on 8 January 2016
A brilliant Bond film. As it was an 'unofficial' 007 adventure, it does feel different - more laid-back - to the main series, and to Connery's earlier entries. However, all the essential ingredients are here - a great Bond, exotic locations, beautiful women, dry wit, excellent stunts and a really good story (a remake of Thunderball). At first, the absence of some of people who played the series 'regulars' - "Q" and Moneypenny, for example, and the regular production team, might disappoint. Ditto for the lack of the classic Bond theme music. However, this film should also be seen on its own - the portrayal of "Q" as a rather cynical civil servant, frustrated by budget cuts, witty and who rather likes Bond, is refreshing. I think the film's plot, casting, acting, locations, photography, editing and music are all excellent. Produced during the same year (1983) as the 'official' Octopussy, the two films were, and still are, understandably compared, Both are excellent and different. However, while Octopussy wins in the scope, polished and sumptuousness stakes, overall I actually rate Never Say Never Again a bit higher. There is just something engaging that I really like.
As another reviewer has said, thankfully, the much publicised behind-the-scenes wrangling and disputes are not noticeable on-screen.
Finally, Amazon's price for this item seems to have increased considerably since I made my purchase.
on 6 March 2014
NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN  [Blu-ray] Sean Connery is James Bond!
Sean Connery is back for his final performance as agent James Bond in this high-velocity action thriller. Agent 007 is hurled into a pulse-pounding race to save the world from Armageddon when two atomic warheads are hijacked by the evil SPECTRE organisation.
FILM FACT: Due to Great Britain's strict policy with regards to animal violence, one scene showing a horse falling into the ocean was cut, brought on by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [RSPCA], which is the largest animal rights group worldwide. This is only available to be viewed on an uncut German PAL DVD. The music for ‘Never Say Never Again’ was written by Michel Legrand, who composed a score similar to his work as a jazz pianist. Phyllis Hyman also recorded a potential theme song, written by Stephen Forsyth and Jim Ryan, but the song, an unsolicited submission, was passed over given Michel Legrand's contractual obligations with the music. Neither the famous opening credits nor the James Bond Theme or the 007 Logo were allowed to be used.
Cast: Sean Connery, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Max von Sydow, Barbara Carrera, Kim Basinger, Bernie Casey, Alec McCowen, Edward Fox, Pamela Salem, Rowan Atkinson, Valerie Leon, Milos Kirek, Pat Roach, Anthony Sharp, Prunella Gee, Gavan O'Herlihy, Ronald Pickup, Robert Rietty, Guido Adorni, Christopher Reich, Billy J. Mitchell, Manning Redwood, Sylvia Marriott, Dan Meaden, Tony Alleff, Paul Tucker, Brenda Kempner, Jill Meager, John Stephen Hill, Wendy Leech, Roy Bowe, Roy Alon (uncredited), Andy Bradford (uncredited), Tony Cyrus (uncredited), Rocky Taylor (uncredited) and Amy Irving (uncredited) (unconfirmed)
Director: Irvin Kershner
Producers: Jack Schwartzman, Kevin McClory and Michael Dryhurst
Screenplay: Lorenzo Semple, Jr., Dick Clement (uncredited) Ian La Frenais (uncredited) and Ian Fleming (based on an original story by)
Composer: Michel Legrand
Cinematography: Douglas Slocombe
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English: 2.0 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English SDH
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Running Time: 134 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: ‘Never Say Never Again’ begins with James Bond unsuccessfully taking part in a series of simulated missions for MI6. There's a new "M" [Edward Fox] in town who isn't fond of the "00" branch; he's relegated Bond to assignments as an instructor and has all but disbanded the "00" forces. Bond isn't getting any younger at this point, so he's ordered to clean up his act and to get into better shape by checking into a health spa. There, Bond accidentally uncovers a plot put in motion by SPECTRE, and the organization's ruthless leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld [Max Von Sydow], to steal several nuclear warheads, threaten the world and collect a giant ransom. When the warheads go missing, MI6 panics, reactivates Bond and sends him on a mission to the Caribbean to work his double-0 magic on the situation. Once in the Bahamas, Bond encounters Maximilian Largo [Klaus Maria Brandauer], an agent of SPECTRE who lives on a giant high-tech yacht. Bond will re-team with his old pal, CIA Agent Felix Leiter [Bernie Casey], and Largo's girlfriend Domino [Kim Basinger] to put a stop to their nefarious plans.
‘Never Say Never Again’ features a number of great action sequences, from underwater fights, to motorcycle chases; as well as an unfortunate reliance on some primitive blue screen work. Fortunately, the film is so effortless in its direction and story, that none of this is particularly bothersome. ‘Never Say Never Again’ also benefits from one of the strongest villains in James Bond history; Klaus Maria Brandauer turns in a bravura performance as Largo, while managing to stay within the realm of reality and avoiding the megalomaniacal histrionics that often accompany Bond villain performances. He's simply fantastic in the role. Kim Basinger is an acceptable Domino, but comes across as something of a hard sell when compared to Thunderball's Domino, Claudine Auger. Finally, Max Von Sydow is an effectively creepy Blofeld that seems to have a bit more personality than those of the Eon Productions films. His addition to the cast, along with that of Mr. Brandauer's, gives ‘Never Say Never Again’ one of the strongest rosters of villains in the history of the franchise, bar none.
Invariably, the question always arises: Is ‘Never Say Never Again’ as good as Thunderball? Not really. The story is virtually identical, of course, but ‘Never Say Never Again’ doesn't have the style of the original. ‘Thunderball’ was one of the pivotal James Bond films and helped to cement many of Bond's signature trademarks. His sense of style, along with his decidedly sexist behaviour, was an aspect of James Bond's character that has followed him through the decades. It's fresh and almost charming in ‘Thunderball,’ while already looking dated in ‘Never Say Never Again.’ Regardless, ‘Never Say Never Again’ is very entertaining and faithful to the James Bond character. It might not achieve the heights of the other James Bond films from the sixties, but is just as good.
Blu-ray Video Quality – ‘Never Say Never Again’ Blu-ray release represents the first serious attempt at presenting the film in a manner befitting a Sean Connery Bond film. Presented in a nice 1080p encoded image and the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, ‘Never Say Never Again’ looks pretty darn good. The primary problem with the release is print damage; there are a number of scenes where print scratches and dirt become obvious, marring this otherwise excellent presentation. I noticed more issues cropping up during the film's special effects shots, particularly during obvious optical composites. Clearly, Never Say Never Again hasn't been run through the restoration process at Lowry, like EON Productions' films have. Regardless, the good elements outweigh the bad in ‘Never Say Never Again.’ Contrast is generally impressive, with rich black levels. Colours are slightly washed-out, but that's probably the nature of the film's early-eighties photography. Detail is moderate, but appropriate given the source material. Grain is slightly inconsistent, with heavier grain appearing in special effects shots where optical printing was used. It's nothing out of the ordinary for a film of the early eighties. Lastly, there aren't any noticeable compression-related issues with ‘Never Say Never Again’ and the film has been given a high quality encode. While the film doesn't rise to the same video heights as most of the other James Bond films, this is still a worthy upgrade from any previous version of the film. ‘Never Say Never Again’ looks better than ever on this Blu-ray disc.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – I was fully expecting ‘Never Say Never Again’ to be a disappointment in the audio department. Surprisingly, the film has been given a substantial update in its sound mix, thanks to a potent helping of 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio encoding combined with some serious audio remixing. There's a nice atmosphere throughout the film that mixes in a number of rear directional effects in action sequences. Dialogue is, for the most part, isolated to the centre channel, while the film's somewhat awkward musical score takes root entirely in the front soundstage. For a movie from the early 1980s, ‘Never Say Never Again’ will never sound as up-to- date as, say, ‘Quantum of Solace.’ Not that it necessarily should, for that matter. I was duly impressed with this updated soundtrack's restraint. It would have been easy to remix the track to the point of being ridiculous. ‘Never Say Never Again’ is again highly recommended.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Director Irvin Kershner and James Bond Historian Steven Jay Rubin: Director Irvin Kershner is joined by 007 Historian Steven Jay Rubin, who claims that this is one of his favourite films. Something tells me that any movie with James Bond in it would qualify as one of his favourites. For a Bond historian, Rubin makes some surprising factual errors, such as stating that the Blofeld character hadn't been seen in a 007 movie since 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service', when in fact he made appearances in both 'Diamonds Are Forever' and 'For Your Eyes Only.' The track also has a little too much play-by-play recapping of the action on screen. Regardless, this is a pretty engaging conversation, especially when Irvin Kershner describes his problems with how much of the novel he had to include versus how much of the previous 'Thunderball' film he wasn't allowed to use.
Special Feature Documentary: The Big Gamble  [480i] [4:3] [16:00] An overview of the history of the project, development of the script, and the legal problems that the producers faced. Director Irvin Kershner admits to being bored by the script and the final action scene.
Special Feature Documentary: Sean is Back  [480i] [4:3] [8:00] The cast and crew reminisce about working with Sean Connery and offer him their highest compliments.
Special Feature: The Girls of ‘Never Say Never Again’  [480i] [4:3] [10:00] A discussion about the casting of Kim Basinger, who was intimidated by the cast and her husband, and had a bad experience making the film. The still-lovely Barbara Carrera [Fatima Blush] says that she enjoyed improvising much of her role.
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [4:3] [1:00] The Blu-ray disc menus calls it a theatrical trailer, but this is clearly a 4:3 pan and scan TV spot. Probably because MGM/Fox couldn't get the trailer material out of Warner Bros.
Finally, the inspiration of 1980s fads dates this film, besides the title song sung by Lani Hall with Herb Alpert trumpet solo (it's the exception and not the rule, after all, when a James Bond title song isn't dated) and a terrible score by Michel Legrand, the plot nods to a pop culture dominated by Jane Fonda workouts and video-game arcades, especially one suspense sequence pits James Bond against Largo in a wired-to-kill game of "Domination." Instead of Desmond Llewelyn as "Q" and ‘Never Say Never Again’ offers Alec McCowen as Algernon. In one of the film's most dry funny scenes, is when Algernon tells Bond, "Good to see you, Mr. Bond. Things have been awfully dull around here. Bureaucrats running the old place, everything done by the book...Now you're on this, I hope we're going to have some gratuitous sex and violence." While it certainly isn't the best of the James Bond films, ‘Never Say Never Again’ is far from being the worst. In fact, it's a remarkably entertaining diversion in the James Bond universe that manages to entertain while showcasing Sean Connery's final take on the legendary spy he helped create. James Bond fans will love the film's tongue-in-cheek manner and will get a kick out of seeing a slightly older Sean Connery in an unexpected return to the role that made him famous. This Blu-ray release of ‘Never Say Never Again’ is clearly the finest presentation of the film that has ever graced home screens, though an unfortunate amount of print damage does detract slightly from the experience. The film's audio presentation is generally impressive, if restrained; supplements are, however, lacking in depth. Ultimately, ‘Never Say Never Again’ is a strange footnote in cinema history that manages to be genuinely enjoyable, while showcasing a number of exceptional performances and it was a brilliant film for Sean Connery who finally bowed out of the James Bond franchise and now I have the final Sean Connery James Bond film added to my other James Bond Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
on 22 February 2002
In 1971, following the release of Diamonds Are Forever, Sean Connery announced that he would "never again" play the role of James Bond. As a result, the producers brought in Roger Moore, and the series continued. 12 years later, in 1983, Connery reneged on his anti-007 vow and once again slipped into the role that had earned him worldwide fame (the reputed $5 million paycheck probably had something to do with his decision). Fans of the real James Bond exulted -- at least until they saw the movie.
Unfortunately, Never Say Never Again is a poor excuse for the veteran actor's return. The humor is over-the-top, the direction is pedestrian, and the storyline drags. Were it not for the simple pleasure of seeing Connery playing 007 one more time, this film would have been nearly unwatchable. All things considered, it's not a very good movie, but at least Connery's charisma salvages parts of it.
The hallmarks of every Bond film are the big, often-absurd action sequences. Thunderball has several, including a spectacular (if overlong) underwater climax. Never Say Never Again can boast only one -- a wild car chase with Bond on a Q-designed motorbike -- and that's choreographed without flair. With the exception of a few isolated incidents here and there, like the silly fight that demolishes a health clinic, this film fails to generate much excitement. And the absence of the John Barry/Monty Norman "James Bond Theme" leaves a musical hole that Michel Legrand's feeble score cannot plug.
The acting is variable. Brandauer is effective as Largo and Max Von Sydow may be the best Blofeld of all. Barbara Carrera is suitably sexy as the predatory Fatima. Kim Basinger is a singular embarrassment, not exhibiting the slightest wisp of acting talent. The usual "London group" of M (Edward Fox), Q (Alec McCowen), and Moneypenny (Pamela Salem) seem like impostors. It's especially odd seeing someone other than Desmond Llewelyn tinkering with gadgets.
There was a great deal of hype in 1983 about the "dueling" Bonds -- Roger Moore's Octopussy versus Sean Connery's Never Say Never Again. Ultimately, both entries were duds, with Never Say Never Again offering slightly better entertainment based solely on Connery's presence. Nevertheless, it's a major disappointment that, having lured back the original 007, the film makers couldn't offer him something better than this drawn-out, hackneyed story.