Although I’ve covered all the official “Eon” films of the Bond canon, I thought I’d move on to this particular-and somewhat peculiar-“unofficial” Bond film, which brought Sean Connery back to the role-in a remake of the movie he starred in during the 60’s. The story of it’s creation is a fairly long one-basically, the Thunderball novel-which introduced SPECTRE and Blofeld-was originally written as a script by Ian Fleming and Kevin McClory. When Fleming wrote his novel version based on that script, McClory demanded credit for the movie adaptation, and also the rights to Blofeld and Spectre-which he got, and hence after “Diamonds Are Forever” the villain was written out of the films altogether (although he sort of showed up in “For Your Eyes Only”) until 2013, when the rights finally made their way back to EON, who used a reinvisionsioned Blofeld in 2015’s SPECTRE.
We begin with a lot of “007s” replacing the standard gunbarrel, and the song Never Say Never Again by Loni Hall. Instead of the usual imagery of girls and guns, we instead get Bond infiltrating what looks to be a compound in South America. It’s a bit weird to see a fairly romantic song applied to Connery garroting, punching, and shooting people. It’s almost like if “Spy Who Loved Me” was playing “Nobody Does it better” in the background when Bond was fighting Jaws, for instance. Out of this context though, I kind of like the song; it’s not exactly one of the greats, but it’s all right.
Jack Shwartzman BTW was, at the time, the husband of Talia Shire (hence the “Taliafilm” production company label), and the father of actor Jacob Schwartzman. Shire of course was well-known for her role as Adrian in the first five “Rocky” films, and Connie Corleone in her brother’s “Godfather” trilogy.
However, on the production style of things, perhaps the most interesting fact about this film is that it was directed by Irvin Kershner, who of course, is well-known as the director of the second Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back, which many fans and critics believe is the best in the series (and certainly the one that, thematically, changed the course of the series with it’s shocking revelation at the end).
Back to the film, Bond’s infiltration ends in failure when he’s stabbed by a captive woman who is brainwashed. Funny, that’s kind of how a certain Bond movie plot went…(and this isn’t the only time NSNA anticipates certain future developments in the series, even though it’s a remake).
Turns out the whole thing was an elaborate training exercise, that Bond, M and another guy, Elliot, who is sort of the Bill Tanner or Robertson of this film, are watching on videotape. I can’t help but be reminded of this a bit:
This M of course isn’t Bernard Lee or Robert Brown, but the Edward Fox (A British actor who has appeared in many war films), who plays it somewhat more as a caricature than a concerned Boss, and then demands he gets in shape at the Shrublands clinic.
We also get our first look at this film’s moneypenny, Pamela Salem, who previously starred with Connery in The Great Train Robbery. While Pamela certainly looks the part, there’s very little of the customary innuendo in either of her scenes. Her first scene is mainly just a joke, when she mistakes M’s order for Bond to get rid of “free radicals” (meaning his “red wine and white bread” that according to M is making him inefficient) as an order to take out some bad guys. Their scene together in “Great Train Robbery” actually seemed a bit more like a typical Bond/Moneypenny moment.
As Bond heads to shrublands, much like he did in the original film, we’re given yet another moment similar to the original, with SPECTRE meeting together. Here we have great actor Max Von Sydow (known from the Exorcist, Seventh Seal and many other roles but most perhaps most recently for roles in Game Of Thrones and The Force Awakens) playing Bond’s arch-nemesis, Blofeld, but like FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and the original THUNDERBALL, he’s mainly the man behind the scenes, although we do see his face this time-and like in the original novel, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, and SPECTRE he’s not bald, although he does have the white persian cat from his other incarnations. He’s also the only Blofeld with a beard, although reportedly YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE was going to have one, but the actor was replaced by Donald Pleasence when he gave off too much of a “Santa” presence.
Next we’ve got Maximillion Largo, who is younger, lacks an eyepatch, and gives off more of a cold, calculating charm with moments of psychosis, rather than more “in your face” evil of his predecessor. He comes off as more believable, I think, as someone Kim Basinger’s Domino would fall for.
Third, we’ve got Fatima Blush, who is pretty much Fiona Volpe, but way more crazy.
Fatima, like Fiona Volpe, directly involved in phase one of the plan, which involves the use of a colonel. However, instead of NATO pilot Francois Derval and an overelaborate scheme involving plastic surgery body doubles, their fall guy is air force pilot Jack Patachi, who is going along with the plan due to a mix of bribery, drugs, presumabely Fatima’s feminine wiles, and threats of harm to his sister, Domino. In this case, Jack, who has access to an air force base with nukes-is given a contact lens identical to that of the president’s eyes so he can authorize the nuke stealing. All this is happening, of course, at the same clinic Bond’s staying at.
Like in the original film, Bond has a fling with nurse Patricia Fearing (here played by Prunella Glee, who doesn’t quite give as a performance or make an impression as much as Molly Peters did IMO), although he wins her over with a suitcase full of:
“Lentil delight. Dandelion salad.Goat’s cheese.Beluga caviar. Quail’s eggs. Vodka.Foie gras.Strasbourg.”
as opposed to the iffy blackmail of the original film.
Meanwhile Fatima is playing nurse to Jack, who is super-nervous about this whole thing, and is smoking, causing Fatima to royally freak out-with the noise attracting Bond’s attention.
Jack, BTW, is played by Gavin Herlilhly, who might be a familar face to fans of 80’s cinema, as he was also notably in many films from that time, namely Superman III and Willow. In Superman III he also lets the bad guys get access to a system they shouldn’t, but this time as Brad, an older, drunker, security guard version of the football jock from the first film.
Bond, checking things out and wondering why this weird nurse is hurting this man, getting him to do some kind of eye-test for drugs, accidentally lets the window shade fly up, spoiling his cover, although he’s able to hide-but not well enough from Fatima’s Night-vision goggles.
Fatima recognizes Bond (although they’ve never met, I guess in this alternate universe he’s had missions similar to the others where he crossed paths with SPECTRE before), and we get a great line-reading by Barbera Carerra here “Oh….yes. Double-O-Seven….” (with a big emphasis on the O)