Mar 20, 2020
Never Say Never Again (1983): the lost recap (part 2 of 6)
Previously on Never Say Never Again: Bond’s game was slipping, so he got shipped off to a health clinic to eliminate nebulous “toxins” from his body. Over at the headquarters of SPECTRE (conveniently situated under your bank’s local branch) we met Blofeld, his kitty, his “Number One” Maximillian Largo, and also his sexy henchwoman Fatima Blush. We also learned SPECTRE was blackmailing an Air Force officer into helping out on a scheme to steal nuclear warheads.
Cut to a convalescent clinic, where Fatima Blush is wheeling around Air Force officer Jack Petachi. His right eye is all bandaged up, because as we learned in the previous scene, he just received a “corneal implant” that makes his “eye print” match that of the President of the United States. And Fatima is apparently supposed to be disguised as a nurse, but she’s got on this wacky wraparound blue overcoat that makes her look like the Evil Queen from Snow White.
And… guess who they just happen to wheel past? Yes, James Bond. And yes, it’s a total coincidence that he happens to be at the same health spa/clinic as Jack Petachi. Though in all fairness, the exact same coincidence cropped in Thunderball when Bond ended up in the same clinic as the SPECTRE agent disguised as a NATO pilot. And really, when you get down to it, the plots of most Bond films sort of hinge on random coincidences.
Bond’s attention is drawn to them, most likely due to Fatima’s kooky outfit, so he distractedly plows right into a blonde nurse. Bond helps her pick up her scattered papers and manila folders, and for no particular reason, Blonde Nurse complains that the nurse who just passed them is not on the “staff” and “one of those private nurses!”
Bond introduces himself, and the nurse replies, “Oh, you’re Mr. Bond! I believe I’m having you in half an hour!” Naturally, this is James Bond she’s talking to, who can’t go more than five minutes without sexually harassing someone, so he immediately quips, “Your room or mine?” To her credit, this nurse doesn’t immediately swoon over him, and simply replies with a not-so-enthusiastic, “Mine.”
Cut to the two of them in a tight embrace, rocking back and forth. But it’s not what you think, because we pull back and see that Blonde Nurse is merely adjusting Bond’s back. She forces him into all sorts of painful stretches, cracking his spine in various ways, much to Bond’s chagrin. And I hate to sound like a broken record, but this nurse is… just not that hot. I mean, she’s attractive in a MILF-next-door sort of way, but hardly what we’ve come to expect from a Bond movie.
She diagnoses Bond with “slight lesions of the thoracic vertebrae”, and “sacroiliac strain at the base of the spine.” Bond, still not picking up on her total lack of interest, suggests that there’s a “more beneficial therapy for a man’s lower back.” Blonde Nurse knows where he’s going with this, and completely shuts him down. Which makes this far less uncomfortable than the corresponding scene in Thunderball where Bond forces himself on a nurse, then more or less blackmails her into having sex with him.
There’s a brief shot of Jack Petachi in his room, lighting up a cigarette. Meanwhile, Bond’s in his room, and he gets a knock on the door. And it’s Blonde Nurse, who’s apparently had a total change of heart and is making a social call. Disappointing, but not too surprising, unfortunately. What’s the longest any woman has ever held out on resisting Bond’s advances? Ten, fifteen minutes, tops?
She enters with a room service tray, which is full of crazy health food dishes like “lentil delight, dandelion salad, goat’s cheese!” Bond opens his suitcase to reveal an assortment of much less nutritious items, including “Beluga caviar, quails’ eggs, vodka, foie gras”, the latter of which he feeds to her on a cracker. Blonde Nurse is in heaven as she samples the foie gras.
And then it’s back over to Jack Petachi’s room. He hears Nurse Fatima approaching, so he quickly puts out his cigarette and hides the pack. She enters, sniffs the air, and keenly notes, “Jack’s been smoking again!”
She says, “Smoking’s dirty. Gets into Jack’s eye!” Okay, what’s with referring to him in the third person? Is she Jack’s inflamed sense of rejection? Is she Jack’s complete lack of surprise? She then rips the bandage off his eye, and Jack howls. He is Jack’s searing pain.
Fatima says, “Jack must do as he’s told if he wants his fast cars and his pretty clothes!” Just out of curiosity, how pretty are Jack’s clothes, usually? She tells him he has to cooperate to “keep his sister alive”, and Jack goes nuts, screaming at her to leave Domino out of this. He attacks Fatima, so she starts slapping him silly, and beating the crap out of him. Is this really something you want to do to a guy recovering from eye surgery that’s the key to your whole evil scheme?
And it appears Bond’s room is close enough to Jack’s room that he can hear all the thumping and groaning and yelling going on. When he cut to him, he’s lying shirtless in bed with Blonde Nurse on top of him, so I guess they just got finished doing their own thumping and groaning.
Bond climbs out of bed to investigate, and somehow, he can look out of his window and see directly into Jack’s room, where Jack is hilariously getting the ever-loving snot beat out of him, with Fatima pounding his head against the wall.
Bond slips on a robe and goes outside to get a better look. He peeks through a window shade, and sees Nurse Fatima aiming a light pen into Jack’s eye, revealing that the actor is wearing a big blue contact lens. She expositionizes that “darling must do his little tricky in eight seconds”, and if he does, “the nursey will give baby his candy!” Come on, lady, the guy’s strung out on heroin, he’s not mentally retarded. Fatima then raises up her skirt to reveal a garter belt, and inside the garter belt is a syringe full of heroin.
She kisses him, and Jack eagerly attempts to do his “tricky”, which involves placing his head inside of a random device that looks like leftover equipment from an optometrist’s office. He looks through a lens, and punches random buttons on a keypad. Whatever he’s doing, he’s not doing it right, and it buzzes at him and he quickly gets frustrated. Meanwhile, the camera follows Bond’s line of sight, where it rests upon a black duffle bag with an insignia consisting of two yellow semaphore flags. I wonder if this will be important later?
Bond suddenly flips up the window shade, revealing himself to Jack. And at first, it seems like Bond does this intentionally, but after he does it, he looks completely freaked out and goes scampering away. Jack is just as frightened, and he screams for Fatima.
Fatima scans the outside with a pair of goofy binoculars, with her binocular POV shot revealing she’s seeing the world through Terminator-vision. Eventually, the green visage of James Bond fades into view. Fatima immediately goes, “007!” As always: James Bond, the world’s most famous secret agent.
And as I mentioned last time, Gavan O’Herlihy, the actor playing Jack Petachi, should look familiar to some of you, because that very same year, he played Lana Lang’s good-for-nothing boyfriend in Superman III, and a couple of years after this, he was the main villain in Death Wish 3, the one with the reverse mohawk going on. It’s not many actors who can claim to have helped kill three different franchises in the space of just a few years.
The next day, Bond is casually strolling around the health club. He runs into the same doctor as before, who happens to be talking with Blonde Nurse. The doctor notes that Bond is “looking a bit peaked” this morning, and Bond says, “I was up all night,” and Blonde Nurse gets a knowing look. In response, the doctor recommends Bond do an “herbal enema”, which Bond amusingly pretends is a “fantastic” idea.
Thankfully, instead of cutting to Bond getting an enema, we find him sneaking around Jack Petachi’s room. It looks like Petachi has already checked out, because the room is bare. Bond snoops around, feeling under pillows. The music then turns dramatic as Bond reaches under the bed and finds Jack’s cigarettes that he hid from Fatima. Attached to them is a matchbook, which has the same insignia with the two yellow semaphore flags.
So… one of Bond’s big clues is a matchbook? What is this, a Mike Hammer movie? I think that was already a hoary cliché before the first time Connery made this movie. This also means the main villain actually prints up matchbooks with his logo on them, and hands them out to his evil underlings.
Next, Bond is down in the gym, using the bench press, because what better time to firm up the pectorals? Right outside the gym, a guy operates a floor polisher. Suddenly, he’s grabbed by a big bearded guy (played by frequent Indiana Jones opponent Pat Roach) who casually tosses Floor Polisher’s limp body aside. Which suggests that he just hugged him to death.
Bearded Guy then grabs the floor polisher and enters the gym. He pulls the safety latch on Bond’s weights, causing the bar to land hard on his chest. So… why did he have to kill the floor polisher to do this? As far as I can tell, he could have just freely walked into the gym without anyone caring.
Bearded Guy then lifts up the bar several times and pushes it down on Bond’s chest. Bond kicks the guy away, and the two proceed to have a big brawl all around the gym. And this appears to be this movie’s version of the Thunderball scene where Bond gets trapped in a spinal traction machine and nearly gets stretched to death.
Bond throws barbells at the guy, and they only bounce off his chest. Bond then tries to get the upper hand by slamming a door in the guy’s face, which doesn’t do much good. They’re soon out in the lobby fighting, but in another “funny” bit, the other patients are too busy watching a soccer match on TV, so they don’t even notice two men beating each other up.
Overall, this scene is pretty good as far as an extended fight sequence in a Bond movie goes. I mean, it’s not the train car fight in From Russia with Love or anything; for one thing, the two guys are moving at about half the speed, but it’s still a solid fight scene. I think the only flaw is the complete silence and lack of a score, which occasionally makes it feel like a slapstick fight from one of the Pink Panther movies.
The two men eventually crash into the kitchen, and it turns out Bearded Guy has some sort of whip-like device on his belt that can cut through every metal object Bond uses to defend himself. Though, I don’t know why he didn’t just pull that out in the first place, and use it to slice up Bond while he was lifting weights.
The fight continues and they end up in the room of the nurse previously seen asking Bond for a urine sample. Bond rips the sheets off the woman’s bed, and she just curls up into the fetal position. He wraps the sheets around his adversary, which somehow relieves him of his weapon.
And then they crash into what appears to be the clinic’s pharmacy. Bearded Guy picks up Bond and tosses him into a rack full of beakers and test tubes, and somehow Bond doesn’t even suffer so much as a cut. Then Bearded Guy moves in for the kill. So Bond picks up a beaker full of an unknown liquid, and tosses the contents into the guy’s face. The guy groans and clutches at his face, and collapses to the ground.
He then keels over face first, apparently dead. Bond looks at the beaker in his hand, and… Well, this is pretty dumb. Even for a franchise full of dumb jokes, this one’s way down there.
It would appear Bond has picked up his own urine sample. Which was just sitting out there in the open, with no kind of lid or cover. So… what was in Bond’s urine that made that guy’s face burn? Does gonorrhea set in that quickly?
Well, lest you think it was Bond’s urine that killed him, when Bearded Guy falls face forward, he has all kinds of beakers and shards of glass embedded in his back.
Cut to Bond getting chewed out by M, who’s currently taking British stuffiness to new heights. He complains that he sent Bond to the health clinic to get in shape. “But instead, you demolish it!” M had to “muzzle the press” about this, and “pull out the special branch”, and pay for repairs to the place.
Bond points out that the guy tried to kill him, but M blows this off with, “Caught you seducing his wife, did he?” To smooth things over, Bond says he lost four pounds and eliminated all of his free radicals, but M only threatens to “suspend” him while looking about ready to pop a blood vessel. Because you don’t want to do anything silly, like investigate the attempted murder of one of your agents which might lead you to a terrorist organization that’s planning to steal nuclear warheads.
Well, that’s assuming Fatima and SPECTRE were the ones who sent Bearded Guy to take care of Bond. For all we know, maybe Bond did sleep with the guy’s wife.
Cut to the (fictional) Swadley Air Force base. Home of the fightin’ Swadleys! There’s stock footage of military planes, and in a war room somewhere, a member of the Air Force brass is informing his men about a missile test, specifically explaining that it involves cruise missiles outfitted with “dummy warheads”. I’m thinking this is something he should have gone over more than five minutes before the test.
Some real, authentic-sounding military talk follows, but the real point of this scene is to reveal our old friend Jack Petachi is here in his Air Force uniform. And just to make the connection clear, he even rubs at his right eye.
He slips into a corridor, and uses a key card to gain access to a restricted area. He opens up his briefcase, and connects some random wires to circuit boards, which I assume will help all those fractions of pennies accumulate in Richard Pryor’s bank account. He then pulls out the eye exam machine again, so I guess it’s time for him to do his “tricky” for real.
There’s a shot of him pulling off his fake eye, revealing the bright blue eye below. He sticks his eyeball in the contraption, and a female voice on a computer addresses him as “Mr. President”, and asks him for the “eye print check”.
After a brief countdown, the computer voice goes, “Thank you. Presidential authority is confirmed for change in test procedure.” It’s just that simple!
The computer tells him (and us) that “Dummy warheads will be replaced by W-80 thermonuclear device.” Wait, is this computer actually the Expos-O-Matic 6000? And in case we still don’t get it, there’s a shot of a cruise missile, and the “warhead” (a random prop with a radiation symbol on it) is lowered into the missile.
We then get a long sequence where the cruise missiles get loaded onto a fighter jet, because they paid for the props, and they’re going to use them, dammit. After a shot of Petachi driving off the base, there’s another lengthy sequence of the fighter jet cruising along, and eventually launching the two cruise missiles while in the air.
Meanwhile, Jack is driving away. A convertible pulls up beside him, blaring loud music. Inside is Fatima Blush, now wearing a fur coat and yelling, “Bravo!” And like any true villain, her car stereo is blasting… ragtime jazz?
She blows kisses at him, and Jack just gives her goofy grins in return. She then points at something. While he’s distracted, Fatima grabs a big python off the seat next to her, and tosses it into Jack’s car, where the snake ends up in his lap. Jack screams—he is Jack’s sheer terror—and of course he takes his hands off the wheel so he can wave them around like an idiot.
Instead of simply throwing the snake out of the window, Jack loses control of the car, which goes over a stunt ramp and plows into a brick building. Meaning, the snake didn’t actually kill Jack; Jack killed himself by spazzing out and being an all-around putz. Fatima then pulls up with her ragtime jazz still blaring, and runs up to Jack’s overturned car to retrieve her snake, which she’s relieved to find has survived the crash.
She kisses the snake and calls it her “sweet baby” as she plants plastic explosives inside the car. As Fatima and her snake drive off, she triggers the explosives, and that’s the end of Jack.
Meanwhile, we get a cruise missile POV shot of the landscape, while wireframe maps of the local topology blink over the scene. And then there’s another shot of the missiles flying over scenery. I must say, these missiles are quickly becoming the breakout stars of the movie. I think they’ve actually had more screen time so far than Sean Connery.
The missiles fly over a beach, where two kids are building a sand castle. And the kids don’t react at all to two cruise missiles screaming directly over their heads, so the purpose of this shot totally escapes me.
Out on the water, a fishing trawler putters along, with a satellite dish on top that actually makes bleeping and blooping noises as the camera focuses on it. Cut to a black bag that’s (I assume) on the boat, just so we can recognize the same insignia with the two yellow flags.
Below deck, a Russian guy says, “They’re comingk! They’re almost in range!” He watches a radar screen and fiddles with an Atari joystick. This goes on for quite a while. There’s a close-up on the satellite dish. Then there are more shots of the missiles cruising along.
Back at Swadley base, the Air Force guys are panicking, because it appears they just now realized the missiles have gone off course. A radar screen blanks out, which means that they’ve “lost them”.
And now the Russian guy switches on a totally different monitor, which shows the missiles as yet another wireframe graphic. The wireframe missiles get closer, and closer…
…And apparently a shot of the missiles actually hitting the water wasn’t feasible, because we cut to guys in motorboats heading out to retrieve the missiles, and there’s a shot of the missiles already on the bottom of the ocean. Scuba divers approach the missiles, while Maximillian Largo appears overhead in a helicopter. Honestly, this whole bit with the missiles is about thirty seconds of action stretched out to fill a good eight or nine minutes.
Russian Guy, who turns out to be named “Kovacs”, flips more dials, and Largo shows up on his monitor. Kovacs says that the “fish are netted!” and Largo tells him to “Put them on ice!” And at long last, the missile tedium is over. And again, in the interests of fairness, the “retrieving the missiles” sequence from Thunderball was just as deadly dull, though there it lasted twice as long, or at least that’s what it felt like to me.
Cut to SPECTRE headquarters, and that same metal skull ornament from before. The skull’s jaw opens, and out pops a camera. Blofeld casually reclines in front of the skull camera with his kitty, introducing himself as the “Supreme Commander of SPECTRE: The Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion!”
Blofeld’s “broadcast” is up on a big screen in an auditorium somewhere, though all he’s showing is his hands holding his cat. Representatives of the world’s nations (including M) listen in as he basically re-describes the plot to us.
Blofeld tells them SPECTRE is in possession of nuclear warheads, and even gives a close-up of the serial numbers as proof. To avoid a “terrible catastrophe”, all the countries of the world will have to pay “a tribute” to SPECTRE. Specifically, he wants them to pay the equivalent of “25 percent of your respective countries’ annual oil purchases!” Well… that’s certainly a roundabout way to demand a lot of money.
He then explains that they’ve already carried out two of the things described in SPECTRE’s name: “Terror, and extortion!” And if the governments don’t comply with his demands, they’ll be able to knock out a third: “Revenge!” Seriously, that’s pretty much how he puts it. It’s almost like they have to give up the rights to the name if they don’t hit all seven letters in SPECTRE.
And on the word, “Revenge!” The cat stops licking its paw and makes a scared face into the camera. And then the screen immediately cuts to a mushroom cloud. Am I supposed to vote for President Johnson now? The representatives of the world’s nations are all suitably terrified by this intimidating show of stock footage.
One guy of indeterminate nationality yells, “That would be 25 billion dollars a year!” And the guy sounds vaguely European, so I’m not sure why he’s yelling about dollars. There’s lots of hubbub among the assembled foreign leaders. M pounds a gavel and calls everyone to order, and then turns the floor over to the “foreign secretary”, a silver haired guy by the name of “Lord Ambrose”.
Lord Ambrose says, “Gentlemen,” even though there are at least a few women in attendance, “we are faced with the ultimate nightmare! The abduction of nuclear warheads!” And I guess that’s all he had to say, because someone asks how this happened, and an American general says, “Up to this point, our fail-safe procedures relating to nuclear hardware have been absolutely foolproof!” Yeah, come on, their security never failed once before the one time it failed, so cut them some slack.
There’s more hubbub and walla-walla noises from the gallery. One foreign dude points his finger at the general and basically says this is all the Americans’ fault. Cool, so people were blaming us for all the world’s ills back in 1983, too.
Ambrose says that, actually, this is now the responsibility of all of NATO. Some woman yells that news of this will cause “worldwide panic!” But M assures her that the only people who know about this are the CIA and British intelligence. “Wonderful!” the American general says. “By now that means it’s all over the Kremlin!” Geez, have a little faith in your own country’s intelligence establishment. I’m sure their ability to secure national secrets is absolutely foolproof. This leads to another round of hubbub in the room.
In the midst of all the chatter, Lord Ambrose tells M that he must “reactivate the Double-Os”, despite his disgust at them. M resigns himself to this sad fate. And that’s it for now, stay tuned for part three.