Here’s something I didn’t know – Sean Connery is younger than Roger Moore. When Sean Connery ‘retired’ as Bond in 1971, he was 41. When Roger Moore started filming as Bond, he was 45. He will be 57 when he films his next and final Bond film, A View to a Kill. This film, Never Say… is not an ‘official’ Bond film, and bringing it out within a few months of an official Bond film, was probably meant to bring about comparisons between the two actors.
The opening scenes emphasise the difference between the two actors as Bond. Connery physically wrestles and overcomes the bad guys in a way that Moore just doesn’t. (Sorry Roger.) Because it’s not official, some of the elements we’ve come to expect aren’t there: there’s no big Bond theme, and no opening credits featuring dancing naked women.
In terms of plot, this film is more or less a direct copy of Thunderball, which I think was film #3? Or #4? But given a 1980s spin. Bond is semi-retired now, having spent most of the past years teaching rather than in the field. M is convinced he needs to sharpen up and so Bond is despatched to Shrublands as before, but this time not to recover from injuries incurred on mission, but to detox. M is concerned that Bond has been “eating too much red meat and white bread. Too many dry martinis!” Bonds reply is as dry as his favourite martini – “Then I shall cut out the white bread sir.”
This film has two women – the Good Woman (Domino, winsome girlfriend of the Villain played by Kim Basinger) and the Bad Woman (Fatima Blush, played by Barbara Carrera in a series of increasingly hysterically bad 1980s outfits).
We meet Fatima for the first time on her way to a meeting of SPECTRE, wearing a coat made of the tales of small dead animals. SPECTRE is still SPECTRE, and still run by a man in a grey suit with a fluffy white cat. And the plot is the same as Thunderball – the villainous plot is to steal some nuclear weapons and hold the world to ransom (covering both the T and E of SPECTRE, as their leader helpfully notes in his address to world leaders).
The mastermind behind this SPECTRE plot is Maximillian Largo, our villain. He’s played masterfully by Klaus Maria Brandauer, who, like Goldfinger, as a casual and relaxed villain. Again, the word that comes to mind is genial. You see him interacting with staff on his yacht (now sadly called the Flying Saucer, not the Disco Volante) and you think, he looks like he would be a good boss to work for. But that smiling and friendly exterior hides a cold and calculating interior. Despite his apparent affection for Domino, he does casually remark to Blush that he might ask her to kill Domino for him one day.
Exotic locations: Bond travels to the Bahamas, where he meets up with the awkward and not very skilled local agent, played adeptly by Rowan Atkinson. Fatima spots him and deliberately bumps into him after water skiing (“Oh I’ve got you all wet.” “Yes but my martini is still dry.”) It doesn’t take much for her to lure Bond onto her boat where they have quite ridiculous sex before she attempts to kill him. (*spoiler – she fails.) (Twice.) (Actually three times.)
He then follows Largo back to Monaco, where he, local French agent Nicole, and CIA counterpart Felix (played for the first time by an African-American actor, Bernie Casey) monitor Largo’s activities. This is Monaco and we know by now that Bond has a serious gambling problem, so of course there is a scene in a casino. Compared to previous films which make out casinos to be glamourous places, this casino actually looks quite tawdry, and very, very smoky! (Remember the days when people used to be able to smoke inside? Eugh.) Not to mention there is some bizarre and shockingly shiny 1980s glam fashion to laugh at.
“Now you’re on this. I hope we’re going to have some gratuitous sex and violence!” Q says to Bond. Oh Q, this is a Bond film! There is nothing but gratuitous sex and violence!
But will Bond be able to find the stolen missiles and thwart Largo’s clever plan by the end of the film? (This is a rhetorical question, by the way. I don’t think we had any doubts about that.)
Film epilogue: I realise I haven’t said much about Domino, and that’s probably because she was not a particularly strong character, much like Domino in the original Thunderball. (*spoiler coming*) She and Bond may end up together in the Bahamas, but I think that after the second or third time she realises he’s cheated on her, she’ll up sticks and head back to the US to pursue her dream of becoming a dancer. She won’t make it as a dancer, but she’ll attract enough attention to get some minor film roles and eventually marry a rich older man. If you’re in LA anytime, you would probably see her shopping on Rodeo Drive, still looking good thanks to a dedicated regime of pilates, green smoothies and careful plastic surgery.