Thunderball (1965)

Thunderball (1965)

“Do you like wild things, James Bond — Mr. Bond?”

Synopsis:
Special Agent James Bond (Sean Connery) is sent to the Bahamas to find two atomic bombs stolen by SPECTRE, whose “Number 2” leader (Adolfo Celi) is threatening to blow up Miami unless they receive ransom money. While there, Bond seduces both the sister (Claudine Auger) of a man (Paul Stassino) who’s been impersonated and killed by SPECTRE, and Celi’s ruthless mistress (Luciana Paluzzi).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • James Bond Films
  • Nuclear Threat
  • Sean Connery Films
  • Spies

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “fourth James Bond film” — released after Dr. No (1962), From Russia With Love (1963), and Goldfinger (1964) — “takes forever to get started and has too many long underwater sequences during which it’s impossible to tell what’s going on,” but is “nevertheless… an enjoyable entry in the Bond series.” He notes that “Sean Connery is particularly appealing as Bond,” given that “he projects more confidence than in other films in the series”, and adds that “Celi makes a strong, sophisticated nemesis,” “Auger is a top-grade (though neglected) Bond heroine,” and Paluzzi is “gorgeous and deadly [as] Fiona Volpe.” Peary argues that while the “film has no great scene”, it’s “entertaining as long as the actors stay above water.” I’m essentially in agreement with Peary’s assessment, though I think he gives the underwater sequences short shrift: while there’s far too much of this footage included, they’re well-handled and impressively shot.

For those who are interested, there is quite a bit more to learn about the history of this erstwhile box-office hit — see, for example, both TCM’s article and Wikipedia. While many viewers remain devotees — Rotten Tomatoes ranks it as #6 out of the 26 total films in the franchiseDVD Savant is most definitely not among this crowd. As he writes in his review, while Thunderball “has some of the series’ most impressive filmic set pieces,” it’s bedeviled by “an unusually sloppy structure” and often “goes off on frequent tangents to work flashy gadgets and action into the story.” He further argues that while “the producers knew they had the essential ingredients for a hit” they “no longer seemed to care about crafting a superior film.” On a more positive note, he points out that “John Barry’s score is one of his best,” that “Paluzzi makes a delightfully sexy villainess, while she lasts,” and that “the photography is sleek throughout.” While all-purpose film fanatics don’t need to check this one out, they may be curious to watch it once — and hardcore fans of the series surely already have their own firmly entrenched opinions.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Unique sets
  • Fine cinematography

  • John Barry’s score

Must See?
No, though of course Bond fans won’t want to miss it.

Links:

5 thoughts on “Thunderball (1965)

  1. Not must-see – but, most likely, true Bond fans see every Bond film, so…

    Tom Jones sings the bombastic but misleading theme song – which alludes to Thunderball as a man (likely an indirect reference to Bond himself) when we later learn it’s an operation code name.

    The opening twenty minutes or so make for a nicely complicated exposition but, once the plot settles in, this is standard 007 material until the lively (but a bit overlong) underwater battle sequence which more or less wraps things up.

    Connery gets to say a lot of mildly glib things during uninspired repartee but he does get at least one snappy remark (“Mind if my friend sits this out? She’s just dead.”) – and he does get to have sex underwater (“I hope we didn’t frighten the fish.”) Auger makes for an alluring partner but the villains here are surprisingly dull.

  2. A fine Bond film. I’ve never found it overlong and it was the most seen Bond on first release (a record I believe it still holds) and the most financially successful when adjusted for inflation up until Skyfall (2012) dethroned it.

    It also, for me anyway, ends Connery’s strong run of films; the last to knock it out of the park. I love the sense of worldwide alarm on display here and the villains (Luciana Palluzzi, Adolfo Celli) are amongst the very best to my mind.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  3. Admin:

    Bond doesn’t seduce the masseuse (Molly Peters) in the Bahamas, he does that at the Shrublands health clinic in the UK which is where he stumbles on an aspect of the SPECTRE plot involving Count Lippe (Guy Doleman).

  4. Yes, good point – I’ve deleted Peters from the synopsis because there’s no quick way to add her in!

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