The evil organization SPECTRE steals two warheads from NATO and demands 100 million pounds for their return. Spy James Bond (Sean Connery, The Man Who Would Be King) travels to the Bahamas, where he suspects the weapons are kept.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“Do you mind if my friend sits this one out? She’s just dead.”
Thunderball is a bit of a letdown. The film isn’t as good as any of the three films — Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964) — that preceded it. That being said, this is a case where the good outweighs the not-so-good.
The movie suffers from a strong sense of “déjà vu.” Perhaps because both movies take place in the Caribbean, Thunderball kept reminding me of the superior Dr. No. Interestingly, Thunderball was supposed to launch the series, but the producers decided at the last minute to go with Dr. No instead, and the rest is history.
Truth be told, this is an undeniably super-production with many eye-catching sequences. Thunderball opens up with an admittedly thrilling pre-title sequence. However, the film’s best scenes consist of some excellent underwater footage — the under-the-sea battle between the good guys and the bad guys is very exciting to watch!
This is the first widescreen film in the series, and the wide angle lenses give the movie the necessary visual kick that such an elaborate, expensive production screams for (the movie was shot by Ted Moore, A Man for All Seasons). Thunderball also sports many cool-looking visuals (the film won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects).
The supporting cast is just fine. Italian character actor Adolfo Celi (That Man from Rio) is fine as baddie Emilio Largo (his voice was dubbed by Robert Rietty). Although a true psychopath, Largo is clearly not as interesting or as charismatic as previous super-villains like “Dr. No” and “Goldfinger,” but he is effective enough.
Luciana Paluzzi (The Green Slime) gives the best performance in the film — she plays assassin Fiona. Claudine Auger and Martine Beswick (she played a different role in From Russia with Love) are eye-candy. I loved the fact that “M” (Bernard Lee) and “Moneypenny” (Lois Maxwell) have much more screen time than usual — they appear throughout the whole movie, something that won’t ever happen again.
Ken Adam (Dr. Strangelove and Barry Lyndon) creates some truly fantastic sets. Adam’s most eye-grabbing creations are NATO’s headquarters and mastermind Blofeld’s futuristic lair. The title song is perhaps my biggest disappointment — after the bombastic song from Goldfinger, you are left wanting more, much more.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Thunderball is good, but not top-tier Bond. Unfortunately, the movie lacks the smoothness of the previous entries in the series. I did enjoy it and will recommend it to fans and non-fans. In a strange twist of fate, the rights to the story went back to executive producer Kevin McClory, enabling him to remake the film in 1983 as the well-received Never Say Never Again. Color, 127 minutes, Rated PG.
James Bond will return
You Only Live Twice (1967)