Kim Basinger, Sean Connery, and Barbara Carrera in Never Say Never Again (1983)


(director: Irvin Kershner; screenwriters: Lorenzo Semple Jr/from the story by Ian Fleming, Kevin McClory & Jack Whittingham; cinematographer: Douglas Slocombe; editor: Ian Crafford; music: Michel Legrand; cast: Sean Connery (James Bond), Kim Basinger (Domino), Klaus Maria Brandauer (Emilio Largo), Barbara Carrera (Fatima Blush), Bernie Casey (Felix Leiter), Edward Fox (M), Alec McGowan (Q), Rowan Atkinson (Nigel Small-Fawcett), Gavin O’Herlihy (Jack Petachi), Max Von Sydow (Ernst Stavro Blofeld), Pamela Salem (Miss Moneypenny; Runtime: 137; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Jack Schwartzman; Orion; 1983-UK)
“It’s an aging and unenthusiastic Connery who returns to play Bond, who doesn’t have the physicality to do justice any more to the demanding muscular role.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

After a 12-year hiatus the original 007, Sean Connery, returns to the role he made famous in this rogue version (the usual Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli is not involved with this project). It’s basically a remake of Connery’s Thunderball (1965). The title is derived from Connery saying he would never play Bond again following his disappointment with Diamonds Are Forever. It’s an aging and unenthusiastic Connery who returns to play Bond, who doesn’t have the physicality to do justice any more to the demanding muscular role.

Director Irvin Kershner (“Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”/”Robo-Cop 2″/”The Eyes of Laura Mars”) steers it clear of excessive gadgetry and keeps it from the camp that followed Roger Moore’s Bond portrayal. It’s written by Lorenzo Semple Jr. with the usual formulaic plot of Bond saving the word from the evil international crime organization called SPECTRE and it fills the screen with the usual Bond over-the-top action sequences, but offers a slightly bit more intrigue and more of a sophisticated romance (if you please). Lani Hall croons the title song.

The bullying, uptight new M (Edward Fox) is concerned with James Bond’s (Sean Connery) poor nutritional habits and sends him to a health farm to lose weight. Bond while there unwittingly comes across a diabolical plot to replace the cornea of a drug-addicted USAF officer named Jack Petachi (Gavin O’Herlihy) with the cornea of the President of the United States in order to clear a security check at a missile site. This enables SPECTRE – which masterminded the scheme – to use Petachi’s false eye to infiltrate a U.S. Air Force base situated in the U.K., where the U.S. stores two nuclear Tomahawk cruise missiles for a flight test. Petachi is killed and the SPECTRE operatives replace the real cruise missiles with two dummy warheads in mid-air, after the real ones are fired and intercepted (if you believe).

SPECTRE boss Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Max Von Sydow) issues a blackmail demand to the governments of the world to cough up 25 per cent of the sums paid for oil by the members of NATO or else in seven days the revenge part of SPECTRE’s three pronged attack of terror and extortion will be carried out. Thereby Bond is sent by M to the Bahamas to make contact with Petachi’s sexy sister, Domino (Kim Basinger), who is the kept girlfriend of the psychopathic Maximillian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer). He’s a shady tycoon who is involved with SPECTRE but covers his tracks by generously donating to children’s charities.

In Nassau, beautiful SPECTRE agent Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera) fails to kill Bond after a few innovative attempts and eventually meets her Maker through one of Q’s (Alec McGowan) gimmick pens he supplied Bond. When 007 picks up that Largo has something to do with the cruise missile thefts, he tracks him down to find where he stored the nukes and that leads to the film’s centerpiece underwater battle scene pitting in scuba gear the CIA’s Felix Leiter (Bernie Casey) and the American frogmen against the SPECTRE operatives.

It’s passable as entertainment value, but it’s not really top-flight Bond. There’s lots of underwater photography, where most of the action takes place. But most of those sequences left me blurry eyed trying to locate the good guys from the bad guys, as they weren’t that distinguishable. In any case, they just seemed to be going through the motions without really having their heart in it as they tried to duplicate in a splashy way what a Bond climax is expected to be.

In 1983, there was an intriguing box office competition between the original producer Albert R. Broccoli of Roger Moore’s Octopussy versus the rogue version featuring the series’ best Bond ever Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again. Both films were considered critical disappointments, with Octopussy slightly winning the box office battle and Never Say Never Again considered by most critics to be slightly more enjoyable only because of Connery’s presence and that he avoided making his character cartoonish like Moore did.