For Bond’s 4th big screen adventure, the international criminal organization, SPECTRE hijack two atomic bombs from a experimental plane in the British Royal Air Force. SPECTRE’s leader, Earnest Blofield threatens to use the bombs to destroy a major city in the United States or the United Kingdom unless £100 million is paid to SPECTRE within one week.
While MI6’s “00” agents are given their assignments to track down the bombs, James Bond (Sean Connery) asks to be assigned to Nassau, Bahamas, after recognizing the experimental plane’s pilot days before the hijacking. The curious thing to Bond was when he last saw him, he was dead.
In the Bahamas, Bond contacts the pilot’s sister Domino (Claudine Auger), and learns she is the mistress of Emilio Largo (Adolf Celi), SPECTRE’s Number 2 man. Now with a strong lead on the location of the bombs, Bond hones in on taking down Largo. To get to him, he is going to need to battle sharks, SPECTRE’s scuba divers, and convince Domino to help him.
I was not looking forward to sitting through Thunderball again. As a kid it was one of my least favourites. The cold open with the jet pack aside was (and is) great, but I remember finding the underwater fight scenes looking silly. Watching human fight underwater does look unnatural, but this time as an adult, I really appreciated the stunt work involved in the underwater battle.
Director Terrance Young is back and he stuck to playing Bond more seriously than Guy Hamilton did in Goldfinger. There is still plenty of silly though. Like the jet pack I mentioned before, Desmond Llewellyn as “Q” does his comic relief thing, and I won’t spoil the perfectly goofy ending, but the number of Bond’s one liners is toned down.
Speaking of “Q”, the film has a bunch of gadgets like an inferred camera and take up to 8 photos in the dark! Also, Bond has an under water rebreather that is only supposed to have 4 minutes of air, but he some how uses it for a lot longer, and a tape deck hidden in a book to see if anyone visited his room while he was gone.
I was surprised to discover how good of a villain Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi) turned out to be as she is somewhat forgotten. Largo gets most of the credit in this film as he stands out with that eye patch of his, but Fiona was the SPECTRE agent that was a bigger threat to Bond with here brains and looks.
It was also fun to see how much the “Austin Powers” series spoofed in this one. Largo is very much like “Number 2”, Blofeld’s briefing room with its “shocking chairs”, and overall plot of the first Austin Power’s film follows this one closely.
Sarah and I continued our competition to correctly guess how long it would take Bond to get laid. This time, Sarah was not close. Instead she was DEAD ON with 17 minutes as it took him 17 minutes and 24 seconds. I knew this film was longer than the previous films, so I tried use this knowledge to my advantage and guessed 25. I can’t win. For those keeping score:
Sarah – 4
Mars – still 0.0
Thunderball was supposed to be James Bond’s first film, but in 1962 there was dispute over the origin of the plot between Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming and a film director who previously tried to get a Bond movie made. While that was being hashed out, MGM went with Dr. No. So, we didn’t see the film get made until after it was settled in 1963.
I’m glad it happened because this way Thunderball got a much bigger budget as a result. We have the first Bond film shot in widescreen Panavision, a great mix of locals, and I don’t believe a film with a lower budget could have pulled of those underwater scenes as well. The pacing is a little sluggish in comparison to Goldfinger, but this also makes the character development a little more believable. Bond had to work at convincing Domino to help him instead of just getting her in bed like he had with Pussy Galore… And believe me, I am fully aware of how ironic I sound when talking about with character development with names like Domino and Pussy Galore.