Wednesday, July 05, 2017


Thunderball ~ This is probably the second James Bond movie I ever saw, after Goldfinger, from back in the day when ABC would show Bond like every couple weeks on their movie of the week.  I remember thinking the ads the week preceding of Bond in a jet pack were pretty cool.  And Thunderball was the first Bond book I actually read (despite the librarian's disapproving frown), realizing that Ian Fleming's James Bond and his cinematic cousin were decisively two different people. 

Last year's TCM Classic Cruise showed a trio of early Bond films - this one, From Russia with Love, and one of my all-time favorites, Goldfinger - but rearranging schedules to see other events, dinner reservations, etc., made it impossible to see all three, even when they repeated them.  They just need to make the Cruise longer if (let's hope they do) they continue it.  I made it to Thunderball though, because priorities, you know.

This one, taking place partially in the Bahamas, seemed appropriate for a cruise traveling the Caribbean.  It is known as the film that sparked the legal dispute that fractured the franchise for decades, but it's also the biggest money maker, adjusting for inflation, and one of the best of the series. The humor is brief and sharp, this is mostly an action flick, but a fun action flick that is also deadly serious. I like it. This is Bond.

Thunderball, directed by Terrence Young, who also did Goldfinger, has James Bond uncovering a plot to steal atomic bombs and ransom them back to NATO.  The culprit?  Of course, it's SPECTRE.  Like I said, classic Bond, classic espionage.  Our villain this time out is Largo as played by Adolfo Celi (later dubbed), with Bond girl Domino played by Luciana Paluzzi. 

Sean Connery is, as always, on mark. Although I had to laugh, he runs through most of this film in bathing trunks the way the late Roger Moore sleepwalked through his last three or four in a tux.  M (Bernard Lee), Q (Desmond Llewelyn), and Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) are perfect maintaining their roles, and we get one of my favorite and most fun Felix Leiters in Rip Van Nutter.  I also loved the sense of a Team Bond in this installment, that he has support, just like a CW superhero.

The problem, as with many Bond films, is the dated sexism.  Sometimes you can get past it by seeing it as a product of its times, and sometimes, as is often the case with Thunderball, it just makes one cringe.  It's just really bad in this one.

In this viewing, especially after seeing how underwater filming was done on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on this cruise a decade before, I really marveled at the underwater combat scenes in Thunderball.  It's shameful that the same scenes years later are done so badly in the pseudo-remake Never Say Never Again.  You'd think the technology would have improved.  I was also stunned that there was almost no dialogue during the final fight at the end of the film, odd, but well done. 

I have to say I enjoyed this one more as an adult than as a kid, and infinitely more on the big screen.  One of the best, just like the theme by the great Tom Jones.  Recommended.

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