24 February 2009

DVD: "Never Say Never Again"

Never Say Never Again
Directed by Irvin Kershner
Screenplay by Lorenzo Semple, Jr.
Based on an Original Story by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham and Ian Fleming
Starring: Sean Connery, Klaus Maria Brandhauer, Max Von Sydow, Barbara Carrera, Kim Basinger, Bernie Casey, Alec McCowen and Edward Fox as "M"
DVD Release Date: 17 October 2000
MPAA Rating: PG
List Price: $14.95 - Currently Out of Print
Cinescopes Personality Types: Passionate Maverick, Chosen Adventurer

The History
At its heart, Never Say Never Again is a remake of 1966's Thunderball.  You can research the convoluted history of this particular chapter in the James Bond canon elsewhere, but suffice it to say that this film is not part of the James Bond series by Eon Productions.  I only bring this up because none of the conventions of a Bond film are present here.  There is no gun barrel opening, the supporting cast is comprised of actors who have not appeared in any of the other Bond films and, most significantly, "The James Bond Theme" is absent.  In many respects, though, this film gets to the heart of what James Bond--as a character--is about, because even without any of those things, this film could only have been a Bond story.

The Film
SPECTRE, an international criminal/terrorist organization, successfully conspires to hijack some nuclear bombs from NATO with the intention of blackmailing government leaders.  Intelligence operatives pursue leads across the globe, and British agent James Bond (Connery) conducts his own investigation in the Bahamas.  There, he meets Domino Petachi (Basinger), the sister of the pilot murdered by SPECTRE.  Bond quickly determines that her boyfriend/keeper Largo (Brandhauer) is involved with the blackmail plot.  Can the veteran spy locate the bombs in time and foil the plot?  Of course he does--he's James Bond.  The only real question is how interesting things get along the way, and the truth is that this is a genuinely entertaining outing.

You get the original theatrical trailer and a behind-the-scenes booklet.  Truthfully, the booklet is actually fairly informative and nice.  MGM spent quite a lot of money to acquire the rights to this (and the 1967 Casino Royale) to cement its ownership of James Bond film rights.  To their credit, the aesthetics of this DVD are uniform with the other Bond DVD releases of the time, though they clearly skimped on features out of spite.  Fortunately, a two-disc edition with features is on its way.

The Recommendation
A James Bond movie that doesn't use the Bond formula?  An African-American Felix Leiter?  An "M" that doesn't even like Bond?  In 2006, of course, audiences went ga-ga over these things in Casino Royale, but Never Say Never Again was trounced at the box office in 1983 by the official Bond movie Octopussy (starring Roger Moore as Bond) for being different.  Time, however, has proved this film holds up quite well (excepting a video game sequence that has not aged well).

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