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Thunderball (1965)

Thunderball is a 1965 spy film and the fourth in the James Bond series to be produced by Eon Productions, starring Sean Connery as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. It is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming, which in turn was based on an original screenplay by Jack Whittingham. It was directed by Terence Young, with its screenplay by Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins. The movie would have been the first of the Bond series if not for legal disputes over copyright issues.

The film follows Bond’s mission to find two NATO atomic bombs stolen by SPECTRE, which holds the world to ransom for £100 million in diamonds, in exchange for not destroying an unspecified major city in either the United Kingdom or the United States (later revealed to be Miami). The search leads Bond to the Bahamas, where he encounters Emilio Largo, the card-playing, eye patch-wearing SPECTRE Number Two. Backed by CIA agent Felix Leiter and Largo’s mistress, Domino Derval, Bond’s search culminates in an underwater battle with Largo’s henchmen. The film had a complex production, with four different units and about a quarter of the film consisting of underwater scenes. Thunderball was the first Bond film shot in widescreen Panavision and the first to have running time of over two hours.

Thunderball was associated with a legal dispute in 1961 when former Ian Fleming collaborators Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham sued him shortly after the 1961 publication of the novel, claiming he based it upon the screenplay the trio had earlier written in a failed cinematic translation of James Bond. The lawsuit was settled out of court and Bond film series producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, fearing a rival McClory film, allowed him to retain certain screen rights to the novel’s story, plot, and characters, and for McClory to receive sole producer credit on this film; Broccoli and Salzman were instead credited as Executive Producers.

The film was a success, earning a total of $141.2 million worldwide, exceeding the earnings of the three previous Bond films. In 1966, John Stears won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and production designer Ken Adam was also nominated for a BAFTA award. Thunderball is the most financially successful film of the series when adjusting for ticket price inflation. Some critics and viewers showered praise on the film and branded it a welcome addition to the series, while others complained of the repetitively monotonous aquatic action and prolonged length. In 1983, Warner Bros. released a second film adaptation of the novel under the title Never Say Never Again, with McClory as executive producer.

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Screen: 007’s Underwater Adventures:Connery Plays Bond in ‘Thunderball’

Published: December 22, 1965

THE popular image of James Bond as the man who has everything, already magnificently developed in three progressively more compelling films, is now being cheerfully expanded beyond any possible chance of doubt in this latest and most handsome screen rendering of an Ian Fleming novel, “Thunderball.”
Now Mr. Fleming’s superhero, still performed by Sean Connery and guided through this adventure by the director of his first two, Terence Young, has not only power over women, miraculous physical reserves, skill in perilous maneuvers and knowledge of all things great and small, but he also has a much better sense of humor than he has shown in his previous films. And this is the secret ingredient that makes “Thunderball” the best of the lot.
This time old Double-Oh Seven, which is Mr. Bond’s code number in the British intelligence service he so faithfully and tirelessly adorns, is tossing quips faster and better then he did even in “From Russia With Love,” and he is viewing his current adventure with more gaiety and aplomb.
I think you will, too. In this creation of superman travesty, which arrived yesterday at the reopened Paramount, the Sutton, Cinema II and twoscore or more other theaters in the metropolitan area. Bond is engaged in discovering who hijacked two nuclear bombs in a NATO aircraft over Europe and is secretly holding them for a ransom of £100 million.
That in itself is fairly funny — fanciful and absurd in the same way as are all the problems that require the attention of Bond. But what Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins as the script writers have done is sprinkle their gaudy fabrication with the very best sight and verbal gags.
“Let my friend sit this one out.” Bond asks politely of two disinterested young men as he places his dancing partner in a chair beside them at a table in a nightclub in Nassau. The gentlemen nod permission. “She’s just dead,” he explains.
Or when Bond leaps from a hovering helicopter wearing a skindiver’s suit of extraordinary mechanical complexity to engage in an underwater war between SPECTRE and C.I.A. frogmen in the climactic scene of the film, he flips the conclusive comment: “Here comes the kitchen sink!”
In addition to being funny, “Thunderball” is pretty, too, and it is filled with such underwater action as would delight Capt. Jacques-Yves Cousteau. The gimmick is that the airplane carrying the hijacked bombs has been ditched, sunk and covered with camouflaging on a coral reef off Nassau. And to get this information and then find and explore the sunken plane. Bond has to do a lot of skindiving, with companions and alone.
The amount of underwater equipment the scriptwriters and Mr. Young have provided their athletic actors, including an assortment of beautiful girls in the barest of bare bikinis, is a measure of the splendor of the film. Diving saucers, aqualungs, frogman outfits and a fantastic hydrofoil yacht that belongs to the head man of SPECTRE are devices of daring and fun.
So it is in this liveliest extension of the cultural scope of the comic strip. Machinery of the most way-out nature become the instruments and the master, too, of man. “I must be six inches taller,” Bond wryly quips at one point after he has been almost shaken to pieces on an electric vibrating machine. The comment is not without significance. This is what machines do to men in these extravagant and tongue-in-cheek Bond pictures. They make distortions of them.
Mr. Connery is at his peak of coolness and nonchalance with the girls. Adolfo Celi is piratical as the villain with a black patch over his eye. Claudine Auger, a French beauty winner, is a tasty skindiving dish and Luciana Paluzzi is streamlined as the inevitable and almost insuperable villainous girl.
The color is handsome. The scenery in the Bahamas is an irresistible lure. Even the violence is funny. That’s the best I can say for a Bond film.

My Review


Bond Goes Fishing This is not a particular favorite of mine. The presence of four outstanding beautiful women (namely Luciana Paluzzi, Martine Beswick, Molly Peters and Claudine Auger) cannot compensate for a plodding paced movie that on paper seems to have all the necessary boxes checked. It starts promisingly enough, an entertaining mini-movie for the pre-titles which sees 007 donning a jetpack (apparently the US Army had this in their arsenal back then) moving on to some entertaining material at a health farm. One feels however that all this material was handled better in the 1983 adaptation NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN. One of my chief complaints is the climactic underwater fight scene, it is incredibly confused with overlong, which is not helped by a fight between Bond and the main villain where the editor for some unknown reason decided to speed up the film. Really if it wasn't for the presence of the four ladies there would be little reason to check this out.

Bond girl Appeal

About The Author


Born on the English-Scottish border I emigrated to the US after graduating college in 1995 and became a U.S. citizen in 2007. I have served in the U.S. military and my past positions include as an Assistant Managing Editor of The Washington Post Company, a technical writer working on technical documentation for both a construction company and a large government contractor, a graphic designer creating graphics in support of government contract proposals, and as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Navy. which included being assigned as the official writer for the Navy and DoD on the assumption ceremony of a new Secretary of the Navy. I am currently a Web Services Writer for a large government contractor in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

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