James Bond movies, part 4: Sean Connery returns again

As Roger Moore’s sequence of Bond Films settled into its increasingly frivolous nature, Sean Connery — who has famously said “Never again” after filming his comeback Bond-movie Diamonds Are Forever — was persuaded to return once more twelve years later.

Never Say Never Again (1983)

This came out in the same year as Octopussy, which I consider the nadir of Moore’s efforts. Tiring of Moore, I watched Never Say Never Again between For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy, and found myself liking it a lot more than I expected to. Connery is clearly too old for role at 53 — but that’s still three years younger than Moore was in his offering of the same year. More importantly, Connery had retained his charisma — if anything, he emits even more of an alpha-male vibe in 1983 than he had in 1971. And that alone makes the film work.

History shows that Octopussy took more money than this film ($187.5M vs. $160M) but it’s certainly not the better of the two. In fact, Never Say Never Again has a rough-edged brutality to it, almost a realism, that must surely have been much more in mind as the template for Timothy Dalton’s run than any of the films Moore had made. Even the opening sequence (which has a spoiler that I won’t give away) has a grit to it that drew me into the film far more effectively than the more flamboyant openings of films like Octopussy (mini-jet) or A View to a Kill (snowboarding to the hideously ill-judged sound of California Girls.)

NSNA was only ever going to be one-off, and that was the right decision: for Connery to keep playing Bond further into his fifties could only have resulted in his becoming as ridiculous as Moore had become. But as a one-off, it works; and it signposts the way forward for the series.

Next time: Timothy Dalton.

18 responses to “James Bond movies, part 4: Sean Connery returns again

  1. Just in case anyone clicks on that link and believes the YouTube uploader, that horrific noise is *not* the Beach Boys singing California Girls. Rather it is the hideous caterwauling of bemulleted fool Adrian Baker and his band Gidea Park.

    Had it been the real Beach Boys track, it would still have been horribly misjudged for many, many reasons, but at least it wouldn’t have made people’s ears bleed.

    (Remind me sometime when I’m more awake to tell you my conspiracy theory about how the Daniel Craig Bond is actually a deliberate reaction to Kevin McClory)

  2. Aram Hăvărneanu

    Are you going to post anything about programming again, or should I remove you from my RSS reader?

  3. Aram, I can’t tell. The blog’s subheading is “Everything except sauropod vertebrae”, and that is indeed what I write about here. My enthusiasms come and go unpredictably, and there would be no point in my trying to write about something that wasn’t tickling my imagination at the time. So I probably will write about programming again, but I’m not going to make predictions about when that will be.

  4. Right, Andrew. It’s astonishing to me that they were too cheap to spring for the rights to the actual Beach Boys’ version; but including the song at all, in any version, is the true misjudgement. (And aren’t you being a little harsh on Adrian Baker here?)

    I will of course be writing about Daniel Craig’s Bond fairly soon. Please do comment on that explaining your conspiracy.

  5. No, I’m *definitely* not being harsh on Adrian Baker. I saw him live twice with Mike Love’s touring Beach Boys (who hired him on several occasions to sing Brian Wilson’s parts) and he was the most godawful singer I’ve ever heard in my entire life — watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNV-eve42M0 and then try to tell me it’s even *possible* to be too harsh to that man. Thank God they sacked him and replaced him (and the terrible drummer they had then).

    (Then watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSyIKD7h8dc&feature=fvwrel , a performance of the same song from this year, to take the horrible taste out of your mouth)

  6. The problem I have with a lot of the Bonds is .. they feel forced; like this one — why San Connery? Well, because he is awesome.. but it felt more like — hey, damn, we have to make another Bond film… don’t have anyone handy for our clear view moving forward.. lets ring up old Seany, see if he’ll cave?

    Many of these movies lacked _conviction_ .. a tight script, specifically chosen actors, etc; they were off the cuff, ‘good enough, throw it out there’, showing Hollywoods ennui or arrogance. The Bond films were no longer premier, somethign they worked hard on .. they were fluff, while the studios places their focus elsewhere?

    If they’d cared, there would have been half as many films.


  7. How would you compare Thunderball and NSNA? I’ve not seen either in probabyl 20+ years :)

  8. Just finished Casino Royale (2006) .. really, that is quite a good film. Now onto NSNA followed by Thunderball perhaps :)

  9. Jeff, I absolutely agree that many of the Bond films lack conviction; but I think that’s more true of the Moore sequence than of NSNA. As you may know, the latter was not part of the main sequence of films, but a rather cynical competitive move by Kevin McClory, who held part of the rights to the original Thunderball story having co-written a TV treatment with Ian Fleming before either the novel or the film. McClory would have known that this was his one shot, hence pulling out all the stops to get Connery for his one film. I think this gives the film a distinctly different tone — more self-contained, more focussed.

    And that is probably a big part of the reason that I am inclined to prefer it over the original Thunderball movie. I don’t honestly think either of them is particularly great, but NSNA carries a bit more weight, especially early on.

  10. NSNA is, I think, rather better than the flaccid Thunderball but the ’60s film does have the advantages of its production values, of Bond in a ridiculous jetpack, and of Guy Doleman. I must say I prefer NSNA’s discosynthfunkpoplite theme than Thunderball’s turgid tune, yes I *do*!
    Highlights of NSNA : the opening sequence, Connery (not as good as in Diamonds but better than in Thunderball and YOLT) the “gratuitous sex and violence” line, Bond throwing piss in Pat Roach’s face, Max Von Sydow, and lovely Pamela Salem (!). I wouldn’t say that NSNA had any influence on Living Daylights and it’s camper,weaker, and less tough (relatively) than For Your Eyes Only in any case. In fact I would say that Octopussy – despite its diffuseness and a tired Moore – is, on the whole, no lesser a film than NSNA, the latter has Brandeur’s creepy smarm while the former has Jourdan’s milquetoast oiliness but it also has Berkoff in full OTT but intimidating nutcase mode, Kristina Wayborn, and the surprisingly effective scene of a desperate clown make-up bedecked Moore-Bond racing to defuse a nuke with the added plus of no Rowan Atkinson (1983 not a good year for him performance and characterwise, thankfully 1986 would see him ascend to greatness pity about, say, 1992-Present) thus Octopussy wins! And I love All-Time High, too. ;)

  11. Interesting — I actually really like the Thunderball theme song, whereas the “Never — Never — Never say never again — Never — Never say never again” song grates. Yet, that aside I find the NSNA remains in my memory as a decent entry in the not-exactly-canon. I can never accept Octopussy because no-one involved in it believes in the film. Diamonds Are Forever suffers from much the same malady, though in a less virulent strain.

    The nuke-defuse was indeed the best (post-credits) part of Octopussy. But it’s not nearly enough.

  12. Ha. Now you’ve got me singing those “classic” NSNA lyrics again! You swine! Understand me I quite like Never but despite its flaws I quite like Octopussy too. Now, A View to a Kill? That’s abysmal, and I say that tho’ I recorded it and watched it over and over again as a 12 year-old (and I loved that absolutely terrible sequence with the ersatz version of California Girls as well. Madness!), yes – Over, Over and over again, over and over again. Ahem.
    I think that Maud Adams, Kristina Wayborn and the indian actor who played the henchman – not to mention Nayland Smith and old Geoffrey Keen played it with some conviction and Steven Berkoff gives good soviet nutter. Of course I can’t argue it’s really *good* but I can happily watch it.
    As for Diamonds Are Forever, it’s clearly a mess but a hugely enjoyable mess. Charles Grey is no Blofeld but he is camply entertaining. Connery is relaxed and has charm (except for the hideous scene where he wraps a woman’s bikini top around her neck. Odd that tho’ the ’71-’74 Bonds amplify the lightness and kitschery the treatment of women gets more unpleasant at times) and certainly seems to enjoy it more than in ’65 and ’67. It is a long way from OHMSS but it’s good mindless junk.
    Man, writing about this has got the Diamonds and Man With the Golden Gun (“he has a powerful weapon” indeed) themes into my head. I’m a hopeless case. And now for my impression of Nick Nack… Wait! Don’t run away…

  13. The Man with the Golden Gun has the most hopelessly literalistic theme song. All that “He’ll shoot anyone”. Really, did we need to be told that?

  14. That’s why it’s a work of hilarious genius, Mr Taylor. “Love is required/Whenever he’s hired”. Ahahaha! Quite.

  15. Pingback: James Bond movies, part 6: Pierce Brosnan | The Reinvigorated Programmer

  16. Pingback: James Bond movies, part 3: Roger Moore | The Reinvigorated Programmer

  17. Never Say Never Again might be my favorite Bond theme song. Right up there with For Your Eyes Only and Diamonds Are forever. All Time High (for Octopussy) by Rita Coolidge is also very good (and of course Live and Let Die and Moonraker). The long nose dive started with A View To A Kill, with not a memorable song since. Production values? The songs and title sequences, if not the entire production, have slowly but steadily declined since Albert R. Broccoli left the set.

  18. I’m with you on much of that, Paul P., although I can only hear All Time High as a sarcastic description of the very poor film that it’s attached to. I do agree that the theme songs for the first half on Bond’s run were much better on the whole than what followed. But among the more recent songs, I am fond of Skyfall and (oddly, I admit) The World is Not Enough.

    This makes me realise that after I’ve finally done my post on the Daniel Craig era, I should do one on the theme songs.

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