Mar 4, 2011

Plus: In Defense of Never Say Never Again

Here is a truly amazing video that all Bond fans simply must check out chronicling a recent 3-day, 25-film 007 marathon hosted by's Athena Stamos to celebrate her birthday. The time-lapse video is edited by her boyfriend and co-host, filmmaker Brad Hansen, and it's much more than just a chronicle of a rotating crew of Bond fans having fun.  It's a remarkable sociological experiment, and truly must-see footage.  Take a look:

I was fortunate enough to be there, but sadly for only two films, as I had an incredibly busy weekend.  But it seems to have been the right two films!  I watched the 1983 Battle of the Bonds duology, Octopussy and Never Say Never Again.  As you no doubt saw in the video, everyone present rated each movie at the end. Some of the results were surprising, to say the least.  Never Say Never Again (or Sag Niemals Nie as I tend to think of it, thanks to the awesome German poster that prominently decorates my living room) was one such surprise. Personally, I've always been a fan of this film. (There's just so much to love in it! That fight with Pat Roach! Douglas Slocombe's photography! Connery! And, most of all, Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush!) But many Bond fans are not.  Indeed, in the audience at Athena's party, a good number of die-hards grumbled about the prospect of sitting through this one and even warned newbies in the crowd that it wasn't a good one. Yet as we watched, those fans kept "waiting for it to start sucking."  And it never did. Sure, it sags a little bit after the wonderful Fatima Blush's untimely death, but even then there's lots of great stuff going on.  By the time Connery winked at the audience and Lani Hall's title song reprised, it had won new fans of old haters.  In fact, its total score even beat Thunderball's. (No, I don't quite agree with that, but I do love the movie.) Why was this?

Brad has posted a very thoughtful analysis of the event and the ratings on CBn, a must-read to supplement the remarkable video.  Among other insights as one of the only two veterans of the whole marathon, he posits that Never Say Never Again held new appeal coming as an oasis of Connery after so much Moore.  (Nothing against Moore, mind you, whose movies went over well with the crowd; just a break in the monotony.) He points out that viewing all the films in order and with a talkative audience including a mixture of die-hard fans, casual fans and first-time viewers can radically alter the way one appreciates these films. All very true, but I think there's another factor at play here, too.  I think too often people tend to watch Never Say Never Again with other Connery movies. Amidst those Sixties films, it's bound to come up short.  Not necessarily because of a great disparity in quality, but simply because of the radically different styles associated with the two decades. Never Say Never Again is very thoroughly an Eighties Bond movie, and I think it greatly benefits from being watched in that context.* I always advise friends who don't like the movie to watch it with the Moores and Daltons of that era and see how it holds up.  The result is quite different.  If you're among those who loathe Never Say Never Again, give it another try in this context. You don't need to do a full 3-day Bondathon to see it in a different light. You might be pleasantly surprised!

Read Brad Hansen's full Bondathon analysis on here.

*By the way, I consider the Eighties to be 007's second Golden Age, after the Sixties. Not only did the decade offer the greatest variety of actors playing the part and the second most films; it also offered some of the best, like For Your Eyes Only and The Living Daylights. The former has actually surpassed The Spy Who Loved Me for me in recent years to become my favorite Moore Bond.


Michael May said...

For Your Eyes Only has long been my favorite Moore Bond and sometimes - depending on how cranky and purist I feel - the only one I can tolerate. I have a hard time letting Moore's Bond be Moore's Bond without hating him for not being Fleming's Bond.

I'm interested in appreciating both though, so I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you do that.

Tanner said...

FYEO was always my second favorite Moore behind Spy, but after finally seeing FYEO on the big screen a little over a year ago, it edged it out.

I do have some thoughts on the disparity between Fleming's Bond and Moore's! Basically, Moore's Bond ISN'T Fleming's Bond, but then neither is Connery's or Brosnan's or Craig's. They're all different, so I don't attempt to reconcile them. Yet I enjoy things about each one of them! Dalton always came closest to my own conception of Fleming's Bond, but the Book Bond will always be the Book Bond and I never expect any actor to fully nail him. So I don't hate any of them for not being it!

Another good tip for appreciating Moore's Bond is to learn to appreciate Moore himself more, since they're really very close. Have you watched The Persuaders! and The Saint? I'd definitely recommend watching some Persuaders! (which I think was Roger's finest moment) where you can fully enjoy Moore without trying to fit him to a preconceived notion of a character created by Ian Fleming or Leslie Charteris and can just enjoy him for who he is. Once you become a Persuaders! fan (and you WILL!), then you might find yourself more of a Moore fan watching his Bonds.

Michael May said...

I don't expect any of the film actors to exactly portray Fleming's Bond, but I do appreciate those who get closest (I agree with you about Dalton, especially in Living Daylights). With Moore, it's just that he seems to so joyfully portray none of what I like about the character.

I'll give The Persuaders a try though. I'm sure that will help, because I do enjoy Moore's performances in other things (Cannonball Run for instance, and I have fond memories of ffolkes). I just need to - as you say - let Moore's Bond be Moore's Bond without trying to reconcile him with the others.