Sunday, September 4, 2011

Thunderball [1965]

If Goldfinger can be said to have truly begun the James Bond phenomenon, then Thunderball must be said to be the James Bond phenomenon in full bloom.  Some critics and fans have taken it to task over the years for being bloated and overly languid, but You Only Blog Twice takes a much different stance.

How does Thunderball measure up to the previous two classics in the series?  Read on, and let's find out.

(1)  Bond ... James Bond

Connery is maybe a hairsbreadth less awesome here than he is in Goldfinger, so if I had to rank the performances that's how I'd rank them.  But the difference is really only academic: Connery is dynamite as Bond here, whether he is shooting clay pigeons from the hip , giving a nude woman a pair of shoes when she asks for something to wear, impaling henchmen with spearguns, fighting what seems to be an entire ship's crew all at once, biting womens' feet, or wearing thick mink gloves, Connery is magnificent in this film.  He even gets to use a jetpack!

Best of all, perhaps, Connery gets a few occasions to show Bond's vulnerable side.  When he is strapped into the Spine-Stretcher 2000, or whatever that device is called at Shrublands, he goes into near-panic after Count Lippe ratchets up the tension in an attempt to kill him.  Later, at the end of the big fight onboard the Disco Volante, he looks absolutely terrified when it appears that Largo is about to kill him with a speargun.
Sadly, this was the last great Connery performance as Bond.  It appears to be the case that in the real world, Connery was simply overwhelmed by his experiences with Beatle-like fame, and began to yearn to be free of having to live that way.  It shows in his performances, too.

So treasure this one, fans.  It was the end of an era, in many ways.  Points awarded: 007/007


Main Villain:  We got perhaps THE greatest Bond villain of them all in the previous film in the series, so it's hardly a surprise that Thunderball represents a bit of a letdown in that regard.

This is not to say that Emilio Largo is a poor villain, however; nor to suggest that Adolfo Celi did a poor job of portraying him.  Neither of these things is the case.  In fact, Celi is excellent, showing a cold determination throughout that is laced with hints of incredible cruelty.  One of the better scenes of the film is the meeting with Blofeld, and Celi is terrific in his reactions -- non-reactions, really -- to the electrocution of the duplicitous agent by Blofeld.

I also like the fact that Largo kills the airman, Derval, himself. Not quickly, either: he cuts the man's airhose and causes him to drown.  This is not a nice man, but he's definitely a take-charge kind of guy, and that's a bit of a rarity in Bond baddies.

This begs the question: should Largo be considered the film's main villain?  After all, in From Russia With Love I made the case for considering SPECTRE itself to be the main villain; everyone else there filled out henchman roles.  I think you could make the same argument here, but Largo gets enough screen time and is in so much direct confrontation with Bond, that I think you've got to call him the movie's main villain.

Points awarded (Main Villain):  006/007

Henchmen:  Decisions, decisions.  Here is the point in this entry in my blog series where I have to decide whether the above lady gets classified as a henchman or as a Bond girl.  So, naturally, I'm not going to decide: I'm going to classify her as both.  We'll see if I remember this precedent-setting maneuver for future Bond films


Fiona Volpe was -- with the exception of Miss Taro in Dr. No -- the first full-fledged femme-fatale in the Bond films, and she gets my vote for the best ever.  I've occasionally wondered why I have such a personal love for women with red hair, and it occurs to me now that Luciana Paluzzi may have a great deal to do with that predilection.  She's awfully good-looking in this movie, but she's got other great qualities to go along with them: she's ruthless, playful, calculating, strong-willed (witness the scene in which she is shooting skeet with Largo -- she doesn't back down from him for even a second), and highly effective.  Fiona is a great villain.

The rest of the film's henchmen are a bit unremarkable.  One of them, Vargas (on the left above), is colorful in his colorlessness: he has no vices, except perhaps torture.  The movie fails to take any real advantage of those qualities, however, and his fellow thugs are bland as bland can be.

Points awarded (Henchmen):  006/007 (For those keeping score at home, that's a 007 for Fiona herself and a one-point deduction for the others.)

Total points awarded (SPECTRE):  006/007

(3)  The Bond Girls

Main Bond Girl: The character of Domino is a bit of a mixed bag in the sense that she comes off as being incredibly weak in some ways and incredibly strong in other ways.  Weak because you have to wonder how she ended up playing kept woman to a brigand like Emilio Largo in the first place; strong because once she sees him for who he really is, she becomes determined to free herself from her cage.

However, as played by Claudine Auger, she is also beautiful to an almost ridiculous degree.  Don't think I didn't notice.  I noticed.

Points awarded (Main Bond Girl):  007/007.  Does that seem a little high?  Not to me, brother.

Secondary Bond Girls: Well, we already discussed Luciana Paluzzi as Fiona, so you know where I stand on that subject.
There is probably something interesting to be said in the fact that Fiona, as a Bond girl, is both hypersexual and scornful of Bond's own hypersexuality.  There's something meta going on there.
On a less meta level, we have the question of how we feel about Bond's treatment of Pat Fearing (played by Molly Peters) at the Shrublands facility toward the beginning of the film. The scene in which Bond blackmails her into having sex with him by threatening to report her for incompetence (this due to the near-death incident on the spine-stretcher) is one of the most frequently cited examples of Bond's sexism.


My take on that is: there are plenty of examples of genuine sexism in the later Bond films to provide ammunition for the anti-007 attack, so there's no need to impugn a relatively innocent scene like this one. Take a look at what actually happens.  In the scenes beforehand, we've seen Bond shamelessly flirting with Fearing, even trapping her in a kiss.  She's not actively responsive, but she's also clearly not revolted by the idea.  The implication is that she is sexually interested in Bond, but is maintaining a professional distance.  Bond, obviously, senses this, and once he sees an opportunity to break down the wall, he breaks it down.  For the record, he does not threaten Fearing; he says that "someone" will have the devil to pay (or something along those lines), but he is referring to Count Lippe.  When he notices that Fearing assumes he is referring to her, you can clearly see surprise on his face just before he straightens and suggests a course of action to avoid getting anybody's boss involved in things.

I get that this can seem like a distasteful action, and on paper I can see how someone would even view it as rape. However, I think there is a major difference between rape and coaxing a woman into an activity she obviously has interest in engaging in.  And in Thunderball, Fearing seems (here's an understatement) to rather enjoy the experience; she even sticks around for more later.  So, in the specifics of this movie, I don't think there's anything to feel particularly queasy about.  Then again, maybe that's just me.
The only other substantial secondary Bond Girl is Paula, Bond's plucky girl assistant (yes, I know I'm borrowing Doctor Who terminology).  She's played by Martine Beswick, who was formerly one of the fighting gypsy girls in From Russia With Love.  She looks nice in a bikini.  And really, that's about all there is to say about Paula.

Points awarded (Secondary Bond Girls):  006/007

Total points awarded  (Bond Girls):  006.50/007

(4)  "Oh, James..."

Action/Stunts:  One of the highlights of the Bond series in terms of action and stunts, as far as I'm concerned.  The opening fight between Bond and a supposedly-dead enemy operative -- played by stunt double Bob Simmons -- is a bone-crunching good time, and as if that weren't enough hand-to-hand combat, later in the movie we get an extended fight sequence onboard the Disco Volante which involves Bond taking on numerous assailants all at once.  That one might even be better than the fight in From Russia With Love, which is saying something.

Elsewhere, there is the beautifully-filmed sequence in which Bond is driving along and suddenly finds himself pursued by Count Lippe ... who is then dispatched by an assassin on a rocket-launching motorbike.  Excellent.

There's also numerous instances of real-life shark action which makes me think the movie must have been filmed by a madman.  Some of these come during the many underwater sequences, which remain amongst the finest underwater scenes ever filmed for a movie.  I'd challenge someone to film an underwater battle with shark, frogmen, explosions, knife fights, spearguns, and mini-subs today in 2011 without the use of CGI and have it end up anywhere near as exciting.  Sure, I know some people find these scenes to be boring.  Those people have lost their minds.  This is great stuff.

Points awarded (Action/Stunts):  007/007

Editing:  Editor Peter Hunt was back in action, and he did a customarily fine job.  I don't care for the edit from the water jets of the Aston Martin to the main title sequence, but that's one of the very few instances in the movie where I feel the editing is anything less than exemplary. One of the minor miracles here is that Hunt was able to take footage from multiple units, including the extensive underwater sequences, and craft it into something that feels simply like a single piece of work.  Points awarded (Editing):  007/007

Costumes/Makeup:  Connery manages to look dapper even while wearing swim shorts in this movie, so you know something was done right from a costuming standpoint.  Truth is, everyone looks impeccable here, including the villains.  Best costuming decision: Domino's many black-and-white swimsuits, which are not as iconic as the one Ursula Andress wore in Dr. No, but should be.  Points awarded (Costumes/Makeup):  007/007
Locations:  In terms of making the movies travelogues, Thunderball followed the lead of From Russia With Love and Dr. No and upped the ante, resulting in truly gorgeous locations in and around Nassau.  Some of it is even underwater! 

I also enjoy the Junkanoo sequence, which was replicated for the filmmakers by eager locals.  There is an amusing shot in which you can see a dog -- perhaps overloaded by sensation -- just pissing away right in the middle of the street.  Points awarded (Locations):  007/007

In virtually all of these areas, Thunderball raised the Bond series to new heights which have arguably only been reattained rarely in all the years since. Total points awarded  ("Oh, James..."):  007/007

(5)  Q Branch

Bond's Allies:  The only ally of note -- apart from return appearances by the regulars (M, Q, Moneypenny) -- is Felix Leiter, who shows up in his third film, played by the third actor to take on the role.
This time, Leiter is played by Rik Van Nutter, and he makes for a much more acceptable version of the character than did Cec Linder in Goldfinger.  For one thing, he looks more than a bit like Jack Lord.  Does this matter?  Not really.

Points awarded (Bond's Allies):  005/007

Connery, Auger, and director Terence Young

Direction:  Returning for what proved to be his last film for the series, Terence Young once again strikes precisely the right balance of wit, glamour, sexiness, danger, excitement, and intrigue.  With only a few isolated exceptions, the Bond movies would not be this good again for a long, long time. 

Points awarded (Direction):  007/007

Cinematography:  Ted Moore was behind the camera again, and the movie is just smashing to look at.  There are occasional rearscreen sequences which haven't aged well, but these don't hurt the movie much.  The underwater scenes were filmed by Lamar Boren, and he matched Moore's style admirably; if he hadn't, the shift to the underwater sequences would have jarred, and the movie would have suffered.  Points awarded (Cinematography):  007/007

Art Direction:  Ken Adam didn't have quite as many spectacular sets to build for this movie as he had on Goldfinger, but he did well with what he had. 

The SPECTRE boardroom and its counterpart at MI6 are appropriately epic, but I'm most impressed -- again -- by the underwater sequences.  They are utterly convincing, and the decoration of those "sets" was a big part of the reason why.  The Bond movies have often featured technical artists working at the top of their fields; Thunderball was no exception.  Points awarded (Art Direction):  007/007

Special Effects:  There are, as previously mentioned, some wonky rearscreen shots (such as the shots of Connery operating the jetpack), but there is also at least one -- the airman meeting his surgically altered double -- that works extremely well.  Also, the crash-landing of the Vulcan bomber is impeccable miniature work; knowing it can't be CGI because there was no such thing at the time, I'd bet modern audiences would simply assume it was a real plane landing on the sea.  Additionally, there are numerous fine explosions (especially the destruction of the Disco Volante).  Points awarded (Special Effects):  007/007

Gadgets:  At first, I couldn't think of many gadgets in this movie, but there are plenty: they are just so finely integrated into the story that they don't stand out, which is precisely as it should be.  First of all, Bond is driving a new Aston Martin in the pre-credits sequence, and, to the delight of millions, it's got some new optional features.  Plus, this movie has a jetpack, a miniature rebreather, miniature personal submarines, an underwater jetpack (!), and a sailing ship which can separate into two sections for quick getaways.  Seriously, how fun is that?  Points awarded (Gadgets):  007/007  

Opening-Title Sequence:  Here's why the title sequence to this movie is great: it's got naked women swimming around while Tom Jones is singing, plus men with weapons menacing them.  Maurice Binder did a fine job of working the underwater element into the titles, and he also made them look gorgeous for the first film in the series to be shot in the widescreen format.  Apart from that, though, the titles work thematically because the movie is so focused on the battle between Bond and Largo over Domino.  In a sense, the entire movie is really about exactly what the title sequence is about: one man trying to save a woman from another man who is a serious danger to her. The Bond credits are eminently lampoonable, but the best of them are working at somewhat deeper levels than it might appear at first glance.  Points awarded (Opening-Title Sequence):  006/007

Total points awarded (Q Branch):  006.57/007

(6)  Mission Briefing

In one way, this movie's screenplay is clunky as hell: the entire plot depends upon Bond being in precisely the right place at the right time at Shrublands, so that he is involved with the villains' plot even before they have stolen the bombs and made their public blackmail demands.  Then, Bond just happens to be around to observe Derval's body being brought into Shrublands; this is too much.  However, it all manages to work for one simple reason: in Thunderball, as in From Russia With Love, the spy stuff is really just a Macguffin that allows us to get to the plot involving Bond's attempts to bring Domino to a state of self-awareness.  If you can relax and accept that that is what the movie is really about, you will see that the screenplay is really quite efficient.  It's also got wit to spare, although a few of the quips -- "I think he got the point" -- teeter dangerously close to going over the edge into camp.
poster art by Robert McGinnis

poster art by Robert McGinnis

Points awarded:  006/007.  I might be a point too generous here, but I think I'll stick with it.

(7)  The Music

Title Song:  Tom Jones sings "Thunderball," and he sings it magnificently.  It's a silly song, in a way, but undeniably powerful, and I especially love the six-note into section.  Interestingly, this was not originally intended to be the title song; that was going to be "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" as sun by Dionne Wawick, and while the song was removd from the movie, you can still hear the melody in a few scenes (such as during the dance of death Bond shares with Fiona).  And if you have the DVD, you can watch the credits with the Warwick song.  All things considered, I like it, but I think "Thunderball" was an exceptional replacement, and I'm glad they made the change.  Points awarded (Title Song):  006/007

The Score:  A great deal of Barry's score is based on the melody he composed for "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (or, perhaps, vice versa).  It's an exotic score, and while it's not as good as the previous two scores in the series -- it's a bit too repetitive -- it's still one of the highwater marks for the franchise.  Points awarded (The Score):  006/007

Total points awarded (The Music):  006/007

poster art by Robert McGinnis

Double-0 Rating for Thunderball:  006.37/007

And we have a new leader!  For those keeping track at home, the results stand like so:

006.37 -- Thunderball
006.23 -- From Russia With Love
006.03 -- Goldfinger
004.76 -- Dr. No
002.55 -- Climax!: Casino Royale

You Only Blog Twice will return in ... Casino Royale.

But we may not happy about it...



  1. Have to agree with your giving top scores to Fiona & Domino, they were gorgeous. Fiona's first scene in bed with that cleavage. And then Domino thrown onto the bed by Largo when he finds out her betrayal. One of many shots freeze framed for further study. There's a photo of her which must be a publicity pic, in the black one piece bathing suit with the cutouts. She's laying on her side playing in the whitewater. It's a million dollar smile, with interest.

    I was surprised to learn that a lot of the underwater shots use a Bond double. I couldn't tell. Impressive to find someone with the same build & hairy legs.

    The final fight for me isn't as believable as the one with Red Grant. The awkwardness can't be masked, or perhaps is enhanced, by the sped up footage. Maybe there's more editing here than in Grant's fight, so it's more noticeable.

    The title song is one of the best, along with Goldfinger. Bold, brassy, balls out. Why can't they reach this sublime height again?

    The length of the underwater fight could have been halved as editor Peter Hunt submitted, but higher-ups told him to include much more of it & so we have its present state. I can understand the decision, it was very new & exciting for its time. Whenever a harpoon hits someone, the shouts of pain crack me up though.

    Seeing all the 00s in one room I keep wondering why they never tried to have the female 003 play a larger role. Do they keep her away because they know the male 00s wouldn't be able to focus on the mission? What if she was ugly but was a badass? If they really wanted to make a spinoff series with a female agent, something about 003 would seem more natural than something with Jinx (glad That never happened).

    Overall, still enjoyable to watch.

    1. I totally understand why the series has been so 007-centric, but I have to confess that I would LOVE to see some of the other double-ohs at some point. Imagine if they could cast some really great ones, and give them a scene here or a scene there and then eventually have one of the movies be a "Magnificent Seven" ("Magnificent 007"?) style flick.

      Something like that would be outside the bounds of the Bond formula, of course, but so what? Formulas are most exciting when deviated from.

      Please let's not even think about that Jinx movie. It obviously never got made, but however close it got was too close for my tastes.

      "Why can't they reach this sublime height again?" At the risk of offering spoilers for upcoming posts, the defense hints strongly toward "Surrender," "You Know My Name," and "Skyfall."

      I checked out that photo of Claudine Auger. I don't think I'd ever seen that one before, but it's a welcome addition to my collection of Bond photos.

    2. I really like that idea for the 00's. In fact if you had a huge conspiracy that needed several agents to fight it simultaneously around the world it'd raise the stakes. I suppose it may be a problem to get popular actors to keep reprising agent roles unless they're paid a lot. Maybe that's partly why the producers shy away from it. At the rate at which they're trying things that stray from the formula, it may take another 50 years before they do something like this. I'll try to hang on & wish for something sooner :)

  2. Esquire is doing a month of Bond on my cable, so I imagine I'll be carper-bombing your comments section every other night... apologies in advance.

    For some reason I came to Thunderball later than the other Bonds. I guess we never had it on VHS, though we must have at one point, as I have a clear memory of seeing the jetpack scene and some of the sharks stuff sometime in the early 80s. I never watched it properly until only 10 years ago or so. I was underwhelmed, but only because my imagination had built it up as the Bond masterpiece I'd saved for years to watch. Which I've come to realize - perhaps only fully this evening, as it was Esquire's evening Bond selection and I caught most of it in between putting the kids to bed - it very much is.

    Glad I caught up with everyone on that! It was a major bummer to not be immediately wicked into it 10 or 11 years ago.

    I came by tonight exclusively to make sure you rated the Bond Girls section appropriately (fact-checking!) and am happy to see how reasonably appraised they were.

    The Stretch-Spine scene is... suggestive? To say the least? It really threw me, actually, as it felt like the movie was veering in a direction that perhaps Bond couldn't support. No one wants to see Bond fuck himself to death. At least I DON'T. Did time-traveling Alan Moore slip a page into the script? Fascinating.

    What amazed me most, though, was how thoroughly fucking contemporary almost every underwater shot looked. Even some of the non-underwater shots. It must have been almost in 1965 as amazing as seeing 2001 would be in 1968. Granted I was watching the HD re-master, but still. I've sat through a dozen or so Jacques Cousteau documentaries, also remastered, and they look as if they were produced in the 60s. Not bad by any means, certainly not, just of the decade they appeared. Thunderball, for a surprising amount of its running time, looks like it was produced last year.

    It really IS something to see Sean Connery's performance here and reflect on how after this what we saw was a different Bond. Literally, after not too long, of course. It makes Dr. No through Thunderball a very special thing and totally makes me appreciate where my Dad - who likes all the Bonds but only considers the first 4 as being "real Bond" - is coming from.

    Tom Jones sings the crap out of this. Man!

    1. "Did time-traveling Alan Moore slip a page into the script? Fascinating." -- Ha! If I had a way of commissioning Moore to write a Bond script, I'd do it. Even if nobody else would ever read it than me. This is one of the many examples why I should be granted access to a substantial fortune.

      "What amazed me most, though, was how thoroughly fucking contemporary almost every underwater shot looked." -- Amen. It's not difficult at all to find people -- Bond fans, even -- who are frustrated and bored by the underwater sequences, and that is SO different to my own experience that it flabbergasts me. It's the best underwater footage I know of in any movie, and the big action scenes near the end rank, for me, as being among the most impressive sequences ever filmed. Boring?!? Not even vaguely.

      "It makes Dr. No through Thunderball a very special thing and totally makes me appreciate where my Dad - who likes all the Bonds but only considers the first 4 as being "real Bond" - is coming from." -- Your Dad has a good point. In fact, part of me agrees with him; those four movies have some sort of alchemy that the others don't. I watched "Casino Royale" last night; that's a legitimately great movie, and yet I found some part of my brain folding its arms, pursing its lips, and insisting that as great as it may be, it ain't no "Thunderball."

      And I stand by that.

      "Tom Jones sings the crap out of this. Man!" -- Any woman he wants, he gets.

      I look forward to the carpet-bombing!

  3. I've been looking forward to reading this review since I saw it was your highest rated Connery Bond. It's been my favorite Connery Bond since I first saw it on tv, close to 35 years ago. I had seen TSWLM on tv shortly before, but I had no concept of who James Bond was, just that I was watching some suave ass dude dispatching baddies and delivering impeccably timed quips while cuddling the ladies (hey, I was six, that was the limits of my understanding sex).

    A short time later, when I saw Thunderball, I understood that this was the same character I had seen in that other movie I had really liked. That is, I knew he was James Bond. I remember asking my mom why he looked different than before and she explained to me who Sean Connery was, and crucially, that he was the original 007 (not counting books and tv, of course). But that wouldn't have meant as much to me if the movie didn't rock. And rock it did. From that moment on, Thunderball has always been my favorite Connery Bond.

    You can imagine my dismay over the years, then, that Thunderball seemingly get such short shrift from so many Bond fans. To me, it captures so much of what makes a Bond movie work, especially one from the 60s. As the mentioned, some people do find it overly languid, but it is exactly that languorous nature that works a treat on me. What I mean is, what some find slow and sluggish, I find hypnotically cool and smooth af ( to borrow an acronym from the Millennials). You are much more articulate than I, so I don't know if I can explain exactly what I find so cool about Thunderball as well as your review does, but it just has a unique vibe that is unique in the Bond movies.

    A lot of it is the music. The theme is a classic (to me), and Tom Jones sings the fuck out of it, but it really is some of the score that gets stuck in my head. That slinky music that plays under a lot of the underwater scenes (I don't recall, if I ever even knew, what it's called, but I KNOW you know which one I mean) works so well, and the music that plays during the underwater battle near the end is absolutely rousing. I remember finding the soundtrack album at a yard sale in the mid 80s and I used to listen to it all the damn time. Your screenshot of it certainly brought back some fond memories. Just seeing that cover made me smile.

    1. I don't have to imagine your dismay: I share it! I've been hearing people slag "Thunderball" for years, and it's always confused me. I honestly don't know what anyone would want in a James Bond movie that isn't to be found in this one, except maybe for a stronger henchman. But beyond that, this is deeply great stuff.

      I do know the piece of music you're referring to. Hard to describe, but also hard to forget; John Barry at very near the top of his game.

      The underwater sequences are stunning overall. If that's what "slow" is, sign me up for more slow movies.

  4. The Bond Girls in Thunderball are amongst the very best. Domino. Oh man, Domino... just..... Domino. Can you tell I'm fond of Domino? It's those bathing suits, dude. I know Ursula Andress sports arguably the most iconic bikini in the Bond movies, but damn, for me, it's not even close to Domino's black one piece with that meshy material in just the right area. And good lord, Fiona is and absolute stunner. When Bond funds her in his tub, that whole scene is a master class in sexual allure. And as you pointed out, offering her footwear instead of a towel is classic, cool Bond.

    And I can't bring up Fiona without mentioning how much I love the series of scenes with her bedding Bond, turning the tables on him, even mocking him, all leading up to the Junkanoo chase scene. And the dance of death she shares with Bond is the ultimate capper to those scenes. Although I do have to chuckle at the notion that that laid back lounge music covered the sound of gunfire. I always get a kick out of stuff like that in movies. Like, the soundtrack is blaring with alarming music that you could almost believe could mask a gunshot, and as an audience, we go with it, but in the "reality" of the scene (that is, what it seems to Bond and everyone else), the music is so subdued, that gunshot would ring loud and clear. Well, before I run too long (I know too late), I'll just say that I always found Pat absolutely adorable. I can't think of another Bond flick that had three women that I find so appealing. There's alway one or two, and to be sure, many Bond movies had 2, 3, or more Bond Girls, but these three have always had a special place in this Bond fans heart. And, I mean, yeah, Paula, but she didn't stick with me like the others.

    Anyway, so much for not running long.....

    1. We're on the same page with the Bond girls here. I think this is probably the highpoint of the series in terms of the sheer amount of feminine allure on display from actual characters. All four of 'em knock me out, each in very different ways.

      And yet, I see I only awarded a 006/007 for the secondary characters. What was I thinking?!? This will be rectified whenever I revisit/revise the posts.

      You make a good point about the gunshot that dispatches Fiona. I can live with it, though; I'm willing and able to dole out a bit of artistic license (licence?) here and there.

      I think I probably agree with you in terms of Honey Ryder vs. Domino as regards bikinis.

  5. Well, shit, I wasn't kidding about running long! I went wayyyy over the character limit and had to break that comment into two parts.

    1. I've had to do that more times than I could count! I appreciate you being interested enough to actually take the time to do it.

  6. I suddenly feel very welcome here, haha!
    Like most of you, I have always been a big fan of Thunderball and struggled to understand why so many others simply label it "forgettable", I find it to be superior to Goldfinger, the same movie that these people usually immediately stamp "the best Bond movie ever".
    A quote from Michael G. Wilson springs to mind (Around the time Quantum of Solace was premiering): "We always start out trying to make another From Russia with Love and end up with another Thunderball."
    Yeah.. no.. Thunderball deserves better than that!
    Nice to see Bond in so much mental distress throughout this movie, we don't get that often from Connery, but when we do, it works! The spine-stretching scene terrified me when I was a kid, the image of 007, who otherwise has proven to be able to get out of any situation reduced to simply screaming for help, was quite shocking! Other scenes that play to this, you mentioned Bond's fear when Largo is about to shoot him, I also think Bond's attempted escape from Fiona is really well acted, you can truly see him desperately trying to think on his feet! For me, this is easily Connery's best Bond performance! That used to be Sean's own opinion too, until he changed his mind and started saying "From Russia With Love" instead.. don't know why.
    The ladies in this picture are absolutely stunning, and of course the producers don't waste time in using the Bahamas setting to make them wear as little as possible, and boy howdy, both Claudine Auger and Martine Beswick sport amazing figures.. Part of me is kind of disappointed we don't get to see Fiona rocking a swimsuit, but it makes total sense.. she is an assassin, she is not there to enjoy the sun, and we know it.. Thankfully the promo department capitalized and did make the most of Luciana Paluzzi on the posters and promotional material.
    As for Domino as a character, she doesn't quite work as well as her book counterpart, but thankfully the movie still has her as one who kills Largo, works out better that way!
    Adolfo Celi makes for a good villain, he isn't quite as memorable as some of the others, but he works really well, I totally buy this guy as a man who could be in charge of this operation, and control all his subordinates as well as he does, he might not be the biggest physical threat to Bond, but he certainly is a brilliant opponent mentally!
    A word also on Rik Van Nutter's Leiter, I can't quite call him a great Leiter simply because his delivery and personality seems a little stiff and wooden at times, of all the Leiters, he certainly isn't the strongest actor of the bunch.
    BUT! This movie does something that few other Bond movie have: It actually gives Leiter an active role in the film, and it helps this portrayal to no end! The sight of Leiter getting his hands dirty and helping Bond in the field as opposed to just supervising is such a refreshing change and I am shocked they didn't do it more.. My only regret is that Leiter doesn't take part in the final underwater battle, he really should have IMO, he does in the book! But yeah, full props to this movie for (almost) taking full advantage of Felix Leiter for a change, and I'm sad the other movies never picked up that thread, Felix seems to be an ace helicopter pilot, why hasn't that been used since?
    Van Nutter might not be the best Leiter, but this movie easily has the best usage of Leiter in the series, and that helps me overlook that.
    Also top marks for John Barry's score for me, as he really gives the more stressful scenes some impact with his music!

    1. A final note, I got quite the shock when I first watched Thunderball on DVD.. My first experiences with the film was a TV Broadcast which i recorded onto VHS (remember those? ;) ) and while watching the DVD, there several small things that made me go "Hang on?" Turns out that Thunderball for many years has had edits done to the audio track, some small, some very noticeable..
      On my VHS tape, I distinctly remembered:
      Someone talking about a manta ray when Bond and Leiter spot one from their chopper (the line has been awkwardly dubbed in, and the voice is definitely neither Connery nor Van Nutter). This line has been removed from the DVD, leaving a rather odd shot of a manta ray with little explantation.
      No music during the first part of underwater battle - This has been reinserted on DVD.
      On my VHS tape, the movie also ends with an instrumental version of Thunderball as opposed to the James Bond Theme, which is present on the DVD, personally I think this last change is for the better, as the "Thunderball Reprise" sounds wayy too dramatic and ominous for the end of the film.. It really has an unsettling vibe to it, that always bothered me..
      Thankfully someone else made note of these edits and compiled some of them and put it on youtube, here is the link if you are interested:

      I'm kinda curious to hear your opinion on the changes, Bryant!

    2. I knew I liked you based on the other comments you left, but you being a "Thunderball" fan makes it official! ;)

      I'd never seen that Michael G. Wilson quote. Let's hope he meant that purely in terms of budget. Probably did, since "Thunderball" was for years the biggest hit of all the Bonds in terms of relative size.

      I'd forgotten Felix is a part of the underwater battle in the novel! I've seriously got to reread all the Flemings at some point.

      As for the differences in the audio across various versions of the movie, I sort of knew that was a thing, but I've done a deep-dive in terms of researching it. consequently, I am VERY interested in that link, and I appreciate you bringing it to my attention.

      I absolutely remember having a library of recorded-onto-VHS movies. I can't remember ever recording the Bond movies, though, oddly enough. I'm sure I must have; I just can't remember it (the way I do, say, "Star Trek").

      I totally remember that line about the manta ray -- but had not noticed it being absent in the DVD/Blu-ray versions. How odd! I wonder what the story is behind that.

      The underwater sequence seems downright naked without the John Barry music. I vote "no" to ever watching it that way again. And yeah, I agree that the end of the movie is much better with the Bond theme.


  7. One of my favorite moments in the film is Largo's reaction after his "interrogation" of Domino was interrupted. That's the reaction you have when someone interrupts you in bed.

    1. I haven't read it in a long time, but I remember that scene being even better in the novel.

    2. I guess I have to read TB again because I don't recall any outstanding differences. However, I do recall the excellent finale with a physically exhausted Bond at the mercy of Largo.

    3. If I remember correctly, there's a lengthy description of what he's doing with both an ice cube and a lit cigarette, and it ain't pretty.

  8. I always loved Thunderball

  9. I added some Blu-ray screencaps to this post tonight. I did kind of a crappy job harvesting the screencaps, though, to be honest. Your humble author is in a major funk today; so much so that I kind of didn't even enjoy rewatching the movie. And if I can fail to enjoy goddam "Thunderball," some shit has gone seriously sideways.

    Anyways, that's life in April 2020.

    1. Every single screencap in this post is a winner. Half of that (perhaps more) is just your subject - hard to go wrong with Thunderball. The other parts, though, that's you. Nice job.

      My funk comes and goes. Today is okay, but it'll be back around. Like you say that's life in this Red Virus Spring. (The red hour has struck.)

      Hang in there, friend.