Klaus Maria Brandauer as Maximillian Largo, billionaire businessman and SPECTRE terrorist
Monte Carlo, Spring 1983
Film: Never Say Never Again
Release Date: October 7, 1983
Director: Irvin Kershner
Costume Designer: Charles Knode
1983 was the year of the dueling James Bonds. Roger Moore continued as the canonical 007 in Eon Productions’ Octopussy, while Bond emeritus Sean Connery surprised audiences by starring in Never Say Never Again, an “unofficial” reimagining of Thunderball released 40 years ago next month by Jack Schwartzman’s Taliafilm.
Never Say Never Again resulted from a two-decade effort by producer Kevin McClory, who had collaborated with Ian Fleming and screenwriter Jack Whittingham on an original Bond screenplay in the late 1950s. When Fleming published a novelization of their unproduced screenplay as Thunderball in 1961, McClory and Whittingham sued and settled out of court, albeit with a string of conditions that ultimately maintained Eon’s rights to the story for up to ten years after the release of their own cinematic adaptation of Thunderball, released in 1965.
By the mid-1970s when McClory announced his plans to produce his own version of the story, both Whittingham and Fleming had died, and Connery had hung up 007’s shoulder holster—presumably for good—after reluctantly returning to the iconic role in Diamonds are Forever. After more legal and production hurdles, the end result released in October 1983 was Never Say Never Again, titled in reference to Connery reprising his role after twice saying he would never play Bond again. (While Moore turned 55 during the production of Octopussy, it’s Never Say Never Again that focuses more on Bond’s advancing age… despite Connery actually being three years younger than Moore and looking considerably more fit than the last time Connery starred as the “official” Bond in Diamonds are Forever a dozen years earlier.)
Not being produced by Eon meant many signature elements were missing, like the James Bond theme, the opening gunbarrel, and a familiar cast portraying 007’s allies at MI6. However, Bond still received his briefing from M (Edward Fox), flirted with Miss Moneypenny (Pamela Salem), and received his equipment from an uncharacteristically jolly Q (Alec McCowen) before jetting off to the Bahamas to investigate a missing nuclear warhead… just as he had in Thunderball.
Never Say Never Again globe-hops with more ferocity than Thunderball, and it’s not long before Bond arrives in southern France, tracking the enigmatic billionaire Maximilian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer) and his girlfriend Domino Petachi (Kim Basinger). Bond literally gets his hands on Domino at a Villefranche-sur-Mer massage parlor, where he learns that Largo is hosting a charity ball that night across the border in Monte Carlo. Good thing Bond packed his tuxedo!
Largo: Do you enjoy games, Mr. Bond?
Bond: Depends with whom I’m playing.
An oft-criticized scene from Never Say Never Again pits Bond against Largo during a duel for world domination… in the form of a pixilated video game that Largo invented. Titled “Domination”, the Atari-style game was clearly an attempt to make the story seem fashionable for the 1980s—though it likely seemed dated by the time its first audiences were already out of the theater. A beaming Largo explains that “unlike armchair generals, we will share the pain of our soldiers in the form of electric shocks.” Even after almost passing out from the pain, Bond keeps the game going—is it because he wants to prove a point to Largo, or does he just not want to give $58,000 to a children’s charity?
As September 12 is National Video Games Day (not to be confused with plain old “Video Games Day” observed on July 8), BAMF Style’s inaugural Never Say Never Again post will explore Largo’s creative black tie for the event.
What’d He Wear?
In contrast to the old-school villain that an eye-patched Adolfo Celi portrayed in Thunderball, Brandauer’s yuppified Largo represents the materialism of ’80s excess, whether he’s mashing the buttons of his digital Risk copycat or prancing around the decks of his luxury yacht with a sweater knotted around his neck.
Unlike 007’s classic black tie ensemble, Largo subverts evening-wear conventions at nearly every opportunity when building his wardrobe for the charity ball. “Creative black tie” generously describes Largo’s attire, and its lack of elegance further serves to position him as the villain against the more refined and respectably dressed James Bond.
The ’60s Largo had also dressed in a white double-breasted dinner jacket, but the similarities end there. As opposed to the classic, Casablanca-style evening-wear that Adolfo Celi wore, Brandauer’s dinner jacket is pencil-striped in black against the white ground. The narrow shawl collar is piped with black edges that coordinate with the stripes and the black two-hole buttons—arranged in a 6×2-button double-breasted configuration, as well as two vestigial buttons on each cuff. Typically reserved for suit jackets and sports coats, the single vent also defies evening-wear tradition. Unlike most striped tailoring where the stripes follow the direction of the lapels, Largo’s stripes are angled to “collide” with the edge of his shawl collar.
The tailoring is consistent with early ’80s trends, from the wide shoulders to the shorter length. The jacket has straight flapped hip pockets and a welted breast pocket, in which Largo wears a white silk pocket square with a black “Y”-shaped geometric print on one side.
Regardless of the dinner jacket’s color or cut, black tie tradition calls for a white formal shirt and the black bow-tie that informs the dress code’s nomenclature… leave it to Largo to buck both conventions.
Largo’s black formal shirt has the requisite pleated front for evening shirts but an attached wing collar and button-fastened squared barrel cuffs. You could argue that Largo at least follows the “black tie” part, but his white pin-dotted necktie is a straight tie, which he knots with a half-Windsor and initially tucks into his cummerbund.
Largo balances the offbeat upper half of his outfit with a traditional bottom half, even finished with a black pleated silk cummerbund covering his waist and the top of his black trousers. These flat-front trousers have side pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms with then-fashionable flare, but I can’t tell if they’re detailed with the black silk side braid that characterizes formal trousers.
Largo’s shoes are also surprisingly understated, as he wears the black calf leather cap-toe oxfords and black socks that are considered acceptable with all codes of men’s evening dress. With that jacket and his sense of showmanship, I would have surprised something like black-and-white spectator shoes, but the all-black oxfords are refreshingly traditional.
How to Get the Look
True, there are many worse looks at today’s red carpet events or proms than Largo’s flamboyant fit for casino night in the early ’80s, but 007 himself still clearly wins the sartorial gold prize for most tasteful evening-wear. Still, if you’re feeling brave and want to inject some Bond heritage into your creative black tie, be my guest…
- White (with black pencil stripe) double-breasted 6×2-button dinner jacket with black-trimmed shawl collar, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, vestigial 2-button cuffs, and single vent
- Black formal evening shirt with attached wing collar, pleated front, and button-fastened barrel cuffs
- Black (with white pin-dots) tie
- Black pleated silk cummerbund
- Black flat-front trousers with side pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Black calf leather cap-toe oxford shoes
- Black dress socks
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
As the stakes increase, so does the level of pain… rather like life.