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Topic: Some Improvements on Never Say Never Again

It is my belief that Never Say Never Again represents a wasted opportunity. It's biggest problem is that it spends far too much time trying to be an imitation of an official, EON Bond film rather than trying to present a fresh and interesting take on James Bond. The result is that the film feels like a cheap knock-off of a far superior product. Here are a few changes I would have made to Never Say Never Again that I feel could have improved the film immensely.

First, it goes without saying that there are certain aspects of the Bond character and universe that must remain intact. The character of Bond would remain more-or-less the same, but the film would lean into Connery's age by forcing him to rely more on his wits and experience than his physical prowess (think of Roger Moore in For Your Eyes Only). And, of course, there would still be the Bond girls, the vodka martinis (shaken, not stirred), and so forth. This would create a feeling of familiarity for Bond audiences.

Second, I would give the film a "documentary" feel similar to that found in films like "The French Connection" and "The Day of the Jackal." This would suit the film's lower production values. To achieve this, I would have hired British thriller writer, Frederick Forsyth to collaborate on the screenplay. Forsyth, author of such outstanding novels as the aforementioned "The Day of the Jackal" and "The Fourth Protocol", is renowned for his intense research. Any screenplay he contributed to would have had a veneer of realism lacking in many official Bond films. In addition, I would have made different stylistic choices to other parts of the movie. In terms of cinematography, I would have tried to achieve more of a "fly-in-the-wall" as though we are passive observers of what is going on. Finally, I would have given the music an on-screen origin. It would have come from someone playing a record or the muzak playing in the casino, so on and so forth.

Third, I would have tried to make "Never Say Never Again" a grittier, edgier film. The official James Bond films had made a name for themselves by presenting cinemagoers with larger-than-life, family-friendly Bond films. Never Say Never Again, however, is NOT an official James Bond film. It therefore had (and, sadly, squandered) the opportunity to make a Bond film that was almost exclusively for the adults. I would have made the film so that the violence is more brutal and ruthless in order to show the callousness of the world James Bond inhabits. And I would have made the sex more graphic. There is no reason that "Never Say Never Again" couldn't have shown some nudity.

With these changes, I feel that Kevin McClory and Jack Schwartzman could have produced a Bond film that was "for the grown-ups." Personally, I feel that it is a great shame that this film was not made (and probably never will be).

I am very interested in reading your thoughts and opinions.

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Re: Some Improvements on Never Say Never Again

I agree that the film should have taken a different approach to the EON films, because in trying to copy EON’s slightly camp tone they’re made a spoof instead of a serious contender. I don’t agree with all your suggestions, but I agree with the idea behind them. I know the film resonated with American audiences. They had fun seeing the film, so I’m not sure if a very dark approach would have been as successful. But I think they would have had a better film if they stuck closer to the novel.

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Re: Some Improvements on Never Say Never Again

I enjoyed reading the post, Magus, but I think you're trying to put a very modern 21st C. spin on an early '80s movie.

I agree NSNA could have been grittier, but I'd also advocate that compared to EoNs summer entry OP, the film IS grittier. Yes, Bond goes to exotic locales, but he isn't swanning around fantasy islands or dressing like a clown or escaping silly Tarzan-themed tiger hunts.

And this Bond does use his wits and his fists. Witness how he infiltrates Largo's operation centre on the Flying Saucer or bypasses security at the casino.

I also felt Bond's age is addressed. The two dressing downs he receives from M emphasise his physical (or not) prowess and his outdated methodology.

I'm not sure a documentary feel would work, though it would be interesting.

While I am no prude, nudity would have killed the movie at the BO. Certainly in the UK, Bond was seen as a sort of family friendly thriller, with something to please all ages except perhaps the very young. The appearance of a naked Kim Basinger would have landed the movie with the old AA cert. (over 14s) or even an X (adults only). It would have alienated a vast swathe of its potential audience.

Money really does talk and while I dont disagree with your ideas, I simply cant see how they would work commercially.

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Re: Some Improvements on Never Say Never Again

Chris, you bring up some great points. I wonder how two competing Bonds at the box office would do - one aimed at the regular family demographic and the other at adults only? I'm not talking XXX adults only but a network show compared to an HBO show where you can get away and show more in the latter.

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Re: Some Improvements on Never Say Never Again

I don't know the demographics behind the audiences for OP and NSNA in 1983, but I would assume that NSNA had an older audience. NSNA were the people who wanted Connery back as Bond, while OP was the younger audience who had grown up with Moore as Bond. That's just a guess.

If this was the case, a more violent and more sexual NSNA may have worked. But at the same time, people went to the film for nostalgic reasons. They wanted the 1960s Bond with Connery back, and they wanted to relive the fun they experienced with Goldfinger 19 years earlier. I think that the goal was to make a fun film because that's what the audiences wanted. It was the right film for the time, even if it hasn't held up well.

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Re: Some Improvements on Never Say Never Again

An excellent post by newcomer The Magus.

The film he describes is what I anticipated as a teenager, and of course not what we got.

The hiring of Lorenzo Semple to do the script told us something - he wrote thriller Three Days of The Condor and the camp TV series Batman, and the producer or director said they wanted something in between. But after his initial treatment was accepted, the final result caused negative uproar and he was dumped. All this as filming was about to begin! Then the Ian Le Frenais and Dick Clement sitcom writers were brought in as script doctors.

Films really were dead in the early 80s, not like now. Folk went to see maybe 2 or 3 films a year, a blockbuster like E.T or Ghandi and then would be put off by another. Star Wars or Bond or Indiana Jones popped up every 2 or 3 years. So risks were out of the question and it was likely they'd go with the EON template. Remember that all the while I understand they were being hit be legal actions over the script so it couldn't stray too far from the Thunderball template.

On top of which, the main audience were kids and teenagers.

Frederick Forsyth sounds more like the approach Octopussy went for, and The Fourth Protocol is similar in many ways.

An indulgent chuckle from the audience was seen as the best insurance against box office disaster for this movie. But the film described by The Magus is the one I would have liked to see. Whether the formulaic premise ever lent itself to that I don't know.

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Re: Some Improvements on Never Say Never Again

We know from earlier abandoned scripts McClory wanted to tell a new story. But because of long legal fights with EON it was clarified he specifically had rights to the Thunderball plot only, so whatever minor variations could not stray too far from that.
For their part EON were legally obliged to rename the villain in The Spy Who Loved Me, and leave the bald guy with the cat and nehru jacket unnamed in for Your Eyes Only


I like the idea of a darker more adult Bond film. There are lots of possible alternative Bondfilms McClory might have made if he was legally able.
Matt makes a good point about the Connery film appealing more to the older audience who grew up with the original actor. (but everybody I knew saw both, and conceded the Moore film was actually better)


But were any grownup grim n gritty type action films even being made in 1983?
Here is the wikipedia page for 1983 films. I dont remember most of these, but amongst action blockbusters most were following the family friendly Star Wars template. NSNA itself borrowed from Indiana Jones (in its later scenes in North Africa), as did Octopussy.

I think dark, mature spyfilms were more of a thing a decade earlier, during the New Hollywood/Watergate paranoia era. Mainstream entertainment in 1983 was well into the Reagan era, all nostalgia and traditional family values. (and entertainment that challenged those values, like rock music, was actually demonised ... remember those Parental Advisory stickers the senate inposed on rock albums at the time?)


Ironically: as we talk about the humourous lightweight tone of this era of action films, the films in 1983 that were more adult, including nudity sex and cynicism, were the comedies!
they were following the successful example of Animal House

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Re: Some Improvements on Never Say Never Again

I've enjoyed reading the original post and the ensuing discussion in this thread. To my mind, NSNA could have been substantially improved, not by any basic change in tone, but by tighter directing, editing and pacing in places, particularly in the final act/ action climax: the film's problems seem to me to be more to do with lacklustre, faltering execution than with the basic pitch.

It didn't help that the film was subject to a legal constraint anchoring it to TB. That laid bare a purpose more commercial than artistic: TB wasn't really a film that needed re-making. And the musical soundtrack could have been much more coherent and better composed!

Last edited by Shady Tree (9th Dec 2020 19:26)

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Re: Some Improvements on Never Say Never Again

caractacus potts wrote:

We know from earlier abandoned scripts McClory wanted to tell a new story. But because of long legal fights with EON it was clarified he specifically had rights to the Thunderball plot only, so whatever minor variations could not stray too far from that.
For their part EON were legally obliged to rename the villain in The Spy Who Loved Me, and leave the bald guy with the cat and nehru jacket unnamed in for Your Eyes Only


I like the idea of a darker more adult Bond film. There are lots of possible alternative Bondfilms McClory might have made if he was legally able.
Matt makes a good point about the Connery film appealing more to the older audience who grew up with the original actor. (but everybody I knew saw both, and conceded the Moore film was actually better)


But were any grownup grim n gritty type action films even being made in 1983?
Here is the wikipedia page for 1983 films. I dont remember most of these, but amongst action blockbusters most were following the family friendly Star Wars template. NSNA itself borrowed from Indiana Jones (in its later scenes in North Africa), as did Octopussy.

I think dark, mature spyfilms were more of a thing a decade earlier, during the New Hollywood/Watergate paranoia era. Mainstream entertainment in 1983 was well into the Reagan era, all nostalgia and traditional family values. (and entertainment that challenged those values, like rock music, was actually demonised ... remember those Parental Advisory stickers the senate inposed on rock albums at the time?)


Ironically: as we talk about the humourous lightweight tone of this era of action films, the films in 1983 that were more adult, including nudity sex and cynicism, were the comedies!
they were following the successful example of Animal House

I see a Dirty Harry sequel was one of the box office hits in 1983, so there was some apetite for darker movies.

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Re: Some Improvements on Never Say Never Again

Two very quick and easy improvements would have been the soundtrack and the toupee  ajb007/bond

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Re: Some Improvements on Never Say Never Again

Number24 wrote:

I see a Dirty Harry sequel was one of the box office hits in 1983, so there was some appetite for darker movies.

A couple films below Never Say Never Again in the wikipedia list is the Osterman Weekend, a Robert Ludlum adaptation directed by Sam Pekinpah. So a spy film, made by a director best known for slasher films. I actually saw that recently, it's nasty, creepy, a bit gorey, some nudity sex and voyeurism ... without being any good.

Blade Runner and the Road Warrior must have come out round then too, if not 1983. Dark scifi for cynical grownups. So it wasnt all family friendly escapism in the early 80s. I recall both those films doing well as cult films at the repertory cinemas, rather than being immediate hits at the first run mainstream theatres.

I don't think McClory was taking any chances making a darker Bond film for a more niche audience. This was his one big chance to monetize that one asset he'd been fighting to keep all his litigious life.
A couple years later EON themselves did take that risk though.