Release Date: February 16th, 1990 (Orlando premiere) Directed by: Nicolas Roeg Written by: Allan Scoot Based on:The Witches by Roald Dahl Music by: Stanley Myers Cast: Anjelica Huston, Mai Zetterling, Jason Fisher, Rowan Atkinson
Jim Henson Productions, Lorimar Film Entertainment, 91 Minutes
“Real witches are very cruel, and they have a highly developed sense of smell. A real witch could smell you across the street on a pitch-black night.” – Helga
While this film has grown into a cult classic over the last thirty years, I hadn’t seen it since it first appeared on VHS. Back then, no one really knew about it but I wanted to see it because Jim Henson worked on it. Plus, my mum wouldn’t take me to the theater to see it because she had some weird religious reason not to take me to anything “promoting witchcraft or Satanism.” Funny, as she ended up becoming a massive Harry Potter fan a decade later.
What really stands out about this film is how unique it is. Also, for a kid’s movie it’s damn dark. The director actually had to tone it down after he showed it to his own kid in order to get his reaction. As a kid, I wasn’t scared by it but the imagery was so haunting and over the top that it left a mark on my psyche.
My memory of the film was a fond one and I’m glad to say that my youthful opinion on the film still held up, seeing it now.
Anjelica Huston is pretty close to perfection in this and man, her performance is still damn effective. While this is adapted from a Roald Dahl children’s novel, it feels like the role was tailor made for her. It highlighted her strengths, her ability to intimidate and her intensity. She also got to ham it up and act over the top, which only benefited the movie and her role.
The kid actors are okay, nothing special, and the rest of the acting is fairly average but once the kids become mice, the film almost shifts into a state of otherworldly-ness and that’s after the incredible witch convention sequence.
The special effects in this are incredible from Anjelica Huston’s full witch makeup and prosthetics to the boys’ mice forms. Even knowing how talented Jim Henson was and how great his studio is, the effects work and puppetry still blew my mind for what they achieved here, thirty years ago.
I’m glad that this did become a cult classic, it deserves that status because of how good it is, how much craftsmanship went into it and for it’s uniqueness.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other children’s horror from the ’80s and ’90s.
Also known as: Bond No. 1 (India), Warhead (working title) Release Date: October 6th, 1983 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Irvin Kershner Written by: Lorenzo Semple Jr., Dick Clement (uncredited), Ian La Frenais (uncredited) Based on:Thuderball by Ian Fleming Music by: Michel Legrand Cast: Sean Connery, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Max von Sydow, Barbara Carrera, Kim Basinger, Bernie Casey, Alec McCowen, Edward Fox, Rowan Atkinson, Pat Roach, Anthony Sharp, Gavan O’Herlihy
“Still here, Moneypenny? You should be in bed.” – James Bond, “James, we both should be!” – Miss Moneypenny
Never Say Never Again is probably the James Bond movie that I’ve seen the least. It actually isn’t canon and doesn’t fit in with the overall franchise like the other pictures that starred Connery.
In 1983, Roger Moore was James Bond and this was a picture that came out to compete against Roger Moore’s Octopussy. But let me explain the story behind this strange, one-off James Bond flick.
The ownership of the filming rights of the Thunderball novel came under dispute. Kevin McClory was one of the men responsible for getting James Bond on the big screen. He would also be one of the writers of the Thunderball film and produced that film alongside Eon, the studio that has made every official Bond picture. Because of his strong involvement and funding of Thunderball, McClory was able to maintain the filming rights of the Thunderball novel after a legal dispute. So Never Say Never Again is actually a remake of Thunderball with some pretty big changes.
Sean Connery came back to the role of Bond, even though he said he’d never play the character again. The title Never Say Never Again is actually a joke, as it was what his wife said to him when he told her he was going to do the movie. Oddly enough, the producers didn’t think that they could get Connery again and actually intended for this to be a vehicle to bring George Lazenby back to the role, as his sole James Bond film is still one of the very best. But obviously, McClory benefited more from signing on Connery.
The film also landed a top notch director in Irvin Kershner, who had just come off of his magnum opus, The Empire Strikes Back.
However, in regards to the film’s composer, an offer was made to John Barry but he declined out of respect for Eon Productions due to his long tenure creating the music for the real James Bond franchise. Sadly, the music in Never Say Never Again is really weird and nowhere near the quality of what Barry could have orchestrated. The score is like a jazzy disco hybrid that feels like it’s five years too late to the party in 1983.
On the plus side, this film benefited from the performances of Klaus Maria Brandauer, as this film’s Largo, and Max von Sydow, as the most famous Bond baddie, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Both of these guys were great and McClory did plan to do more films after this one but they never came to be. It would have been great seeing Bond actually come to face to face with Sydow’s Blofeld.
We also get Kim Basinger, as the main Bond girl of the picture, and Bernie Casey as Felix Leiter, Bond’s greatest ally. I liked Basinger in anything back in the ’80s when she was in her prime and frankly, one of the hottest women on the planet. I was crushing on her hard between this, Batman and My Stepmother Is An Alien. As far as Casey, that guy is always a great addition to any cast.
Being that this was an ’80s Bond film, it couldn’t not have some silliness in it.
For instance, the scene where the evil lady pulls up next to a guy driving and throws a snake on him, causing him to crash and die, only for her to go back, collect the snake and then set off a bomb that was already wired to the car is absolutely stupid. She could have just blown up the damn car. It’s one of those things you just laugh off though because it’s James Bond in the ’80s.
Then there is the terrible looking scene where Bond and Kim Basinger are on a horse and they jump off of an extremely high wall at a coastal castle and safely land in the ocean, as the horse, somehow unscathed, swims to safety. Not only was the situation unbelievable but the sequence was incredibly cringe worthy and the effects come off as silly.
They also had to throw in a gratuitous video game scene because apparently Bond is a gamer in the ’80s and because video games were all the rage back then. I’m surprised they didn’t suck Bond into a computer for a TRON-styled sequence.
Apart from cheesy shit, there is also weird stuff that just doesn’t seem to fit the Bond vibe. I already mentioned the terrible score but in addition to that, the opening credits sequence was bizarre and nothing like the beginning of a Bond movie should be. Really, there is supposed to be a cold open, a mission accomplished and then it transitions into super stylized credits with a fantastic song. Never Say Never Again starts and feels like a mid-’80s B-level action flick from Cannon Films.
All things considered, good and bad, I do still like this movie. It may have worked better, however, as a Bond style vehicle for Connery and not as an attempt to just cash in on McClory owning the rights to one friggin’ book that already had a movie based on it (and a much better one at that).
McClory planned sequels and more Thunderball remakes at different times but none of them got off the ground and it is probably for the best. The rights have since been given back to Eon and now they own this movie along with the rest of the Bond library.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: ’80s Bond movies, which starred Roger Moore not Connery. But yeah, this pairs better with the later Moore movies than it does the ’60s and early ’70s Connery ones.
Also known as: The Black Adder (Series 1), Blackadder II (Series 2), Blackadder the Third (Series 3), Blackadder Goes Forth (Series 4) Original Run: June 15th, 1983 – November, 1989 Directed by: various Written by: Richard Curtis, Rowan Atkinson, Ben Elton Music by: Howard Goodall Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Rik Mayall (cameos)
Rowan Atkinson is pretty much a comedic genius. Add in Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson, Brian Best and a bit of Rik Mayall and you’ve got a dream team of British comedic talent.
This is one of the best sitcoms ever produced. It is also quite unique in that each series was different and completely new. Series 1 took place in the British Middle Ages, Series 2 was set during the reign of Elizabeth I, Series 3 takes place during the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, while Series 4 takes place on the Western Front during World War I. The one thing connecting all the shows is Rowan Atkinson’s character Edmund Blackadder or just “The Blackadder”, who is a different character each series, although each incarnation is a part of the same lineage. Many of the characters on the show are also different people within their own long lineages.
Out of the series, I really enjoy the fourth series the best. All of them are good but for some reason, in the fourth, they really hit their stride and knocked it out of the park in each episode. Going backwards, I also loved series 3, as it brought Hugh Laurie in full-time and gave the show a new and permanent dynamic that really upped the ante. Series 2 is my least favorite overall but it is still a level above the majority of televisions shows from that same era. The first series is pretty fantastic too and as good as Atkinson is in it, Brian Blessed really brings something exceptional to the show.
To this day, the show still feels timeless, is pretty damned hilarious and never really seems to get old. Maybe the the fact that each series is its own period piece, helps this show have that timeless vibe. I probably watch through each series almost annually. I feel like Atkinson’s Mr. Bean has become a more popular character, at least in the United States, but his greatest work comes here, as Edmund Blackadder.
Rating: 9.5/10 Pairs well with:A Bit of Fry & Laurie and The New Statesman.