Cast & Credits
Sean Connery James Bond
Claudine Auger Domino
Adolpho Celi Emilio Largo
Luciana Paluzzi Fiona
Directed by Terence Young
Original Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes
The film opens up with 007 taking in a funeral in France while talking to a young lady. It is the funeral of one Jacques Buvar. Bond explains that Buvar killed two of his colleages. Moments later, when we see the widow of the deceased walk back into the building Bond is seated in a chair. He says that he gives his "sincerest condolences" and then give "her" a right cross to the jaw. It turns out that she is a he, and that he is Colonel Buvar. A fight follows and after James takes care of his man, he is chased off. Luckily, he has a jetpack to fly off to his Aston Martin which sprays water out of it's tailpipe. This leads very smoothly into the main titles (done superbly by Maurice Binder) which have silhouettes of women swimming. They include a very suggestive shot of a guy with a spear gun shooting between a woman's legs. This sort of thing would become common in later Bond films. During the sequences the theme song is sung by Tom Jones. What a voice this guy had! No wonder the ladies used to whip their panties at him when he was onstage. The song is good, but Goldfinger was better. Mr. Jones does get an A for effort though.
After the credits, we have the privelage of seeing a man with an eye patch walking in on a SPECTRE meeting. For those of you who are not Bond fans, SPECTRE is the SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence Terrorism Revenge and Extortion. They are all around bad guys. SPECTRE number 1 explains that SPECTRE number 6, Jacques Buvar, was just killed. Then he gets irate because he believes that one of the members is taking some of their earnings. Number 1 pushes a button and number 9 is fried in his chair, the chair descends into the floor, and comes back up empty while the yet to be seen leader strokes his white Persian cat. This is wickedly cool and the type of stuff that the modern movies lack to be honest. Next SPECTRE number 2 (the man with the eye patch, Emilio Largo) starts to explain his plan to get a ransom of 100 million pounds sterling ($480 million) from the North Atlantic Treaty powers.
After Bond becomes involved with some of the characters involved with the plan at a health clinic, we see the plot put into motion. Through several intricately worked out details including payoffs, plastic surgery, voice lessons, and murder we see two nuclear warheads stolen from a NATO airbase on a Vulcan aircaft. The plane in crashed underwater, the warheads are retrieved, and put on Largo's yacht, the Disco Volante. SPECTRE says that a major city in both America and England will be blown to smithereens if they are not paid their ransom. Soon afterwards, M calls the entire Double O section in and explains the situation. Bond asks to be put on assignment in Nassau, which is located in the Bahamas. Why? The sister of the man that co-piloted the Vulcan (Francois Derval) is there and Bond saw him dead at the health clinic. This is actually true. A SPECTRE agent had plastic surgery to look like Derval and hijacked the plane.
Bond meets up with the sister of Francois Derval, Domino, shortly after he arrives in Nassau. It turns out that she is the mistress of Largo. Bond immediately lets Largo know that he is on to him by saying that he sees the spectre of defeat over his shoulder while beating him at baccarat. Why doesn't Largo have him killed immediately? Who knows? The closest thing to a reason that we get is when femme fatale SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe (played wonderfully by Luciana Paluzzi) tells him that if Bond was killed that his superiors would know that the bombs were there. I don't think this is true since many people would like to see Bond dead, but anyway... I just think that it's a litlle silly when Largo invites him over to dinner. That's all. Speaking of which, Largo lives at an estate which is named Palmyra. It is a gorgeous piece of property with a view of the ocean. It also has a couple of pools with sharks in them. Who says that crime doesn't pay? Oh... and of course we're not even mentioning the Disco Volante.
The thing that really impresses in Thunderball is the underwater cinematography. Everything looks looks crystal clear and we are allowed to gaze upon the world below the water's surface freely. Everything from the hijacking of nuclear warheads, the underside of the yacht, the colorful corral reefs, crabs, fish, and swimming of the voluptuous Domino Derval looks beautiful. This is also kind of the problem with Thunderball. Let me explain... During the movie we see warheads hijacked underwater, Bond swimming underwater and meeting Domino, Bond swimming underwater to look at the Disco Volante up close, Largo throwing Bond into a pool with sharks and closing up the top, Bond swimming with Domino again, Bond swimming to find the crashed Vulcan, and the climatic fight - you guessed it... underwater. The main problem with filming everything underwater is that as great as these scenes look, you have no dialogue and everything moves slower. The scene with CIA frogmen against Largo's agents would be fantastic if the entire movie weren't waterlogged. You actually see how much faster things can be in the final fight between Bond and Largo in a speeding yacht which Bond looks like he's finally done for when...
In the end, it might sound like I didn't like this movie that much when in reality I did. I just think that director Terence Young was so impressed with how the underwater footage looked that he kept filming more and unfortunately turned it into a one trick pony at the end. The truth is that this has all of the elements of a great Bond movie. Sean Connery's performance is super cool as always, Largo is a memorable villain that tortures with cigars and ice cubes, Domino is a sexy Bond girl, Fiona Volpe is a devilishly perfect as the henchwoman, the soundtrack is great, and the underwater beathing device might not be real but I want one. Unfortunately, Largo not attempting to kill Bond right away makes him look stupid and I can't help but think that if the movie was shorter that it would be much better.
3 out of 5 - Average for a Bond movie. As I said above, there is a lot to like, but they could have cut off about 15 to 20 minutes of the underwater stuff. Honestly, about a half hour of this movie is underwater.
I also realize that I used the word underwater a lot. I was proving a point.
James Bond will return next Monday (sort of) in Casino Royale 1967.
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