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5.0 out of 5 stars The Thunderball Phenomenon: Skip the Special Edition for the 2-Disc Ultimate Edition, March 16, 2007
This review is from: Thunderball (DVD)
In the wake of the enormous success of GOLDFINGER, THUNDERBALL became one of the most anticipated films in cinema history. "Bondmania" was at a fever pitch in the 1960s and that lended a certain air of confidence to the cast and crew. By Bond's fourth adventure, everyone was assured of success and everything was done on the largest scale possible. THUNDERBALL is often regarded, along with GOLDFINGER, as one of the better Bond films. It contains all of the elements of a good Bond flick at a time when Bond was not tired or clichéd. Bond's fourth adventure finds him taking to the sea, culminating in some of the most spectacular underwater fight footage ever recorded. And with Terence Young once again taking the director's chair after his temporary hiatus, the audience and the film is in good hands.

After the opening "gun barrel" sequence, re-shot for the first time in widescreen format with Sean Connery playing the part, we are greeted with the opening pre-credits "teaser." Audiences loved GOLDFINGER's teaser and the producers knew that they would have to arise to the occasion. We find Bond in France discreetly attending the funeral of Colonel Jacques Bouvar, SPECTRE's Number Six, who we learn is personally responsible for the death of two of Bond's colleagues. Thanks to Bond's sharp eyes, he determines that the Colonel has faked his own death and Bond makes it a priority to finish the job personally. After a brutal fight sequence, Bond strangles Bouvar and escapes using a jet pack. The Bell Rocket Belt used was a functioning jet pack, capable of a flight time of twenty one seconds. The scene is spectacular, all the more so because of the real jet pack. Bond makes his way to his waiting Aston Martin DB5 (first seen in GOLDFINGER) and prevents his enemies from reaching him with the use of rear-firing water canons--a new feature of the DB5. The water rushes over the screen and seamlessly morphs into the opening credits. Maurice Binder serves up a great title sequence featuring the naked silhouettes of female swimmers being chased by armed scuba divers. The colors are rich and vibrant and maintain the visual themes of the previous title sequences. Tom Jones belts out the title track, containing some awkward lyrics about our protagonist. I suppose it's hard to work Thunderball into song lyrics, leaving us only with "He Thunderball."

The plot of the film is, once again, larger than life and would end up being a frequently copied and parodied theme. SPECTRE, this time represented by one-eyed Number Two, Monsieur Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi), has managed to penetrate NATO forces and hijack two nuclear missiles. SPECTRE threatens to destroy two cities if NATO does not agree to cough up 280 million. It is described as SPECTRE's most ambitious project to date. Blofeld makes his second appearance, though once again we cannot see his face, in a secret French lair. The set is wonderful, containing a long table with all of SPECTRE's top officials present. Here we meet Numbers Seven, Ten, Five (obviously, they have replaced the previous Number Five of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE), Nine, and Eleven. We also get a sense of the range of SPECTRE's activities (blackmail, assassination, crime consultation, and narcotics) and also the brutal efficiency of Number One, who kills Number Nine on suspicion of embezzlement. It is a sign to all those present of what the consequences of failure are. Number Two must not fail in his NATO plans!

The first part of the film is filled with wonderful espionage as we learn how SPECTRE has penetrated NATO security. The actual hijacking of the missiles is spectacular. After SPECTRE has transmitted its demands to Britain, MI6 is called into action to find those missiles at all costs. All of the 00 agents are called in on this one and sent to different parts of the world to try and discover the hiding place before it is too late. Bond asks to be reassigned to Nassau because he believes he has a lead on the case, stemming from his experiences early on in the film. Of course, his instincts are correct and soon Bond finds himself playing a game of cat and mouse with Emilio Largo, who is all to aware of who Bond is and what he intends to do. What follows is a terrific storyline in which Bond inches his way closer to Largo's operation to discover the villain's secrets, with all of the destruction, love-making, and mayhem that entails.

Many have complained that THUNDERBALL is too long (at 130 minutes) and that the last half hour of the film is incredibly slow. Shot entirely underwater, the last bit of the film can seem long due to the slow movement of underwater action. But I do not think its pace suffers at all. I can remember seeing the film on television and thinking that it was a bit dull. But with the enhanced sound of the score pushing the beautifully restored images of the Ultimate Edition, I believe these sequences shine. They truly look spectacular and it is certainly the most ambitious underwater fight sequence I've ever seen. A seemingly endless supply of divers swim from all angles, launching an equally endless supply of harpoons at each other. The underwater images are surprisingly clear and we can honestly say that we haven't seen anything quite like it before (or since). Bond breaks new ground here and I think the action is as suspenseful as ever. In fact, the lack of sound underwater (besides the score) can actually increase the tension of the moment, in a manner reminiscent of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, produced three years later).

Connery, once again, is impeccable as Bond. Reunited with director Terence Young, whom many say is the real inspiration for Bond's class and sophistication, Connery plays the role with a renewed sense of vigor and style. I particularly enjoyed the increasing chemistry between Q (Desmond Llewelyn) and Connery. If they were slightly antagonistic in GOLDFINGER, they are thoroughly annoyed with each other here. Q is back with a host of new gadgets suited to the underwater nature of the film: a homing device pill that Bond can swallow, a watch that doubles as a Geiger counter, a waterproof camera that doubles as a Geiger counter, a mini signal flare, and a small rebreather (capable of giving Bond an extra few minutes of air underwater in a pinch). Bond is fitted with these devices in the field and, naturally, they all get put to use before the film is out.

The Bond girls in THUNDERBALL are some of the most beautiful Bond girls of all. Former Miss France, Claudine Auger, plays the main role of Domino Derval, an absolutely stunning beauty who proves to be both elegant and athletic. Her beauty and grace remind me of Audrey Hepburn. She is everything a Bond girl can hope to be. Opposite her is the film's female protagonist, femme fatale Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi), a deadly girl who seduces Bond (or is it Bond who seduces her?). Unfortunately, their play is not long lived, for the girl capable of stopping traffic with her beauty is also capable of stopping bullets--particularly when Bond throws her deliberately into their path! Also of Bond girl note is Bond's assistant, Paula Caplan, played by Martine Beswick. Bond fans will remember her as first appearing in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE as Zora the gypsy dancer.

Our villain Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi), for my tastes, is a bit bland. Perhaps it is because he seems merely SPECTRE's pawn, but Largo seems to lack the necessary evil of his predecessors. Of course, he is evil. But he is out for blackmail money and doesn't seem personally invested in the affair other than to generate profit for SPECTRE. Besides his personal shark pool and his excellent taste for women, there really isn't much going for him. Indeed, Bond's immediate threats in this film seem to revolve around the dangers of being underwater--hand grenades used as depth charges, killer sharks, and an army of henchmen armed with powerful harpoons--rather than from menacing villains and uniquely skilled henchmen. Whatever the case, THUNDERBALL still manages to be a roaring success and the action is still quite good. It won't be the last time that the evil villains are left a little underdeveloped.

All in all, I believe THUNDERBALL is one of the best of the Bond series. Connery is fantastic in his role, Terence Young's directing is superb, the women are some of the most beautiful we have seen yet, and the action breaks new ground in special effects. Make sure that you get the 2-disc Ultimate Edition set. The Ultimate Edition, like all of these releases, is absolutely wonderful. The DTS sound is amazing and really bring the action and John Barry's terrific score to life. The picture is amazing and blows the old television and DVD releases out of the water (I had to say it). Plus, it is packed with extras, including a "Making of" documentary, a documentary about the "Thunderball Phenomenon" created by the film, and a 45 minute television production released at the time exploring "The World of James Bond." I highly recommend it to any Bond fan or anyone interested in classic action pictures. THUNDERBALL holds up well to the test of time.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 27, 2007 7:45:05 AM PDT
Wuchak says:
Your right about the "Bond women" in THUNDERBALL, some of the BEST in the entire series, but you forgot to mention one important beauty: The blond Gym attentant Pat.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2007 1:02:19 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on May 5, 2008 10:13:09 AM PDT]
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Location: Portland, OR United States

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