" release – appeared. It included Roger Moore as 007 and featured all of the series' staples like the theme music. Much of the crew behind the film also had years of Bond experience.

The competition arrived in October 1983 with much fanfare but little connection to the then-21-year-old franchise. This was Never Say Never Again, a remake of 1965's Thunderball. While the film could use the Bond name and other characters, it didn't get the music and it lacked the consistent cast and crew found on the "real" 007 pictures. However, it did have one ace in the hole: the return of classic Bond portrayer Sean Connery.

Connery initially called it quits on 007 after You Only Live Twice, but a couple of factors - a big payday for his favorite charity and his own lack of screen success since 1967 - combined to bring him back to the role for 1971's Diamonds Are Forever. After that, however, it really did look like the end of the line for Connery as 007. Ironically, though one would think the producers of the series would have opted for young blood in the part, they cast Moore, a man three years older than then-43-year-old Connery for 1973's Live and Let Die! Despite that fact, Moore held up for an additional 12 years and another six films before he retired from the part after 1985's A View to a Kill.

I haven't been able to discover why Connery once again accepted his license to kill for Never, the tale behind its creation is interesting. Here's the tale in a nutshell: in the late Fifties, film producer and director Kevin McClory approached Ian Fleming. He wanted to make a Bond movie but felt that instead of adapting an existing tale, they should create one from scratch so it could better fit within a big-production framework. Before too much time passed, McClory, Fleming and screenwriter Jack Whittingham completed a script called "Latitude 78 West".

In 1960, McClory lost a financial backer and the movie looked dead. While on vacation, Fleming went ahead and wrote up a story based on the script that he called "Thunderball". When McClory found out, he and Whittingham used legal means to hold it up since they felt Fleming was not authorized to use the story they co-created. Courts agreed, and McClory eventually won all film and TV rights to "Thunderball".

When this case settled, it was 1963 and two Bond movies - Dr. No and From Russia With Love - had already become big hits. McClory proposed that the official producers of the series, Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, make the film version of "Thunderball" and they agreed. They were concerned that someone else would offer a competing picture that might damage the good name of the franchise, a fear that proved correct when some parts of the public blamed them for Casino Royale although they had nothing to do with it.

Within the contract struck for the film of "Thunderball", McClory committed not to produce another version of the story for 10 years. At the time, I'm sure Broccoli and Saltzman saw no reason to challenge this loophole. Even if Bond proved a continued success in the world of 1975, it seemed unlikely someone would want to remake such a relatively recent film.

Unfortunately for them, they were completely incorrect. Once the clock struck 10 (years), McClory announced plans to make another Bond movie based on "Thunderball". Despite the fact this seemed to be well within his rights, Broccoli challenged McClory and the pair returned to court. (Due to financial difficulties, Saltzman had sold his interests in the production company; 1974's The Man With the Golden Gun was the final Bond movie to bear his credit.)

Legal wranglings continued for a few years, but eventually McClory won his case. Finally, in 1983, a non-official Bond film hit the market. Despite Broccoli's fears, the market proved able to handle two Bond pictures. Both did fairly well at the box office, and Never did nothing to harm the overall image of the franchise.

In fact, much of the public appeared to find Never to be the better film of the two. Undoubtedly, these opinions were aided by the presence of Connery. To many folks, he's the only "real" 007 and Moore's tenure in the role had harmed the stature of the series.

In 1983, I was 16 and had only ever seen two Bond movies: 1979's Moonraker and 1981's For Your Eyes Only. Although I enjoyed both of those, for reasons I don't recall, I hadn't bothered to take in Octopussy during its theatrical run. However, I did show an interest in Never, largely because I'd begun to believe the hype. I grew up with Moore as Bond and always saw him as the best person in the role, mainly because I didn't know better. I had seen little of Connery and - since I was ignorant of the chronological facts - thought of him as an old guy who appeared in some dated movies. (Hey, the Sixties seemed like a really long time ago!)

Nonetheless, by 1983, I started to hear how much better Connery was supposed to be, so his presence in Never made it intriguing. As such, it was the 1983 Bond film I saw, and I recall that I thought it was pretty good.

More than 25 years later, I'm infinitely better-versed in Bond history since I've seen all 22 of the "official" films, most of them more than once. Now that I'd taken in all of those Bond DVDs, I was curious to rediscover Never Say Never Again. Sure, it impressed a painfully ignorant 16-year-old, but would it work for a slightly less ignorant 41-year-old?

Nope. Frankly, I was quite surprised at how weak I found Never to be. I won't call the film a complete flop, but it felt like imitation Bond at best, and it often seemed to be a pretty cheap rip-off of the franchise.

Never indeed remakes Thunderball; although it's not a perfect copy, it will look very familiar to fans of the 1965 hit. Actually, the film starts off pretty well; although the opening sequence - which follows the credits, unlike all Bond movies since 1963 - reminded me an awful lot of the start to From Russia With Love, it was a fun and engaging beginning to the movie.

Unfortunately, the project almost immediately goes downhill after that. Cast as "M", Edward Fox provides a frightfully shrill and prissy portrayal. Granted, he's not supposed to be the same "M" played for so many years by Bernard Lee; as with Judi Dench in the Nineties Bonds, this is another person who has taken charge of the secret service. While I understood the desire to distance the character from Lee's able persona, Fox goes much too far in the campy and grating direction; this "M" is played as a complete idiot, which is absolutely inappropriate for the role.

One of my main complaints about Never came from work like this. The "official" Bond films worked because the actors so rarely played things overtly for laughs; humor functions better within this sort of environment when it lacks the "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" factor.

The producers of Never apparently felt differently, because we find too many of these broad and inane performances. Almost as bad as Fox was Rowan Atkinson as Nigel Small-Fawcett. Getting beyond the stupid penis joke inherent in his name, Atkinson makes the character insipid and annoying. I dreaded any of his appearances, as he added nothing to the movie and actively detracted from it at times.

Most of the remainder of the actors seemed fairly weak as well, though none of them were as poor as Fox and Atkinson. Connery was Connery; despite the flaws of the project itself, he helps make the project semi-tolerable at times just because he is who he is. Actually, he looked terrific in the role. He seemed younger and more vibrant than he did in Diamonds Are Forever, despite the additional 12 years in between projects.

Also strong is Klaus Maria Brandauer as villainous Largo. Unlike every other cast member, he outdoes his predecessor (Adolpho Celi) and provides a deft and nuanced performance. He creates a baddie who shows signs of mental instability but also appears suave and charismatic, and he never lets the nutbag side of the role become overwhelming; he portrays those aspects of the role in a rather subtle manner.

Despite the best efforts of Connery and Brandauer, however, Never is beyond redemption. Although many other Bonds seem strongly a part of the eras in which they were released - Live and Let Die stands out in that regard - Never feels much more dated than the others. From the absolutely miserable score to the costumes and sets to the absolutely absurd videogame showdown between Bond and Largo, everything about the movie screams "early Eighties". Somehow the producers managed to find every cliché of the period and pack it into one film.

Although one would assume that much of Never would feel like déjŕ vu since it remakes Thunderball, I didn't expect as many overt steals from other Bond films. As I already noted, the opening is strongly reminiscent of From Russia With Love, and I also found Bond's fight with thuggish Lippe to look and feel a lot like his climactic confrontation with Odd Job in Goldfinger. These don't come across as "homages"; they feel like cheap thievery and nothing more.

Although I'm not very wild about some Bond films, I find something to enjoy in each of them and I rarely feel bored with them. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case with Never Say Never Again. The movie provides a weak remake of a classic Bond picture and frequently was tedious and flat. Even the charismatic presence of the great Sean Connery couldn't save this clunker.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Never Say Never Again appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I’ve seen better, but I’ve also seen worse than this generally positive transfer.

Sharpness appeared generally adequate, and most of the movie seemed acceptably clear and accurate. However, wide shots often came across as a little soft and fuzzy, with less-crisp definition than I'd expect. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, but I noticed mild edge enhancement.

Print flaws caused some distractions. I witnessed a few instances of specks and marks during the film. However, these remained minor and never became a substantial issue.

Colors looked pretty decent. They showed reasonable vivacity and tightness through the flick. I couldn’t say they really excelled, but they were more than adequate. Blacks followed suit, and low-light shots came across as fairly clear and smooth. The source flaws and the softness left this as a “B-” transfer.

I thought that the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Never was also flawed but acceptable. The soundfield occasionally opened up to a decent degree, but for the most part it seemed rather limited. On many occasions, the mix came across as essentially monaural in the front channels. The side speakers became active during scenes that included exaggerated directional effects such as squealing tires or flying rockets, but the track often displayed little ambiance to make the audio appear more convincing. Music did show decent stereo imaging.

Surround usage remained minor. I didn’t notice much in the way of unique information from the back speakers, as they were pretty passive partners. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as the trend toward general reinforcement suited the mix.

Audio quality was perfectly acceptable. Some speech sounded awkwardly looped, but the lines were usually natural and concise. Though effects tended to show their age, they were reasonably accurate. I noticed little in the way of distortion, and they offered fair low-end response.

Music disappointed a bit. The score tended to be a little on the flat and muddy side, especially early in the movie; the opening song was rather drab. Nonetheless, the music usually seemed fine. Nothing here really excelled, but the audio was good enough for an age-related “B-“.

How did the picture and audio of this 2009 “Collector’s Edition” compare to those of the original disc from 2000? Both showed improvements, especially in terms of the soundtrack. I thought the old mix suffered from too active use of the surrounds, and it also sounded rougher and tinnier than this one.

Visual improvements were less notable. Actually, I thought the two transfers were similar except in terms of source flaws; the 2000 DVD looked a bit dirtier than this one. While I didn’t think the new disc was radically more attractive, it did show improvements, and I definitely preferred this DVD’s audio.

One other change found in the 2009 transfer: it reinstated a scene accidentally omitted from the 2000 release. The earlier disc lost Bond's formal introduction to both Largo and Domino (Kim Basinger). In the incorrect version, Bond entered the casino and suddenly we saw him as he chatted with Largo despite the fact we never watched them meet. Happily, the introduction appears here, so the film is intact.

While the 2000 release included very few extras, the 2009 version comes with a nice sampling. We open with an audio commentary from director Irvin Kershner and film historian Steven Jay Rubin. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at cast and performances, the original book and its adaptation, stunts and effects, photography and production design, legal issues, working within the Bond universe, and a few other areas.

Kershner does most of the heavy lifting here, and he does well. At times he tends to narrate the movie, but that doesn’t become a significant issue. Instead, he provides many good insights into the film and topics such as working with an older Bond. (It’s interesting that Kershner seems to think Connery played an older Bond than Roger Moore’s; Connery is actually three years younger than his successor.) Kershner also offers a frank look at the movie; he offers praise where he thinks it’s warranted, but he also criticizes various aspects of the production. Rubin helps facilitate the discussion and this turns into a very satisfying and informative chat.

Three featurettes follow. The Big Gamble runs 16 minutes, 24 seconds and offers notes from Rubin, Kershner, consultant to producer Talia Shire Schwartzman, Producers Sales Organization’s John Hyde, producer Jack Schwartzman’s son John, screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr., uncredited screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, and actor Barbara Carrera. “Gamble” follows the “unofficial Bond” movie’s sticky path to the screen, the script and the adaptation of the source material, story issues and rewrites, and some legal wrangling.

Expect a tight, consistently engaging program here. “Gamble” handles many script issues well, and it also digs into juicy legal issues related to the production. “Gamble” opens the DVD’s behind the scenes featurettes well.

Sean Is Back goes for eight minutes, four seconds and features John Schwartzman, Carrera, Kershner, Semple, Shire Schwartzman, La Frenais, Clement, and actor Pamela Salem. We get some thoughts about Sean Connery here, with an emphasis on what a great guy he is. A few decent notes about the production appear, though many of these also show up in the commentary. This becomes a passable piece but not a particularly insightful one.

Finally, the 10-minute and five-second The Girls of Never Say Never Again includes comments from Kershner, Carrera, Shire Schwartzman, Salem, and actor Valerie Leon. As the title promises, the show looks at the film’s female actors and their performances. Plenty more interesting notes appear here. Kershner gets into his conflicts with Kim Basinger, and Carrera – who really doesn’t look like she’s aged more than 15 minutes since 1983 – spills the beans on many aspects of her work. I feared this would be a silly puff piece, but instead it comes packed with cool tales.

In addition to the film’s Trailer, we find a Photo Gallery. It provides 62 photos; in addition to some publicity shots, we see images from the film. It’s a mediocre collection.

Although I hate to slam a Bond film - especially one that stars Sean Connery - I found Never Say Never Again to provide a poor representative of the genre. The whole thing feels like a cheap rip-off and it almost never gels despite the best efforts of the star. The DVD provides acceptable to good picture and audio along with a pretty nice roster of supplements.

I don’t find much to recommend from this drab Bond “adventure”, though at least this DVD gives the movie good treatment. It improves on the picture and audio of the 2000 release, and the extras add real value. Still, I can’t advise any folks other than Bond diehards to grab this sucker.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.7391 Stars Number of Votes: 23
115:
24:
5 3:
32:
21:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main