The first few James Bond movies were very successful so it wasn't surprising that plans were made for future movies. The decision was made to make Thunderball as the fourth movie.
After dealing with a SPECTRE agent, James Bond was sent to a health clinic by M. While he was there, James noticed something with a few other patients at the clinic. At the same time, SPECTRE put a plan in motion that involve the theft of two nuclear weapons and threatening to destroy a major city if a payment was not made. Emilio Largo, Number 2 in the organization, was in charge of the operation. Bond and other agents were called in by M to work on recovering the weapons. Francois Derval, a NATO pilot was murdered as part of the plan. James noticed a picture of Derval's sister Domino who turned out to be involved with Emilio. James traveled to Nassau where he met Domino and Emilio. CIA agent Felix Leiter was also involved in the investigation. Another SPECTRE agent, Fiona Volpe was working with Emilio and tried to kill Bond.
Thunderball can mostly stand alone, so it should make sense if the Bond movies are watched out of order. SPECTRE, the organization behind things that happened in Dr. No and From Russia With Love, returned. Once again, Number 1 was pulling all the strings. This time, Emilio, who served as the second in command for the organization, was in charge of the operation. I think the things related to SPECTRE will still make sense to people who haven't seen the pervious movies. A few things, like the history between Bond and SPECTRE, will be more developed if the movies are watched in order.
There was a good amount of action and violence in Thunderball. I think there was a little more action than there had been in the first three movies. James again ended up in a fight with someone in the sequence before the opening credits. Once the main part of the movie actually got going, it didn't take much longer for the action to start picking up. James was involved in several fights and a few chases. He used a jetpack at one point and there was an explosion or two. Several scenes took place underwater, including the huge final confrontation scene late in the movie that involved many good guys helping James fight Largo and his henchmen. The violence that turned up in some scenes wasn't graphic, so it shouldn't bother viewers. Certain things were just hinted out and not actually shown.
The many underwater scenes in Thunderball were well done and looked really good. Some of the scenes just featured a few characters swimming with different fish while some of the other scenes were more complex. The version I just watched was from my DVD that has been digitally restored and the picture was very clear and beautiful. I have seen a few clips from some of the underwater scenes that weren't restored and it was much harder to make out everything and tell who was who even though some of the characters were wearing bright orange dive suits. Based on how some of the scenes looked in the unrestored footage, some people feel a bit frustrated when watching those scenes since it could be hard to tell characters apart.
I only recently learned about the complications connected to the rights for the plot for Thunderball. Ian Fleming had worked with some other men to try to develop a Bond screenplay several years before the first movie was made. Things didn't work out and Fleming went on to write the book Thunderball. A lawsuit was filed and another man, Kevin McClory was given rights to certain aspects of the plot. He eventually made another version of Thunderball in 1983 called Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery playing Bond again. I have seen that movie as well. I actually remembered more from that version than Thunderball. The plot was very similar, though there were differences. Never Say Never Again was released by a different studio and as far as I know, it isn't considered an official Bond movie. It is not part of the Ultimate James Bond Collection DVD set.
James was surrounded by beautiful women throughout Thunderball. He was working with one during the opening sequence, though it wasn't clear if they were also personally involved. When he was at the health spa, he put the moves on Patricia, a woman working at the clinic. She was trying to keep her distance, but he convinced her to jump into his bed. It did look like James used a bit of force to convince her the first time he kissed her. Later in the movie he was intimate with Fiona even though he knew she was working with the bad guys. He also had his way with Domino, making his sexual partner count for this movie three. There weren't any actual sex scenes in the movie and there wasn't any nudity though several of the women, and even James at times, showed off some skin. All of the sexual situations didn't add any romance to the movie. Miss Moneypenny made it clear she was still interested in James during her brief appearance.
Obviously James was the main character again. He was the same suave, elegant guy that he had been in the first three movies and there really wasn't anything new added. That was all right since he is a likable character overall despite his flaws. I do think he has flaws, the biggest being the way he treats and deals with women. They are disposable to him, and that aspect of his character may turn some viewers off. Sean Connery continued to be very good in the part. M, Miss Moneypenny, and Q all made short appearances.
Number 1, Ernst Stavro Blofeld was only partially shown again with his face remaining hidden. He was heard and only shown from the neck down, holding his white cat. Even though he wasn't shown much and didn't have a lot to do, it was made very clear that he was not a person to upset. He had some severe methods of dealing with operatives that failed him. Emilio as Number 2 employed some of the same ideas, feeding someone to his sharks that failed one of his assignments. Things with how Number 1 and Emilio dealt with situations seemed to be an influence on Mike Myers for his Austin Powers movies. Emilio made a decent villain, though he isn't one of the most well known Bond villains. His voice was dubbed for the final version of the movie, something that was done for other characters in all of the first three movies.
Domino was the beautiful young woman involved with Emilio that James decided to try to get on his side. She was very close to her brother. That was just about all that was shared about her and she seemed mostly to be around for the eye candy factor since she was frequently in a somewhat skimpy bathing suit. Claudine Auger was fine, though nothing special in the part. She was a former beauty queen. One or two of the previous movies also had former beauty queens cast. Fiona was a beautiful young woman who was working with Emilio. She had no problem using her sexuality to achieve her goals and she was very deadly when needed. Luciana Paluzzi handled the part fine.
Felix, the CIA agent, was back to help James in a few scenes. This time Felix was played by Rik Van Nutter. Patricia, the woman working at the health spa, was only around in a few scenes early in the movie. She really wasn't important to what was going on and Molly Peters didn't have much to do. Paula was another operative that James worked with some after he arrived at Nassau. She just seemed to be around as eye candy as well.
Claudine Auger - Domino
Martine Beswick - Paula
Adolfo Celi - Emilio Largo/Number 2
Sean Connery - James Bond
Bernard Lee - M
Desmond Llewelyn - Q
Lois Maxwell - Miss Moneypenny
Luciana Paluzzi - Fiona
Molly Peters - Patricia
Rik Van Nutter - Felix Leiter
Terence Young - Director
Thunderball has been released on a few different DVD versions with different extras. The copy that I own is part of the Ultimate James Bond DVD Set that came out a few years ago. The movies were digitally restored and each had a two disc DVD with several extras. There was also a booklet that had some information about the movie. I think the two disc version of the movies are availably individually as well. There are two commentaries with different people involved in the making of the movie that I haven't listened to. Most of the extras are on the second disc.
The Incredible World of James Bond was a 1965 special made for NBC. The special didn't focus on any one movie and instead shared some general information connected to all the movies. Some clips from the first four movies were shown while a narrator talked about different aspects of the movies. The special was in color, but the footage was a bit grainy. The success of the movies was brought up and some of the different merchandise was shown. Fleming was talked about as well and there was footage from an interview with him used too. There was some discussion on the background of Bond that had been shared in the books but missing from the movies. The special did show a bit of the filming for Thunderball.
A Child's Guide to Blowing Up a Motor Car was made by Ford and focused on the making of a scene in the movie that showed a car blown up. This was made like an adult was taking the child to the set, with the narrator explaining things to the child. It did seem like he was talking down to the audience a few times. It was interesting to see things connected with the making of that scene. On Location With Ken Adam had the former production designer talking about finding the different locations for the movie. He talked about finding the villa that was used for Emilio's home as well as the challenges with filming so many important sequences underwater. The footage looked like a home movie.
Bill Suitor: The Rocket Man Movies was focused on the jetpack that James briefly used at the beginning of the movie. It was an actual jetpack that had been developed by the military. A man talked about using the jetpack for the filming and there was some footage from when the scene was shot that was very grainy. Selling Bonds - Original 1965 Televison Advertisements had the black and white commercials for 007 slacks, a raincoat, and action pack toys. The Interactive Guide Into the World of Thunderball had the same type of menus that would cause short clips from the movie to play that had been used with the previous movies on those DVDs.
The Making of Thunderball focused in on the making of the movie. There were clips from the actual movie as well as bits of interviews with the cast and crew and some clips from interviews with Fleming. The mess over who owned the rights to the story was only briefly touched on and not fully explored. The fact that another version of the story was done as Never Say Never Again wasn't mentioned. The underwater filming as well as casting of some parts was discussed. It was also talked about how Connery was actually swimming in the pool with the sharks at one point, something that he was not thrilled about. It was interesting to learn more about the movie.
The Thunderball Phenomenon, made in 1995, focused on the popularity of Bond and Thunderball in particular. Some of the footage that had been used in some of the other featurettes was reused. There was even time spent on the making of the two specials. That didn't bother me too much, but it was a bit old to see the same bits again. The fact that there was a lot of publicity for the women in the movie was brought up. Some of the cast and crew did talk about the movie as well. The Secret History of Thunderball wasn't what I was expecting given the title of the extra. It just talked about the fact that there were slightly different versions of a few sequences in the different releases of the movie. A scene that was filmed but not used was also brought up, along with how the footage is now lost. I had really thought that this extra was going to focus in on the problems with the rights to the story.
Thunderball was another very entertaining Bond movies. People that enjoyed the first three movies, or who have enjoyed some of the newer movies, should give this one a chance.
Dr. No ~ From Russia With Love ~ Goldfinger ~ Thunderball ~ You Only Live Twice ~ On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ~ Diamonds are Forever ~ Live and Let Die ~ The Man With the Golden Gun ~ The Spy Who Loved Me ~ Moonraker ~ For Your Eyes Only ~ Octopussy ~ A View to a Kill ~ The Living Daylights ~ Licence to Kill ~ Goldeneye ~ Tomorrow Never Dies ~ The World is Not Enough ~ Die Another Day ~ Casino Royale ~ Quantum of Solace ~ James Bond: The Secret Life of 007 ~ Never Say Never Again ~
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