Saturday, 2 March 2013

Most Secret... Never Say Never Again

The year that brought us the famous 'Battle of the Bonds'. The official Bond, Octopussy starring Roger Moore in his sixth outing was faced with competition from original 007 Sean Connery – in his seventh appearance as Britain's best not-so-secret agent...
Among the events of the time; Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie was arrested in Bolivia as German magazine Stern published the Hitler diaries (They turned out to be forgeries). The Shuttle Challenger flew for the first time, while the Vostok station in Antarctica was recording record temperatures of -89.2ยบC.
The year saw more than its share of death and disaster, just some examples were;
Assam, India – over 2000 Muslims killed in the so-called 'Assam agitation'.
Seattle, Washington – 13 people die in the 'Wah Mee' massacre, an attempted robbery gone hideously wrong.
Sri Lanka. The 'Black July' riots kill an estimated 3,000 Tamil people.
Honshu, Japan an earthquake and tsunami kills 104.163 are injured.
Beirut. A terror attack at the US Embassy claims 63 lives in April. In October, a suicide truck bomber murders 305 US marines and French Military Personnel.
Korean Airlines flight 007 is shot down by the Soviet Union. 269 die, including a United States Congressman. Later, the Soviets claim the tragedy was an error.
ABOVE; The Q-bike in action
Elsewhere in the news in 1983; President Reagan announces the Strategic Defence Initiative – the media instantly dub it 'Star Wars'. Briton Richard Noble breaks the World Land Speed Record – taking Thrust 2 to 633.468 mph in Nevada. The Brinks-Mat Gold bullion robbery in London nets the thieves 6,800 gold bars, worth £25 Million. Only two of the gang are ever caught.

Births and Deaths (And no, I'm not sure what this has to do with 007 either – I just like to set things in context.)
Emily Blunt, Taio Cruz, Cheryl Cole and Amy Winehouse checked in, while Gangland giant Meyer Lansky, Karen Carpenter, Tennessee Williams, Original Flash Gordon Buster Crabbe, Muddy Waters, Boxing great Jack Dempsey, Ira Gershwin and British actor of distinction David Niven all passed away. Somehow I rather think our losses outweighed the gains, much as I love Amy Winehouse's stunning voice...

There's a Plot, right? (SPOILER ALERT)
The film opens with a terrorist stronghold somewhere in the jungle – there's a girl tied to a bed and just the words 'girl' and 'bed' are enough for 007 to get on the job. The credits play over this opening sequence and already we're on a winner – lets be fair, Roger is getting a tad creaky these days, but here's athletic and muscular Sean to show us he's still got it. After showing us he's still quick on his toes, he gets stabbed by the hostage! - but its a fake knife and we learn she had Stockholm Syndrome. Haven't actually tried tying a girl to a bed, pretty sure she wouldn't be sympathetic about it...
Edward Fox is 'M' and he's not impressed – Bond needs to get into shape blast it all!. Off to Shrublands, a pretty nasty health farm. Naturally, one of the patients just happens to be involved in a bot of skulduggery – something about eyes and retinal scans. This is Jack (Petachi) a USAF officer who is on smack, administered by Fatima Blush (I know), the psychotic-yet-hot nurse (Barbara Carrera). They rumble Bond rumbling them (Eh?) and send Pat Roach to kill him. After a monumental kick-off in which Roach (Yes, the same 'Bomber' Pat Roach of UK wrestling fame.) (Yes, the same Pat Roach out of the first three Indiana Jones films.) batters the ba-jeezus out of Bond before succumbing to an, erm, unusual form of biological attack.

Did I say retinal scans? - oh yes, naughty old Jack has had an eye-job to match one of his to the President's. At a US base in England, he uses a scanner to con the system and switch two dummy cruise missile warheads with nukes. These are recovered out to sea and SPECTRE is on the phone, something about a ransom... As with all traitors in movies, Petachi doesn't get to enjoy his share of the loot – Fatima kills him. Despite his reservations about the '00' section, crusty old 'M' re-activates them, sending 007 off to the Bahamas.

James Bond meets Domino – surname Petachi. Where have we heard that before?. Anywhat, she's right perty, a dead-ringer for Kim Basinger, but her lover, Maximillian Largo is obviously a VERY BAD HAT. In fact, he's a SPECTRE agent. Yes, it does sound all too familiar, doesn't it? - it's Thunderball with cruise missiles!. Enter our man in Nassau, Rowan Atkinson - Nigel Small-Fawcett is from the British Consul's office, sent to inject some comedy into the proceedings. Obviously, Atkinson got the spy bug; Johnny English came much later...
Off to Nice, and le swanky casino de posh, which Bond finds full of eighties-trendy video games. There's a heavy handed duel with an electro-shock hologram game, naturally Bond waggles his joystick with more panache than Largo, who forfeits a dance with the luvverly Domino. Mid-tango, (for all I know) he tells her of her brother's death. Bond's French liason is murdered – the only time you really even notice the poor cow – and he's off on his Q-branch motorsickle (I'm guessing they got it cheap off the Streethawk people) for a bit of genuine stunt mayhem that is more than welcome. Fatima points her massive handgun at Bond's heritage department – he shoots her with his Union Jack fountain pen, another gift from Q (I loved this pen, but it looks like something from a terrorist souvenir shop more than anything 007 would have).

Enter Felix Leiter – played here by Bernie Casey. Leiter is solid, amused and generally jovial support for Connery's Bond; they go scuba-diving to get a squizz at Largo's yacht the Flying Saucer
, but Bond is caught and off to North Africa, where Largo has his base in an old fortress. Domino's usefulness is at an end, so dear old Max flogs her off to the A-rabs. Luckily, Goldeneye wasn't out yet, so Largo doesn't know 007 has a laser watch... and lets hope the winning bidder paid by card so he can get a refund, because guess what? - Bond escapes with the girl...
Handily, there's a Yoo-Knighted States Submarine, well – handy. On board with Felix, JB notices Domino's pendant – in a moment of jaw-dropping stupidity, Largo gave her a pendant with a map on it – the map shows the location of the 'Tears of Allah'. Britain and USA to the rescue in two handy submarine-launched jetpack doodads (not at all crap rip-offs of the Bell Jet Belt from the original). The 'Tears of Allah' turns out to be an underground well, with an ancient temple – you half expect to meet Indy coming the other way - and there's the nukes. Shoot-out and on to the obvious underwater fight scene 'cos Thunderball had one and that did well, didn't it?. Domino knocks off Largo and gets revenge, Bond gets Domino and knocks her off.

Why wasn't this a 'proper' Bond?
Here goes; Ian Fleming, along with a producer – Kevin McClory and a writer called Jack Whittingham worked on a script for a James Bond movie, but it wasn't made. Fleming, presumably between ideas at the time, made it into the novel Thunderball. He, ahem, neglected to credit his former colleagues and McClory – never a man to avoid a legal battle, took him to court. Fleming was seriously ill by this time (1963) after a life of drinky-poosh and puff-puffs and settled the matter out of court. Eon did a deal; McClory produces Thunderball, then buggers off for ten years after it's release in 1965. In the seventies, the story was resurrected by McClory with then ex-Bond Connery on board. Eon opposed the film on copyright grounds – they said it strayed beyond the confines of McClory's story – and lost. Connery's wife came up with the title after her husband had said 'Never again' after Diamonds are Forever.

The Music; I blame Michel Legrand. Pick your own suspect.

Who's in it, then?
Klaus Maria Brandauer is Largo.
Max Von Sydow is marvellous as Blofeld. (Feel free to leave out the last two words there...)
Alec McCowen is Q/Algenon.
Pam Salem is Moneypenny.
Pat Roach is Lippe.

Toys for the Boys; The Q-bike and Union Jack pen are about it, plus Bond totes a nifty Walther P5 (As does Roger Moore in Octopussy) Earlier, on the Q-Branch range, Bond fires a suppressed Mauser HSc.

Random things wot you should know
McClory was still fighting his legal battles in 2001 – he had planned another re-make in the '90s with Timothy Dalton – but finally, the courts ruled against him. James Bond belonged to Eon, in law as in spirit.Kevin McClory died in 2006.

In 1997 MGM bought the film – so it's now an 'official' Bond after all the hassle.

Should I bother?
Well, yes and no. I have a copy – I would, wouldn't I?. Its a good film, but it isn't a 'proper' Bond; there's no Gunbarrel, no pre-credits cliffhangery and, well it just isn't. It proves a point for Connery – he really is the dogs danglies in this, no mistake. He thrashes Roger Moore – and Moore is my favourite Bond. You can't help but wonder how the seventies Bonds would have turned out had Connery stayed in the role – even at 52 he still looks good. Max Von is tip-top, Largo is a bit bland – disappointing for such a great actor – Basinger is ok. Bernie Casey's African-American Leiter works well and Pat Roach is never less than brilliant value for money in his one scene as the heavy, Lippe. The music is forgettable, so I have. Never is a bold attempt, but if you had to choose between this and Octopussy, go for Thunderball...

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