Tuesday, June 9, 2009

NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (Blu-Ray)

One of the biggest surprises of this year so far has been the unexpected release of the 1983 rogue Bond film, NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN as a special edition DVD and Blu-Ray disc by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The story behind the making of NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN is a long and twisted one, dating back to 1950's and 007 creator Ian Fleming's earliest efforts to bring James Bond to the cinema. But in 1983, entertainment lawyer/producer Jack Schwartzman managed to successfully navigate all the various legal hazards and lured Sean Connery back into Bond's tuxedo and shoulder holster.

For legal reasons, the plot is more-or-less an updated remake of THUNDERBALL, but in my opinion, it plays quite well, despite that. I actually like the creative choice to acknowledge the character's advancing years (Connery was in his early 50's at the time), especially since the official series was steadfastly ignoring Moore's obvious middle age. NSNA actually makes Bond's age a plot point, and ultimately makes a pretty strong anti-ageism statement as he proves that he may run a bit slower and get winded a bit more quickly, but can still get the job done. The pace is generally brisk (though it does drag a bit in the middle) and the cast is mostly excellent. Klaus Maria Brandauer's Largo is delightfully psychotic and Barbara Carrera's sultry femme fatale, Fatima Blush, is one of the very best Bond bad girls.

Because NSNA was a rogue production, it's always been treated pretty shabbily on video, especially after it was acquired by MGM (holders of the rights to the official series). It's prior DVD release was a bare-bones edition with a very blah – if thankfully, widescreen – transfer. Unlike all the other Bond films, there were no special features – no commentary tracks or behind-the-scenes featurettes. Fortunately, for this new edition, all that has been somewhat rectified.

The new Special Edition features a stunning new, hi-def anamorphic widescreen transfer that appears to be flawless, accompanied by a new, robust, 5.1 DTS audio mix. There's a commentary track by director Irvin Kirschner and Bond expert Steven Jay Rubin, three behind-the-scene featurettes, the very 80's theatrical trailer and a photo gallery. Kirschner has annoying habit of just describing what's playing out on the screen, but Rubin does manage to draw some interesting information about the production out of the director. The featurettes gloss over the twisted legal history of the production somewhat, but they're informative and entertaining.

Personally, I'm thrilled that someone decided to revisit this title on disc, and grateful that they did such a fine job on the presentation. As I said, I like the film a lot – not necessarily a popular position – and really enjoyed visiting it again on Blu-Ray.

BUY: Never Say Never Again [Blu-ray]