Following the mammoth success of Goldfinger. Thunderball becomes just as huge upon its release. In some ways bigger than its predecessor.Thunderball is truly the peak of 007 and the spy craze of the 1960s. Connery provides in my opinion his best performance as 007. Terrence Young makes his return to the directors chair as legal issues allow Kevin Mclory to product the movie.
Legal Issues: Before I begin with the plot I want to get into the legal issues involving Thunderball. In the late 50s as the Bond novels were becoming big sellers. Ian Fleming the creator of the character desired to have a James Bond movie made. Fleming partnered up with producer Kevin McClory and screenwriter Jack Whittingham. The film never got off the ground and in 1961 Flemming used the screenplay for the basis of the Thunderball novel. McClory and Whittinham were not credited in the novel and both sued and received damages and credit in future releases of the book. When Thunderball was announced to be the next Bond film following Goldfinger Broccoli and Saltzman agreed with McClorly to make the film. McClory is credited as Producer the only time in the series which neither Broccoli or Saltzman is not credited as the producer. Both serve as Executive Producers on the film. Jack Whittinham is credited for the original screenplay which was adapted by long time Bond screenwriter Richard Mabaulm and John Hopkins. McClory, Whittinghan and Flemming are credited for coming up with the original story. Further lawsuits followed the film which allowed McClory to film another version of the story after 10 years had passed which lead to the 1983 film Never Say Never Again which featured Sean Connery reprising the role of James Bond 12 years after his final role in the officially produced series by EON.
With all the legal issues out of the way lets move onto the movie.
The Plot: The film begins in France with Bond and a unnamed ally possibly a French Agent scouting out the funeral for SPECTER #6 Jacques Bouvar. We see a close up of JB on the coffin which continues a theme in the early Bond films of teasing the death of James Bond. Bond spots the Bouvar is not dead and that he is hiding in drag as a widow.Bond then confronts Bouvar which results in a great fight scene. Bob Simmons the long serving Stunt Man of the Bond Films portrays Bouvar in this scene. Connery and Simmons really give a physical effort in this fight. Watching it now the edits are obvious and you can clearly notice the punches missing the other person something similar to the Rocky films. After killing Bouvar, Bond makes his escape via Jet pack which like the laser in Thunderball marked the first time a real jet pack was used in a film. Bond and his ally then escape in the DB5
In France SPECTER #2 Emilo Largo portrayed by Adolfo Celi is seen entering a SPECTER meeting. Here the main plot of the film is revealed were SPECTER plan to steal to nuclear bombs and hold Europe hostage and threaten to use both bombs if they aren’t payed their ransom.
Bond is sent to a health clinic. While undergoing massage therapy Bond meets Count Lippe, Bond notices a Tong symbol on Lippe’s hand which he quickly covers when he notices Bond has seen it. Bond then contacts Mi6 to check into this but seeing Bond is not on
duty this can’t be done while on the phone Bond sees his nurse Pat Fearing and Lippe leave the clinic. Bond then goes to Lippes room to investigate. While leaving Bond is spotted by Lippes neighbor who is bandaged after plastic surgery. While Bond is in a spinal traction machine Lippe puts the machine up to its maximum in an attempt to kill Bond. Bond is saved by Fearing which results in Bond using this as blackmail to well have sex with her.
François Derval is seen with Fiona Volpe. Derval is shot when a man looking exactly like him knocks at the door. The man who kills Derval was the same plastic surgery patient that saw Bond leave Lippes room earlier. So Angelo a SPECTER agent who had the surgery to look like Derval takes his place in flying a Vulcan which contains the two Nuclear Bombs. Angelo then kills the crew and lands the plane in the Bahamas. Angelo is then killed by Largo for wanting more money than he was offered. Largo and his men then take the two bombs from the plane.
Bond then leaves the health clinic as all 00 agents are called for a briefing. Lippe tails Bond but Lippe is killed when his car is blown up by two rockets fired from a bike driven by Volpe. At the briefing the agents are filled in on SPECTERS plan via a tape recording from SPECTER in which they plan to destroy a major US or UK city if they do not receive 100 Million Pounds in uncut Diamonds from NATO. Bond recognizes Derval from the photo included in the mission briefing. Bond then asks M to travel to Nassau to investigate.
So now in Nassau were the rest of the film will take place. Bond begins to follow Dommino the sister of Derval. Dommino is portrayed by Claudine Auger who was Miss France in 1958. Bond who with his partner Paula who is portrayed by returning actress to the series Martine Beswick who played one of the gypsys in From Russia With Love. Bond delibratly unplugged the motor of his boat so he can hitch a ride back to shore with Dommino. Once back on shore Bond and Dommino have lunch which then leads to the casino scene that night. Bond challenges Largo at cards which Bond wins. Bond leaves the game and takes Dommino dancing in order to get closer to her so he can get information on Largo.
Bond returns to his hotel the next day and uses a tape recorder hidden in a book and hears someone has snuck into the room. Felix Leiter then enters the film who has been seen throughout the film hiding in the background. Leiter this time is played back Rik Van Nutter who like most of the future Leiters is just there and adds very little. Bond hits Leiter is the stomach just before he says 007. Bond enters the bathroom and attacks the man hidden in the bathtub. The man is let go and returns to Largo, Largo then kills the man for failing in killing Bond an is thrown into a pool of sharks.
Bond, Paula and Leiter meet with Pinder who is another assistant on the mission. Q makes his apperance and gives Bond his gadgets which include a Geiger Counter, A Breathing Device for the water, An Underwater Camera and a flare gun. That night Bond goes to investigate around Largos yacht. He is seen by Largo and his men who try to kill Bond. Bond makes his way back to land and ditches his swim gear. He hitches a ride back to the hotel from Volpe who increasingly drives the car faster and faster.
The next day Bond and Leiter investigate around the island for clues as to where the plane landed. Bond then heads to Largos compound. While their Bond and Largo discuss Largos boat and how fast it can go Bond is then invited to the Junkanoo by Largo to be his guest. While Bond is at Largos compound Volpe enters Bonds hotel room and has 2 of Largos men kill Paula.
While at the Junkanoo with Dommino, Leiter informs Bond about the death of Paula and Bond goes off to investigate. Bond and Pinder have the power cut at Largos compound so Bond can get inside without being seen. Bond gets into a fight with one of Largos men and are trapped in the pool as Largo seals it shut. Bond uses his breathing device to escape. Largo unleashes his sharks to get Bond but Bond escapes and heads back to his hotel. Upon entering his room Bond finds Volpe in his bath. The two then have sex and after Bond is kidnapped by Volpe and Largos two henchmen. Bond escapes the car he is held in and makes a run for it though the junkanoo celebrations though Bond is shot in the leg while making his escape. Bond hides in the Kiss Kiss Club. Largos men hide around the club and Bond eyes the men around while dancing with Volpe. Bond notices a gun man hiding behind a curtian and as the an is about to shot turns and the bullet hits Volpe.
Bond and Letier do a little more investigating of the ocean. When they come across the same bred of Shark Largo has in his pool Bond goes underwater to look around some more. Bond finds the wreckage of the Vulcon plane and finds the dogtag of Domminios brother. Bond goes out in the water again and finds Dommino. Upon heading back to shore Bond informs her about the death of her brother as he hands her the dogtag. Here you can notice a shaking in Bonds hand as he hands her the tag and then he quickly puts his glasses on to hide his emotion. After learning of her brothers death and Largos involvement with it Dommino agrees to help Bond. Bond gives her the Geiger Counter to use on Largos boat to see if the bombs are on board.
Bond sneaks into Largos compound through a hidden entrance told to him by Dommino. Bond disquises himself as one of Largos men and learns of his plan to destory Miami Beach. Bond is found out and is attacked by one of Largos men underwater. Bond escapes and hies in a rocky cavern. Bond uses his flare gun to get the attention of Leiters heliopter. Bond tells Leiter to contact the Coast Guard and order them to send troops to attack Largo and his men.
Dommino returns to Largos ship and acctivates the Geiger Co
unter and it does in fact indicate the bombs are on board. Largo holds Dommino captive after he discovers her with the Geiger Counter and that she is aiding Bond. After that the giant underwater battle begins with the Coast Guard and Bond taking on Largo and his men. Largo makes a break for it to his boat with Bond after him. Largos men surrender to the Coast Guard. Largo takes control of his ship which still has one bomb aboard. Bond finds his way to the cockpit and fights off one of Largos men. Largo has Bond cornered with a gun and it looks to be all over for Bond until Dommino shoots Largo with a spear. Bond Dommino and Largos Nuclear Physist escape Bond and Domminio swim to a raft which is deployed by the Navy so Bond can connect to a US Navy Plane which pulls Bond and Dommino off the raft.
Thoughts: The one downside to Thunderball and in someways a positive is the underwater scenes. While presented well on film in how they were shot the actual scenes take way too long and can get quite boring to sit through. Aside from that Thunderball is a very good movie. Using the formula from Goldfinger it works very well. Connery is great once again in what would be his last great performance as Bond. Adolfo Celi looks like the classic Bond villian with the eye patch which would be parrodied in the Austin Powers franchise in the role of #2 portrayed by Robert Wanger.
Verdict: Thunderball sits in the middle of the Connery films. While Russia and Goldfinger have top spot Thunderball sits next to Dr No as the middle films. If the underwater scenes were a little shorter and not as long than Thunderball is a little higher up in the pecking order. Still it is a fun movie and is still Bond at his peak within the 1960s.
Sean Connery As James Bond
Claudine Auger as Dommino
Adolfo Celi As Emilo Largo
Luciana Paluzzi as Fiona Volpe
Rik Van Nutter as Felix Leiter
Bernard Lee as M
Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny
Desmond Llywellyn as Q
Directed by Terrence Young
Produced by Kevin McClory