Thursday Night Movie Club
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Release Date: 22 December 1965

Director: Terence Young
Sean Connery
Claudine Auger
Adolfo Celi
Luciana Paluzzi
Rik Van Nutter
Guy Doleman
Molly Peters
Martine Beswick
Bernard Lee
Desmond Llewelyn
Lois Maxwell
Roland Culver
Earl Cameron
Paul Stassino
Rose Alba
James Bond
Domino Durval
Emilio Largo
Fiona Volpe
Felix Leiter
Count Lippe
Foreign Secretary
Madame Boitier
Thunderball movie poster Thunderball movie poster
Sean Connery as James Bond in ThunderballJames Bond Is Back... Bigger and Better! Well, bigger. Thunderball is the fourth James Bond film. After the excellence of Goldfinger, there is only one direction for the series to go. Thunderball succeeds on almost all levels. The only blemish is Adolfo Celi doesn't match up to Gert Frobe's standards.

007's mission is more devious, dangerous and possibly catastrohic. SPECTRE (The Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terror, Revenge and Extortion) is back in a big way with their most audacious plot yet. They are planning to hijack two NATO nuclear bombs and then hold the world random. Once the bombs are in SPECTRE's possession, they can be moved any where in the world. There is precious little time. Who better than the "00" section to be called in for this mission.

James Bond (Sean Connery) is slightly injured while on a mission in France. While recuperating at Shrublands, 007 stumbles upon SPECTRE's plot. His suspicions are aroused while spotting a strange tatoo on a fellow guest Count Lippe (Guy Doleman). Investigating the arrival of an ambulance late at night, Bond finds a corpse. Later, Bond learns that the corpse was Francois Durval who later that night boarded the NATO flight that was hijacked. To solve this dilemma, Bond requests his orders be changed to the Bahamas to determine if Durval's sister Domino (Claudine Auger) is somehow involved.

Underwater scene from ThunderballThunderball contains an interesting sequence not found in Bond films. There is an extended sequence showing all the steps involved as SPECTRE hijacks the plane, landing the plane in the ocean and the recovery and hiding of the plane and bombs. All of this happens without Bond being on the screen. A rather daunting task but the whole scene is carried out while keeping up the audience's interest.

Unfortunately, one element critical to Ian Fleming's novel is only hinted at in the movie. James Bond's suspicions involving millionaire playboy Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi) are not confirmed until the very last minute. Even 007 doensn't know if he is following a wild goose chase with an imminent nuclear attack hanging in the balance. The movie misses a prime opportunity to test Bond's mettle and his penchant for always being right. Much more suspense could have been developed on this front and resulting in an even better film than Goldfinger

The end result is still an excellent film. Terence Young is back as the director and he keeps the pace moving. Underwater sequences are difficult to film due to how slow the actors move. Young is more than capapble of handling the action although he does resort to shots of sea turtles and eels during the final battle sequence.

Sean Connery and Claudine Auger in ThunderballThe Bond girls don't quite match up to previous films. The best of the pack is Molly Peters as Helen, one of the therapists at Shrublands. She is sexy but doesn't take any B.S. from 007 or Count Lippe. But once Bond corners her in a shower and then later rubs her back with a mink glove, she purrs like a kitten in heat. Claudine Auger looks great in the mesh swim suits she dons but she isn't much of an actress. Luciana Paluzzi as Fiona volpe carries on the Pussy Galore mantle but, surprise, surprise, 007's charms aren't enough to convert her to the side of good and virtue. Oh well, you can't win them all. They are all very attractive so no real problems here.

Adolfo Celi as Emilio Largo in ThunderballThe only aspect that slightly derails Thunderball is main villain Emilio Largo. The character is great. Adolfo Celi's acting isn't. Either Celi is a bad actor or director Terence Young had him act like a stiff board on purpose. Celi's performance isn't charming and he isn't very nasty when he has every opportunity to do so. His rapport with Connery doesn't elevate the film. Celi goes through the motions. He gets the job done, efficiently but unemotional.

The main henchman Vargas (Philip Locke) is another mute. (Hey, if it worked before...) Vargas does not drink. Vargas does not smoke. Vargas does not like women. Vargas does not act! Other than premature balding, there is nothing sinsiter or nasty or evil or... with Locke's portrayal. Oddjob at least knew how to smile.

Luciana Paluzzi in ThunderballThunderball is a great film. It also includes another stellar theme song, this time Tom Jones belts out the title track... and then some. The song accompanies Maurice Binder's title sequence which includes silhouettes of nude women in all their glory. What's not to like? Well, the credits sometimes cover the best parts.

Unfortunately, Thunderball doesn't take any chances where there was ample opportunity to do so. The filmmakers and producers are becoming more interested in giving the audience what they want rather than giving the audience something new and unexpected. Still, this film is killer! Enjoy!