As with Casino Royale (1967), I hide the DVD for Never Say Never Again in the Eon 50th anniversary box set so that Mel doesn’t suspect the awesome surprise I have in store for her this month. I select ‘play movie’ before she sits down so that she doesn’t see the menu screen either.
I thought my wife might be Bond connoisseur enough by now to notice the lack of a pre-title scene. She does not. We’re straight into the title song, which plays over a man storming a terrorist stronghold. I manage to distract her while the lead actor’s name appears.
The lyrics go,
You walk in a room,
A woman can feel the heat.
One look is a guarantee
Nights could be long and sweet.
Mel shakes her head.
We finally see the face of the agent who has effortlessly taken out all the guards.
“That’s Sean Connery,” states Mel, flatly.
SURPRISE! I yell.
“He’s a lot older now. Why is he back?”
I tell Mel that after a legal battle a guy called Kevin McClory ended up with the rights to make this story.
For anyone that doesn’t know the story, the main points are that Ian Fleming worked on a script for a James Bond movie with Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham. It didn’t get made, but Fleming used the ideas for his novel Thunderball, without crediting the other two men. This led to a court case, with McClory winning the right to make the film of the story. He teamed up with Eon to make the film Thunderball, on the condition that he wouldn’t exercise his right to make it again for at least twenty years. Twenty years later he managed to get Sean Connery on board for this remake. For the best account of the decades-long saga I recommend The Battle for Bond by Robert Sellers (Tomahawk Press, 2008). The excellent James Bond Radio has an interview with the author here.
I don’t mention Thunderball to Mel, because I want to see if she recognises the story or the character names. I’ll be astonished if she does though.
Bond reaches the house in the compound and finds a woman tied to a bed. But when he releases her she stabs him in the gut. Mel gasps.
When Bond is debriefed by M we find out that it was just a training mission.
“He’s got more Scottish,” says Mel.
M tells Bond that his results are not good enough. There’s an exchange I love here, with M saying Bond’s problem is too many free radical “toxins that destroy the body and the brain, caused by eating too much red meat and white bread and too many dry martinis!”
Bond quips back, “Then I shall cut out the white bread, sir.”
We both laugh. Mel says, “People used to think red meat and bread were really bad. Now it’s all about saturated fat.”
On his way out Bond tells Miss Moneypenny that he’s to eliminate all free radicals, and she looks concerned, “Oh. Do be careful.”
“She’s so swoon-y,” says Mel.
M sends Bond to Shrublands (a sideways glance at Mrs M reveals no sign of recognition at the name of the health farm). A nurse asks him to fill a beaker with a urine sample.
“From here?” He asks.
Mel says, “If I was her I’d say, ‘No, I want you to fill it with your wee, not your shit.'”
Bond bumps into Patricia, a nurse at Shrublands.
“Bloody hell. That’s a Dolly Parton haircut.”
She does some physio on Bond, throwing him around and ignoring his flirting.
“Good lass,” Mel tells her.
But shortly afterwards, she knocks on his bedroom door with a tray of lentil delight, dandelion salad and goats cheese. Bond opens his suitcase to reveal some beluga caviar, quail’s eggs, vodka and foie gras.
“That lot should be in the fridge.”
Jack Petachi, of the US Airforce has checked into Shrublands with his ‘nurse’, Fatima Blush (SPECTRE No. 12). He’s had a replica of the President’s eye implanted. She’s beating him up for smoking a cigarette.
The commotion wakes Bond, but not Patricia.
“She’s a pretty shit employee not to react to that happening in her place of work,” says Mel.
“Bond’s worn her out,” I reply.
Mel looks disgusted. “Don’t ever say that again.”
Fatima makes Jack practice scanning his eye into the reader.
“Urrgghh. That makes me feel a bit sick.”
I admit to Mel that I can’t actually watch this bit. I’ve hated it since I was a kid. I’m really squeamish about eyes. I think this scene might be part of the reason I was against trying contact lenses for so long. I only tried it this year for our wedding. Predictably, I wish I’d done it years ago, and now I wear them all the time.
Having been spotted spying on Blush and Petachi, Bond is attacked in the gym later on by Bomber from Auf Wiedersehn, Pet.
A fight rages through the building, until Bond throws a jar of liquid into Bomber’s face, and he screams and dies. Bond looks at the label and it says it’s his urine sample.
“Ha! That’s funny!”
Back at MI6 M is reprimanding Bond for destroying half of Shrublands. Bond replies that at least he lost four pounds.
“That’s quite good,” says Mel.
I ask if it’s worth risking your life for?
SPECTRE’s plan to steal the nuclear missiles goes ahead, and Fatima Blush kills Jack with a snake.
“This is quite a boring one isn’t it” asks Mel.
The Foreign Secretary is addressing NATO.
“He addressed them all ‘gentlemen’ when there’s women there,” Mel points out.
Aboard his yacht, The Flying Saucer, Largo gives Domino a necklace called the Tears of Allah. He tells her that it is, “the most valuable thing I have ever possessed… apart from you.”
Mel gasps and then shakes her head.
Bond goes to see Q before his mission. This Q is called Algernon and he complains about everything.
“He sounds like Michael Caine,” says Mel. “The other Q is part of the old guard, but this one complains about it. He’s annoying, not like the real Q. I like Q.”
Bond picks up a white, cylindrical device and asks what it is.
“It looks like a tampon.”
It turns out to be a nasal spray for Q’s sinuses. Bond tells the quartermaster that he’s going to the Bahamas. “Lucky bloody you,” is the response.
“I would love to go to the Bahamas,” says Mel.
Me too, I say. I might run into Sean Connery.
“Imagine your little face if you saw Sean Connery.”
Mental note: Learn how to play golf in case we go to the Bahamas.
In the Bahamas 007 meets his contact, Nigel Small-Fawcett. Mel recognises him immediately.
“Mr. Bean! Rowan Atkinson has hardly aged a day has he?”
Bond sees Fatima Blush waterskiing while he has a drink.
“She’s in a thong!”
Fatima skis up the ramp into the bar, and lands in Bond’s arms. “Oh, how reckless of me. I’ve made you all wet,” she apologises.
“Yes, but my martini is still dry,” quips our hero.
Don’t you think that’s a great line? I ask Mel.
“No. All I can think is that she has got her bum out in a public place. If I was the manager of that bar I’d be going over and telling her to put some clothes on.”
I’m a bit disappointed. I ask if she really doesn’t think that’s a cool line?
“No. Because obviously it’s still dry.”
Yeah, but it’s a cool quip to come up with in that situation.
“No… it’s not. If I was her, I’d go, ‘Yeah I know it is. But I’ve got my bum out in front of all these people, so I’ve got more things to think about right now, mate.'”
Blush offers to take Bond and show him ‘the very best waters’ for fishing.
“She likes her side-boob doesn’t she?” Asks Mel.
Fatima tells him, “You affect me, James.”
“I think you mean ‘afflict'” says Mel.
They go SCUBA diving and Fatima plants something on his oxygen tank.
“She’s going to try and kill him, isn’t she? He’s learnt nothing from that training exercise.”
After fending off some sharks that were attracted by the device that Fatima planted, Bond is rescued by a fisherwoman.
“More side-boob! None of them have any clothes on!”
It’s the Bahamas, I tell her. A different culture. You can’t judge.
“If all the women in the Bahamas have their tits out all the time that’s probably why Sean Connery moved there.”
They go back to the hotel, spotted by Fatima, and make love.
“Literally a few hours ago he was with that other woman. That is rank; sleeping with two women in the same day. That’s what chavs do.”
Comedy writer Dick Clement provided some re-writes to the script. In The Battle for Bond he’s quoted saying:
“I remember saying to Sean once, ‘In the script you have a bonk in the morning, then you’ve got this whole underwater sequence where you wrestle with sharks, and you come out and you have another bonk in the afternoon. That proves something.”Yeah,’ he said. ‘That proves it’s a movie.'”
Bond arrives at the health spa where Domino is. It is full of bikini-clad women.
“This is one of the worst ones,” says Mel. “He wants to sleep with every woman he sees. He’s going to sleep with her next. Three women in a couple of days. He needs help. There’s something wrong with him.”
He pretends to be Domino’s masseur and starts working on her back.
“He’s probably got a stonker on right now,” says Mel.
The real masseuse enters the room and Bond leaves. She tells Domino that Bond isn’t an employee. Domino is startled at first, then smiles.
“So you’ve just been sexually assaulted by James Bond… oh no, when she’s thought about it for a minute she quite likes it!” Mel is laughing. “I would kick right off! I’d go mental! Can you imagine?! That should be on the treatments price list ‘sexual assault by James Bond.'”
Mel is quiet through Bond’s computer game battle with Largo, and then his chase with Fatima Blush on the motorbike. Fatima has him cornered and is insisting that she is his greatest lover.
“She is —-ing tapped,” says Mel.
In Battle for Bond, there is a quote from Fatima actress Barbara Carrera on how she created the character:
“I worked on the character for about a month and then finally one day it came to me, the idea of Kali, the Hindu goddess. People think of Kali as very bad, she comes and she destroys things. But what Kali actually does is she destroys negativity. Wherever there is negativity she comes in as a storm, or fire, or pestilence. And then another thought came to me – black widow spiders. A black widow spider will always make love to its prey before it kills it. So I thought, Kali, black widow spider, what a good combination for this character, because Fatima makes love to her prey and then annihilates them, she takes them to the heights of ecstasy and takes away their bad life and gives them a new life, a rebirth.”
Bond gets Domino onside by telling her about her brother Jacks’s death at the hands of SPECTRE and her boyfriend, Largo.
“Don’t fall in love, lass. He’ll never stick around.”
Mel is quiet for another large chunk of the film. I wonder if she is gripped by it, or bored?
“Bored. Nothing much has happened. The story is really slow.”
I ask the wife if it’s good to have Sean back after six consecutive Roger Moore Bond films?
“Has it been six? Shitting hell. What a waste of my life.”
A couple of times you’ve said that Sean’s arrogant and Roger’s arrogant, but at least Connery can back it up because he’s tougher and better-looking.
“Yeah, that’s true.”
So are you glad that he’s back for one film?
“Nope. Because I don’t like anyone of them really. It’s like a choice between slapped on the face and kicked in the bum.”
If you had to watch a Connery or a Moore though, which would you choose?
“Sean Connery, because Roger Moore is so sleazy and lecherous he makes my skin crawl. And Sean Connery, even though he’s a bit of a pervert and a sexist —-er, he’s not actually slimy. Roger is the most slimy man you could ever meet. The thing I don’t like about Sean is that I think he’s genuinely sexist.”
As Bond or as a man?
Her alliance with Bond revealed, Largo has Domino auctioned off to some arabs.
“That is horrendous. Absolutely horrendous.”
We get to the scene where Bond, Felix Leiter and some soldiers attack the SPECTRE troops.
“These are the bits I hate. There’s no tension because you know James Bond’s going to be OK.”
Something might happen to Felix Leiter.
“No it won’t.”
I ask Mel if this reminds her of any other Bond movies?
She thinks for a moment. “The one where he has sex underwater?”
What reminds you of it?
None of the character names or the situation?
The film ends.
“Here’s that shit song… Never again, Mark!”
What did you think?
“Shit from start to finish.”
Mel will return… watching A View to a Kill.
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