Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bondathon: Thunderball (1965)

Hey guys Bond movie yeah whatever.

Now here's where things get a bit hectic. You see, the next film, Thunderball, was originally supposed to be the original Bond film. It was written as a screenplay back in the late fifties, when black people were still spoken of in hushed voices. It was written for a producer by the name of Kevin McClory. However, Kevin was unable to make a Bond movie sound successful, and the deal fell through. Not wanting to waste the story, Fleming used the story for a book. Which obviously caused a provocation with McClory. The court proceedings were what led to Dr. No being filmed first. They eventually settled out of court, with McClory getting partial credit for the screenplay.

Thunderball is the fourth James Bond film, having come out in 1965. Understandably so, it feel especially “Bond-y” if that makes sense this early in the series. By this point all the staples have been established, but they aren’t tired, but exciting. It’s also probably why they remade it like twenty years later. When they eventually figured out how to make the damn thing, they brought Terence Young back, after Guy Hamilton got tired after just one film. The leftover goodwill of Goldfinger is apparent as well; adjusted for inflation, Thunderball is arguably the most successful Bond film of all time, as the $141million it made back in 65 was actually worth more than the billion Skyfall just made. It kind of stands as a monument to how great the series was doing at the time; its one of the few Bond films to win an academy award; in this case for visual effects.


Photo Credit: United Artists/MGM
Date: 1965
Director: Terence Young
Bond: Sean Connery
Number: 4

Starring: Adolpho Celi, Claudine Auger, Luciana Paluzzi, Rick Van Nutter, Martine Veswick, Molly Peters, Bernard Lee.
The one with: Sharks, the Bahamas, nuclear bombs, scuba diving, that guy with the eyepatch, SPECTRE

The film starts out with Bond spending the day at a spa, to rest and heal his wounds after his last mission, in which he assassinated a member of SPECTRE who had killed a few of his colleagues. It’s kind of weird, I may be wrong, but I think this is the first time Bond’s really been shown as an assassin, it’s the first mission where his only objective is just to kill some guy. Anyway, his next mission is literally to just spend a day or two maxing and relaxing at a spa. Of course, James Bond can never really relax, and instead spends the whole day sexually harassing his masseuse (who, naturally, does not put up much of a fight), and snooping around the clinic when he thinks some of the guests are acting odd. Normally, this sounds like the sort of problems you’d have with someone suffering from PTSD, but I suppose it doesn’t count for Bond because he’s so cool about it you get the impression he’s only doing it because he’s bored. Also, he’s right, some of the people there are up to no good, which he notices when he sees someone drop a corpse right in the middle of the spa.
            So, naturally, when his vacation’s over and he returns to MI6 to find that the dead guy in question is a suspect in the theft of two nuclear missiles, he offers to go investigate, which M is okay with, as long as he finds out where the missiles are by the time the weekend’s over. You see, as it turns out, the guy may have been working for SPECTRE, you know, those guys we forgot about in the last movie, who are now blackmailing England and the US for no less than one million dollars, otherwise they will blow up an unspecified major city.

So now Bond has to go to the Bahamas to fight, screw, shoot, screw, kill, play, drink, and screw whomever he needs to in order to find the warheads, or else millions of people will die. Or the government just loses a million dollars to directly finance terrorism. Either one. Along the way he teams up with Felix again, spends a lot of time underwater, and meets with two bigwigs from SPECTRE, Emilio Largo, the second-in-command of the whole organization, and femme fatale Fiona Volpe, both of whom are willing to use as many guns, sharks, and sex as they can to stop Bond. Well most of the sex just comes from Fiona.


Sean Connery is still great as Bond, as usual, and he’s having a lot more fun here as he kills, fights, and near-rapes several people to get his quarry. He’s a bit more at ease here, and while we don’t see anything too new, we don’t really care.

The Villain

I’m not a huge fan of Emilio Largo. He’s not an incredibly interesting villain; he’s just pretty standard. He wants a lot of money, he’s related to the love interest, he works for SPECTRE, and he hangs out with Bond when they’re not trying to kill each other.
Photo Credit: United Artists/MGM
His only real quirk is that he really likes sharks, which is the only thing about him even remotely interesting, because sharks are fucking awesome. He has a whole pool full of Tiger Sharks (he calls them something else, but they’re totally Tiger Sharks) that he enjoys feeding people too. Klaus Maria Brandauer portrays him as just a creepy foreign scientist, without any particularly interesting characterization.

Bond Girls

Photo Credit: United Artists/MGM
Domino Derval: I rank Domino Derval, the sister of the dead man Bond found, as the main Bond girl because she’s the actual love interest. Claudine Auger is pretty sexy, as evidenced by having won “Miss France”, and there’s a scene where she’s tied up. The only problem is, being a model (in the days before models had to have acting talent), she’s a dreadful actress. But she doesn’t have to do too much acting so, who cares. Luciana Paluzzi, who plays Fiona Volpe, is arguably as sexy as Auger, but a better actress, and her relationship with Bond is a little more interesting considering they both want to kill each other. She’s also a much probably a better villain than Largo, and it’s kind of a shame she didn’t replace him as the main antagonist.

Music: "Thunderball" by Tom Jones

This song is okay. Just okay, really. It’s well produced, and Tom Jones is a great singer, but the lyrics are kind of dumb (“so he strikes like Thunderball?”) and it’s kind of slow. The opening is also very bland, its just a bunch of shadows against an underwater background.
Johnny Cash recorded a song for use in the film, but it wasn’t used because it sounded too country-ish, but it’s probably the superior song.


In spite of its enormous success, Thunderball was, during the time of its release and still today, considered by most people to be a bit of a disappointment compared to the previous films, all though still great in its own right. I can sort of see why; for one thing, it takes a long-ass time to really get going. Most Bond films have that one opening scene that has nothing to do with the rest of the film, but this one has that, and then another like twenty minutes of Bond just chilling out in a spa. It’s not entirely boring, but it slows the film down, and I don’t think the plot actually gets started until Bond reaches the Bahamas, which is like an hour into the film.
There’s a lot more Bond women this time around. There’s the asian chick he flirts with in the beginning, there’s Domino, the love interest, there’s his fellow agent who follows him to the Bahamas, there’s Fiona Volpe, and there’s the women in the spa. Bond probably has more sex in this film than in any other film so far, at about five sex scenes, one of which is underwater, which I cannot comment on as I have yet to try it. The problem is, it gets kind of stupid. Most of the sexual tension from From Russia With Love is gone and the scenes with women are so contrived they feel they’re straight out of a porno. But I suppose that’s just the point of a Bond movie and, fuck it, the women are pretty attractive.
            Having said that, this is still a pretty cool movie. I know it’s been mentioned a lot of times that like half the movie is underwater, and that the special effects haven’t aged well, but I actually disagree. I thought the whole underwater angle was new and separated it from the other films in a cool way, and I was often fascinated by how they managed to get the shots they did. There are several scenes where actors are shown swimming with live Tiger Sharks in the frame, which is awesome (although several of the sharks look like its hurt, which is not awesome). However, it does get a bit old after a while. It’s a campier Bond (this is the first appearance of the jetpack), but not to the point of ridiculousness. There’s still an essence of grit. It’s also probably the funniest Bond I’ve seen so far, with several lines that made me crack up. However, I can’t say that all these were intentional. The part where a random guy tries to kill Bond by making the incredibly awkward, hump-the-table machine he’s on go crazy was a lot more hilarious than suspenseful. Also Bond like tortures a guy in a spa machine for some reason. I forget why. Was it the same guy?
            Even though it takes forever for the plot to get going, when it does it still carries with it some depth. This is probably the first time that Bond is responsible for saving millions of people (or, again, just millions of dollars), and although he doesn’t save the world or anything, it’s shown that the stakes are high just by the scene with M, in which Bond is brought into a huge war room, as opposed to the close quarters of M’s office.


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