July 3, 2010 Leave a comment
Year: 1965. Both the U.S. and British premieres were held in December within a week of each other. For what it’s worth, Thunderball is the first Bond film that wasn’t originally a novel …kind of. It was also intended to be the first Bond film …kind of. In 1959, Ian Fleming had the idea of bringing his super spy to the big screen. He teamed up with Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham to write James Bond, Secret Agent but Fleming reportedly got fed up with both the screenwriting process and working with others. Feeling Bond was his, he took the screenplay, changed it a bit, and wrote the 1961 novel, “Thunderball.” McClory took legal action, claiming the story was his, and United Artist refused to touch the script or the book while legal proceedings were underway. Ipso facto, Dr. No (1962) became the first James Bond film. Thunderball was shelved until an out of court deal was struck in 1964. As a result of the deal, UA could go ahead with Fleming’s novel and McClory held onto the screenplay rights and later released a film based on what he called the “original concept,” the “unofficial” Bond movie Never Say Never Again (1983). Everybody got that?
Film Length: 2 hours 10 minutes
Bond Actor: Sean Connery. In August of 1965 the Beatles were the biggest band on the planet. To promote/ introduced their new single, they played the BBC program “Blackpool Night Out.” After performing a few hits, Ringo and John left the stage as George stepped to the microphone and introduced the brand spanking new never before heard song “Yesterday” by announcing “Paul McCartney of Liverpool, opportunity knocks.” The inside joke being, yes, the Beatles were the biggest thing in the world, but this was Paul, standing alone on stage playing a song that he alone wrote, and the other three Beatles knew they were, thanks to the ballad, about to become even bigger. After the smashing success of Goldfinger (1964), Sean Connery was a rock star in his own right, and it wasn’t a question of the new Bond being big, the question was how big. Many people created the international monster that was James Bond, but Connery knew all eyes were on him. He felt responsible for Bond, and he took his role as the face of the franchise seriously becoming physically invested. I’m a card carrying “out of the closet” heterosexual (You might not have asked, but I’m going to tell anyway) and as such I must say, Connery looks simply dreamy. When sporting a perfectly fitting tight shirt or no shirt at all, our hero could pass as an Olympic athlete. His charm is dialed up to 11 and he is as good as ever with the one liners. While Connery was giving it his all on screen, he was taking a stepping back off camera. He didn’t go to any of the many Thunderball premieres and granted just one interview, a long in depth profile for Playboy. In the profile, Connery comes across as down to earth and thankful for the success of Bond, but he also admits he doesn’t like the publicity side of things. “I find that fame tends to turn one from an actor and a human being into a piece of merchandise, a public institution. Well, I don’t intend to undergo that metamorphosis.” He also lets it be know that he has two more Bond films on his contract (at that point they were to be On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and “probably” You Only Live Twice) and that after that, he would be happy to walk away. “Bond’s been good to me, so I shouldn’t knock him,” but he also admitted that he’s “fed up to here with the whole Bond bit.”
Director: Terence Young, returning to direct his third and final Bond film. Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton was asked to helm the fourth film but he felt “drained of ideas.” He had giving everything in his arsenal to Goldfinger and said he “had nothing to contribute till he recharged batteries.” Indeed, EON were popping these films out at an incredibly fast clip, one a year for four years straight with each one being a bigger production with bigger expectations. Thanks to challenges inherent in the plot, Thunderball promised to be the biggest yet.
Reported Budget: $9,000,000 estimated. After Bonds 1,2, and 3 cost one $1 million, $2 million and $3 million respectively, Bond 4 jumped to $9 mil. (Ed. Note $5.6 million is listed as the budget on the Special Addition DVD, but I’m using Box-Office Mojo for all my budget and box office figures since studios are notoriously inaccurate when it comes to these numbers.) I’m sure Connery’s salary climbed some but much of the money was up on the screen. About 20% of Thunderball takes place underwater, and in the days before digital effects, that meant 20% of the movie had to be made underwater. It got me to thinking, what if Thunderball was the first film made like originally planed, and they only had the $1 million. Needless to say, it would not have been nearly as good. None the less, after four years, Bond was now officially a big time Hollywood production with the money to match. Additionally, product tie-ins were everywhere, with Bond vodka, Bond clothes, and oodles and oodles of Bond toys coming out to coincide with the films December release and the holiday shopping season. At the end of 1965, Bond was everywhere. “Sean Connery of Edinburgh, opportunity knocks.”
Reported Box-office: $63,600,000 (USA) $141,200,000 (Worldwide). Thunderball was released in the final weeks of 1965, so its box-office run lived mostly in 1966, and it was that year’s #1 film, with a bullet. Making $10 million more than Goldfinger in the states alone, it was clear to all the other studios that they needed a Bond themselves, but as the lady would sing in a later 007 film, nobody does it better than Bond. Mark Harris details some of the copy-cat films in his best seller “Pictures at a Revolution.” According to Harris, Warner Brothers answer for Bond mania was the now forgotten Kaleidoscope (1966) staring Warren Beatty. 20th Century Fox employed James Coburn in Our Man Flint (1965) and In Like Flint (1967). United Artist even got into the Bond rip-off business. Eager to own Pepsi and Coke, the Bond studio cast a young Brit named Michael Caine as a kind of nerdy “anti-Bond” in The Ipcress Files (1965). The most aggressive attempt to dip into Bond mania was made by Columbia who between 1966 and 1969 made four films in their Matt Helm series. However, I doubt Connery lost any sleep worrying about his American counterpart Helm who was played by the immortal and terribly miscast Dean Martin.
As is often the case in Hollywood, when studios scramble to rip-off what’s working now, they are blind to what’s coming next. The #2 film in 1966 was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) staring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Earlier Bond films pushed the standards of the Production Code, but the Mike Nichols helmed Virginia Woolf literally distorted the standards that had been in place since the 1930’s. Bond films had a sex and violence, but it was presented as a “comic strip for adults.” Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was a brutal black and white kitchen sink drama that focused on an alcoholic abusive couple where they lived. This was the “new Hollywood,” and though studios didn’t realize, it was already here.
Theme Song: “Thunderball” performed by the one and only Tom Jones. The theme song for this film was to be “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” performed by Dionne Warwick but producers freaked-out at the last second, panicking that the theme’s title wasn’t the not-so-easy-to-write-into-lyrics title of the film. Enter Tom Jones to save the day. The words, it must be said, leave something to be desired. “Any woman he wants, he’ll get / He will break any heart without regret / His days of asking are all gone / His fight goes on and on and on.” It’s nowhere near as good as the “Goldfinger” theme, but it has it moments. And for the record, the whole women throwing underwear on stage TJ shtick isn’t nearly as creepy when the singer is a 20 something year old man as it is in his later “Vegas” years.
Opening Action Sequence: For the first time, audiences saw Connery at the top of the film in the gun barrel sequences and not stuntman Bob Simmons who turns and shoots at the camera in the first three films. Sticking with the tradition started in From Russia With Love (1963), the opening minutes of the film are a mini adventure that takes place at a breakneck pace using humor and action to throw audiences into Bonds world. James is attending Colonel Jacques Bouvar’s funeral when he observes the widow Bouvar open her own car door. This leads Bond to conclude the good Colonel, also known as SPECTRE #6, has faked his death and is now posing as Madame Bouvar. Bond confronts he/she in a palatal red room and a brutal fight ensues in which no piece of expensive future is spared while Bond beats on a man in a dress and heels. Bond finally gets the better of the Colonel and pays his respects by tossing lilies on the dead body as he exits. Outside, 007 straps on a jetpack and flies away from the pursuing security detail. The shot of Bond flying over the Chateau d’Anet is worth the price of admission. Bond then jumps into …hey! That’s the Aston Martin DB-5 from the previous film, the one Bond destroyed! Humm, I guess Q has been busy. Anyway, Bond raises the bulletproof shield and douses his pursuers with water, which washes into the underwater credit sequence. Fast, exciting and funny (punching a widow in the face is ALWAYS funny) this is the best open yet.
Opening Titles: Maurice Binder, who set the opening title standard with Dr. No returned after a two film absents. (He would go one to do every opening title up until and including License to Kill (1989)) Going with the water theme of the film, the credits feature nude women swimming this way and that while explosions of color paint the screen. It’s cool, but not show stopping.
Villain’s Plot: SPECTRE is back baby! Taking a page out of Auric Goldfinger’s book, SPECTRE has decided when it comes to taking over the world; nukes are the way to go. However, being the Special Executive for Counter Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, Extortion they do everything bigger and badder. If a little suitcase nuke almost worked, imagine what two full-on war heads could do? #1, who abandon his boat and is now operating out of a Paris bank (insert you’re timely Wall St/ Bernie Madoff/ Goldman Sachs joke here) pulled out all the stops for this caper. It involves paying one Angelo Palazzi to undergo plastic surgery so he will look just like Major Francois Derval, a NATO big wig. The real Derval is then killed and Palazzi takes his place aboard a flight that is carrying two nuclear bombs. After gassing the entire crew, Palazzi pulls of a water landing that would make Captain Sully stand and applaud. As the plane descends to the bottom of the ocean, SPECTRE divers swim to the aircraft with a custom sub perfectly designed to carry two nuclear bombs. They grab the bombs and escort them to the Disco Volante, a yacht equipped with an underwater diving hatch. While this is a genius plan, the film stumbles in its execution. The pacing is off and so many characters are introduced in a glossed over fashion it’s nearly impossible to keep up. I suspect this was to rush to the underwater stuff, which his indeed super cool.
Bond’s Mission: After securing the bombs, SPECTRE sends a taped ransom note demanding 280 million dollars (100 million pounds) or they will blow up an unnamed city. Every Double O is summoned to London where they meet in a super posh giant room populated by a bunch of stuck up snooty white guys in suits. (Her Majesty’s Secrete Service could use some diversity, just saying.) Each Double O receives assignments and Bond is off to Station “C” Canada. However, he petitions M to switch his port of call to Nassau, and no, it has nothing to do with the photo of the bird in case file. Bond recognizes her brother, Major Derval. (For a split second, I wished M was The Dude so when Bond says it’s the guy, not the girl he’s after, M could respond “Vagina? I mean…you know the guy?”) Why Yes! Bond does know the guy; he bumped into the Major at the Shrubland Health Club at the same time that the Major was supposed to be piloting the plane. The American military man in the room doubts this very much and in a moment that made me want to stand up and cheer, M sticks up for his agent and chops the American off at the knees. So, it’s off to Bermuda for Bond to make contact with the girl, figure out who is behind the bomb plot, and shut it down before the deadline and mass destruction. The game is afoot!
Villain’s Name: Emilio Largo or #2. As #2 he is SPECTRE’S most trusted operator and is given the task of overseeing the plastic surgery, installing underwater landing lights, covering the submerged plane with a camouflage net and getting the bombs aboard his boat. This would be enough to stress out most, especially considering SPECTRE’S history when it comes to dealing with failure, but our eye patched clove smoking villain handles his assignment with ease. He even finds time to relax, play cards, and do some skeet shooting while hanging around the Bahamas.
Villain Actor: Adolfo Celi. Born in Tuscany, Italy, the working actor was very popular in Europe and appeared in over 100 films. According to his IMDB Bio, Celi was fluent in English, Spanish, French, Portugues, and German in addition to his native Italian. Despite this we yet again have a main character being voiced by another actor, in this case Robert Rietty. EON must enjoy writing checks to SAG and getting one actor for the price of two. Celi strikes a perfect balance in the role, playing it cool until he needs to act, and then like a coiled cobra, he attacks with out warning.
Villain’s Lair: Coolest yet. Largo operates out of an ocean side villa in the Bahamas that comes equipped with two swimming pools; one for the ladies, and the other for the sharks. With a convent push of a button, a tunnel between the two can be opened and the occupants of both pools can mingle. Although the house, know as Palmyra, is protected by the ocean and high walls, the place is crawling with armed guards who are dressed like assistants in a Vidal Sassoon salon. Docked off shore is the even more impressive Disco Volante. Hailing from Panama, this impressive yacht is capable of hitting nearly 20 knots and features a dive room, good for feeding out divers and gobbling up nuclear bombs out of the sight of prying eyes. But the absolute coolest feature is its ability to “jettison the cocoon.” Basically, if you need to get away in a big hurry because, say a Navy destroyer is after you, you can shoot the front half of the boat out on hydrofoils and leave the back half behind with any unfortunate crew members. It instantly reminded me of the USS Enterprise engaging in a saucer separation.
Villain’s Coolest Accessory/ Trait: I was going to go with the shark tank, but I can’t get the image of the SPECTRE boardroom meeting out of my head. #1 is sitting at a desk, in a separate box like room. On his lap is the cat, and in front of is face is, what exactly? A screen of sorts… Why is he hiding his face in this manner? Anyway, assembled at a table are his loyal “number” underlings who report on earnings from various blackmail, assassination and train robbery schemes. Ahh, but #9 and #11 are not hitting their projected profits with an American narcotics ring. After deciding #11 is embezzling from SPECTRE, #1 hits a button and #11’s chair descends into a furnace, only to reappear smoking and empty. Austin Powers be damned, this scene is ridiculous all on its own and it doesn’t need his help. It’s also, I must admit, quite enjoyable. This cold blooded failure = death policy keeps the “Execution Branch” of SPECTRE employed, but it also has it drawbacks. At one point, an assassin fails to off Bond in his Nassau hotel. Obviously, this failure must be dealt with. Fare enough, but is blowing up the assassin’s car while he has Bond in the cross-hairs the best use of resources? For a crime syndicate that can flawlessly orchestrate the hijacking of two nuclear bombs, this just seems counterproductive, inefficient and down right dumb.
Badassness of Villain: Largo is a pretty cool costumer, focused on the mission at hand. But if he feels you’re crossed him, look out. He has no trouble feeding underlings to the sharks and even enjoys torturing his mistress. Holding a lit cigarette and a bowl of ice, he informs her “This for heat, these for cold, applied scientifically and slowly.” This scene actually kind of got to me for a second as Largo coldly leans in and we hear screaming from behind a closed door. It’s shortly after that Largo leave half his crew to be attacked by the Navy while he makes his getaway in the faster section of the boat. Oh, yah, and he was willing to nuke Miami if SPECTRE didn’t get their money. So yah, pretty badass. I would also say he’s the “scariest” of the villains so far if for no other reason than he seems to enjoy his job a little too much.
Villain’s Asides/ Henchmen: Largo has a few #2’s of his own, mostly cold blooded assassins. There is Vargas. “Vargas does not drink… does not smoke… does not make love. What do you do, Vargas?” and then there is the sexy Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi). Volpe does it all, she sleeps with guys just to wack em, she skillful rides a motorcycle at 110 MPH while shooting off rockets, and she keeps the other SPECTRE operatives in line. When she shows up in the room next to Bond’s (lounging in a bathtub), she seduces “Mr Bond James Bond” (no hard job that) and manages to resist his sexual turning power. When done with the hanky panky, she pulls a gun on Bond and mocks his prowess forcing 007 to resort to an I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I playground response. “Don’t think it gave ME any pleasure. I did what I did for king and country.”
Bond Girl Actress: Claudine Auger. The former Miss France (1958) and dramatically trained actress is the first woman who, for me at least, lived up to the ideal of what it means to be a “Bond Girl.” She is that smart, international, amazingly hot woman who is also down to earth, fun and has an easy laugh. In other words, a woman that doesn’t really exist.
Bond Girl’s Name: Domino Derval who is by far the most sophisticated and sexiest Bond girl yet. As tribute, a little song in her honor. Take it way, Van the man.
Domino is the Major’s sister from the photo and also happens to be Largo’s niece by which he means mistress. Bond first encounters Domino while she’s free diving for shells in a bathing suit that must leave some odd tan lines. She immediately proves to be Bonds equal in the witty flirting department and seems like she’s up for anything at any moment. She can play classy just as easy, as Bond learns when he finds her with Largo at the baccarat table, where Jimmy B deftly talks her off Larog’s arm onto his own. “Any woman he wants, he’ll get / He will break any heart without regret.”
Bond Girl Sluttiness: As a kept woman who was using Largo as much as he was using her, she knows how to get what she wants using sex. At first, she playfully brushes aside Bonds advances, but once she give in, she up for some kink, like when she and Bond engage in an underwater SCUBA tango, easily taking the 1st place prize for craziest make-out location in a Bond film yet. “Lord have mercy, I said Ohhhh woooo Domino!” Still, Domino is low on the slut scale. She’s an import cog in the plot, and one of the few Bond girls who’s function in the film is more than just sex.
Number of Woman 007 Beds: 3; a blond, a red head and burnet. We already covered Domino’s underwater antics and Bonds inability to turn the badass SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe. That leaves the bizarre seduction, some would say forceful blackmailing, of the fetching masseuse Patricia Fearing (Molly Peter). Patricia works at the spa where Bond is recovering from his fight with Major Bouvar. Totally unimpressed with Bond and his witty banter, Patricia orders him to lie on a device meant to stretch out the body called “the rack.” It’s a table that one gets strapped onto while it gyrates back and forth. The film shows us this action using a 70’s porn zoom in and out while a shirtless sweaty Bond bops back and forth on the table. A SPECTRE agent sneaks into the room and puts the thing on high speed, nearly ripping Bond into two, literally. 007 actually passes out with pain and is saved at the last second by Patricia who is guilt ridden thinking she pushed the wrong button and almost killed her client. Now again, Bond was just out cold. After he recovers he stands up from the rack, and doesn’t correct Patricia, letting her think she is responsible. He then goes a step further and implies he will rat her out to her boss unless … I’m not sure why Bond had to resort to this sleazy tactic, I’m mean, according to Tom Jones “Any woman he wants, he gets.” Is this how? Anyway, 30 seconds removed from certain death, Bond has Patricia’s shirt off in the steam room where things proceed to get hot. (Sorry, it was teed up, I had to take the shot.)
Bond Girls Best Pick-up Line: While lying in bed, Fiona comments on the iron frame that acts as the headboard. “This bed feels like a cage, all these bars. Do you think I will be safe?” Killer.
Bond’s Best Pick-up Line: I cracked up when at one point Bond hits the fire alarm in the spa and a robbed woman runs into the hall “What’s going on?” she asks James who answers like he talking to a four year old “Well, I don’t know. Could it be the front door bell?”
Number of People 007 Kills: A whooping 25 plus one shark. 25 people, holy Jesus, 007 must be making up for the lack of carnage in the last film and he earns his time and a half over-time pay here. In the open he kills the Colonel “#6” Bouvar before the credits even role. But at least he respectful enough to leave some flowers. In a nasty bit of payback for the rack business, Bond boils his attacker in a personal sauna unit during the 10 minutes of the film I like to call “death by spa treatments.” He takes out two of Largo’s Vidal Sassoon goons during a nighttime raid on his compound. Then there is one of my favorite; in a tension filled sequence, Bond is dancing with the assassin Fiona at Nassau’s “Kiss Kiss” club as a band rocks out on the congas. One of Fiona’s goons is hidden behind the band and points a gun at Bond on the dance floor. The fast and furious cross-cut editing gives us quick shots of the drums, the gun and Bond, and it looks for sure our hero, who is already wounded, is done for. At the last second, he spots the gun, spins Fiona into the on coming bullets, and leaved her slumped at a table. (“Can my friend rest a moment? She’s simply dead.”) The other SPECTRE badass assassin, Vargas, gets a nasty spear gun shot into his gut (“I think he got the point.”) Now, we know the 00 protects Bond from legal issues when it comes to killing men and woman, but I wonder if Greenpeace recognizes this bit of international law skirting. Felix and Bond find the submerged plane, but to get to it they must swim though shark infested waters. Bond orders Felix to take out one of the man eaters so the other will be drawn to the blood and not Bond. Good plan and it works. That leaves us many, many divers. As I mentioned earlier, much of the film happens underwater, and Bond takes out a diver under the Disco Volante and similarly slices the air hose of a second dude he comes across in the vault where the bombs are hidden. The climatic battle takes place under the sea where the good guys (in red wetsuits) and bad (in black) face off like underwater civil war soldiers; that is, they line up, charge each other, and when the front row is done in by spear guns, the second row happily marches/swims forward, until they are squirming and battling in what looks like a cross between hand to hand combat and “O,” the underwater Cirque Du Soleil. Dudes gets stabbed, air hose get sliced, face masks get ripped off, and spears get shot through arms and legs as the sharks circle. I saw a comment on IMDB where the poster felt this underwater battle went on to long. That person is wrong. This is a fantastic fight that must have been a nightmare to choreograph and it’s truly the highlight of this fantastic film. Anyway, Bond jumps into the fray while the battle is in full force, entering at great speed thanks to his underwater jet pack (why not?) 007 waists no time killing 14 men. (Deep breath) Bond cuts at least two dudes air hoses, drops a heavy door on three more, throws a grenade into a vault with three baddies in it, beats one, cuts a third guys hose, rips off two masks and stab yet another before he spear guns Largo’s right hand man. Bond’s people recover one of the bombs following the battle but Largo makes it to the Disco Volante with the second. Superman, I mean Bond, grabs onto the boats anchor and climbs aboard for more fast paced fist fighting on the bridge of the boat which is going 110 MPH and narrowly missing all kinds of rocks. This last 15 minutes is non-stop action and edge of your seat exciting (and looked fantastic on my big flat screen.) It’s worth noting that Bond doesn’t kill Largo, that’s left to Domino who shoots him in revenge for her brother. Largo then falls on the dashboard of the boat but not before he “jams the controls.” Let me take a moment here and conduct a poll, has anyone ever been on any kind of vehicle where one can “jam the controls?” Why would anyone ever want to do this? How is it done? By pushing a button? By shoving a screwdriver into a circuit board? Anyway, “He’s Jammed the Controls!” Bond announces forcing he and Domino to bail out of the stern moments before the Disco smashes into a rocks and makes a great big satisfying boom.
Most Outrageous/Fantastic Death/s: All thought Bond isn’t responsible for it, the coolest death happens in the underwater battle when one of the divers gets his goggles “Moe Greened” by a spear. The greatest killing involving Jimmy B happens in the shark pool at Largo’s compound. One of Largo’s men and Bond fall into the pool which Largo quickly covers with a plastic that keeps the two underwater. “Release the sharks!” While one of the big fish chomps on the baddie, Bond deftly swims in and out of the other man eaters and makes his way to the second pool and safety.
Miss. Moneypenny: It appears she’s been doing some rearranging of the furniture in her office, and I do not approve. When Bond pops his head into her doorway, he finds the hat rack has been moved. More disturbing, when 007 goes to leave, his hat has disappeared all together. “I think I had a hat when I came in.” You did! Where did it go? Why, oh why are you screwing with Bond Monnypenny? He’s got enough on his mind with the whole tracking down two nukes business to have to worry about his hat.
M: Ahh, now that’s more like it! After giving Bond nothing but grief for the first three films, M finally pulled the stick out of his ass and defends his #1 agent in front of both the American’s and his boss, the Home Secretary. Good show M. Good show indeed.
Q: In by far the funniest Q appearance yet, the gadget guru pops out of a wall like a jack-in-a-box sporting a less-then-dignified hat and a pineapple Hawaii print shirt. Upon spotting him enter Bond roles his eye “Oh no.” Q is none to happy about having to meet Bond “in the field” and he proceeds to alternate between giving Bond his gadgets and slapping his hand for playing with them.
List of Gadgets: Bond gets some really good toys in this film, and none of them are to far outside of reality. There was the jet pack, or Bell Textron’s rocket belt, from the open which, by the by, is real. At the time only two men in the world could pilot the thing and one of them was brought in to fly over the Chateau d’Anet in France. No wires or CGI here. Bond also has a hollowed out book that conceals a tape recorder he leaves going when he vacates his room so he can come back and listen to hear if anyone has broken in. Spoiler alert, someone has. After emerging from the wall in Bermuda, Q supplies Bond with a watch that houses a Geiger counter, an underwater camera that can take infrared photos and also has a Geiger counter, a mini flare that can be hidden almost anywhere and a 4 minute underwater breather, convenient pocket size. That is, as Bond points out, “If you have a convenient pocket.” Then there is a radioactive but harmless pill that when swallowed acts like a homing device. Last but centrally not least is the rescue raft that is dropped to Bond and Domino after they jump out of the exploding Disco Volante. It inflates on its own, impresses enough, but it also comes with a sky hook. That is, a red blimp shaped balloon that flies into the sky. It’s tethered to Bond who simply sits in his raft, holds onto Domino tightly, and waits for the plane with a V shaped noise to hook the rope. Bond takes off like Christian Bale in The Dark Knight (2008), literally flying off into the sunset. I was watching this thinking it might just be the coolest thing I’d ever seen till it occurred to me, how in Gods name do you land? I mean, you’re hanging on a rope attached to a speedy plane. How does one get down from/ wheeled in/ off the damn thing? One more note about this rescue, a third guy, a Largo lackey who finds religion and helps Domino escape at the last second, also jumps off the boat with Bond and his lady. He can’t swim, so he gets a flotation device, but what happened to him? While 007 and Domino are flying off into the wide blue yonder he’s left behind in shark infested waters only a few hundred yards from a nuclear blast sight. This guy may still be out there for all we know, some kind of nuclear zombie fighting with sharks for fish food. Just saying…
Gadgets/British Government Property Bond Destroys: The pill gets swallowed and the flair gets shoot off, but they were one and done deals to begin with. Bond actually treats everything OK, and even manages to return the Aston Martin with out a scratch. Oh wait, there the God Damn nuke on the Disco Volante! How much trouble do you get in for allowing a NATO owned nuclear bomb to detonate in the middle of paradise? Strangely, the film doesn’t deal with the “fallout” of the explosion.
Other Property Destroyed: Bond trashes a bunch of future at breaks a window at the Chateau d’Anet. He also escapes from Fiona by pouring rum on the backseat or her car and setting the auto aflame. And then the Disco gets blown up but Bond wasn’t directly responsible for that. However, SCUBA tank sales in Bermuda must have skyrocketed after Bond cut countless breathing hoses.
Felix Leiter: After following Bond around the pool and lobby of the hotel, Felix knocks on Bond’s hotel room door and gets a punch to the stomach. If Bond didn’t recognize his old friend you can’t blame him, as Felix is played by yet another actor, this time one Rik Van Nutter. Van Nutter not only has the coolest handle ever, at times he looks like a poor mans Clint Eastwood. Rik Van Nutter (really, that could be a Bond character name) has one of the more interesting IMDB pages I’ve ever encountered. His first credit in 1959 and his last is ‘79 and in the twenty years he had only 13 credits, and then he just stops. Theater perhaps? Now, I consider myself a Felix fan but I must say, I wanted to bunch him in the face by the end of Thunderball. We first encounter the American flowing Bond around Nassau. If anyone was playing “can you spot the CIA agent” Felix, the only guy sporting a full on three-piece suit (blue) on the beach, would be picked 11 times out of ten. When Bond answers his door, the American loudly blurts out “Well double O..” before getting the shot to the gut. Felix, super-spy that it is, nearly blew Bond’s cover. Then there is the inexcusable mistake he makes while hunting for the lost NATO plane. Bond and Felix know the aircraft has been hidden underwater near Bermuda, but where? While the clocks ticks, the two agents search the miles of ocean surrounding the island in a helicopter until Felix finally say “Well, we searched everywhere. Everywhere that is except the Golden Grotto.” (By the by, the Golden Grotto sounds like the wing of the Playboy mansion James Caan got his mail delivered to circa 1973.) “But we won’t find it there?” Well why the F not douche bag? And since it’s the only place you haven’t looked, wouldn’t you conclude that is exactly where the damn plane is? Bond immediately instructs Felix to bring the helicopter down in the Grotto where, HOLYSHIT! It’s the plane. Idiot. At least he learned his lesson from Goldfinger when it comes to homing devices. When Bond swallows the pill, Felix has enough brain power to know it’s a call for help.
Best One Liners/Quips: Any Bond film worth its salt has the fantastic scene where the villain hosts Bond and Thunderball is no exception. When Bond shows up at Largo’s compound he finds the eye patched baddy carrying a shot-gun. Bond “That gun, it looks more fitting for a woman.” “You know much about guns, Mr. Bond?” “No, but I know a little about women.” Awesome. In the next scene, Largo shows Bond how to shoot skeet, taking out the first bird with ease. Before Bond takes his shot he says “It looks very difficult.” He then rips off a shot, from the hip no less, and cracks the clay pigeon into a million pieces. “Why no, it isn’t, is it?”
Bond Cars: The Aston Martin DB-5 makes a return despite it being smashed into a wall in the previous film. Other than that Bond grabs a ride from Fiona in her blue Mustang. Bond also drives what I think is a Bentley at one point but I’m not 100%. If anyone can clarify for me, please feel free to comment.
Bond Timepiece: Breitling Geneve, Top Time. These puppies go for around $1200 today; this is a no joke watch. Also, I’m not one to point out editing errors and the like because (A) I never catch them (B) it’s sniveling and nitpicking, like a way to say you’re smarter than the film makers which unless the film makers name is Michael Bay, no, you’re not and (C) I don’t care. That said, at one point Bond checks his watch and it’s a Rolex Submariner. Just saying, for the integrity of this blog and all.
Other Notable Bond Accessories: He lost his hat, which simply breaks my heart. I hope we see it return in the next film. Bond’s attire is much more casual in this film, mostly because he’s in Nassau and unlike that twit Felix, Bond knows that when acting as spy, it’s good to blend in. Another thing I noticed is Bond doesn’t smoke at all in this film, a first. But again, this might have more to do with location than anything else. After all, not even Q can come up with a cigarette that stays lit underwater.
Number of Drinks 007 Consumes: 2, for a depressing drop off in this department. I simply love when Bond drinks, gambles, or partakes in anything that could be considered a vice. It’s just awesome to know the coolest guy in the room enjoys these naughty habits. Regardless, he mixes himself some kind of vodka drink in his hotel room and much to my amusement; he doesn’t offer a drink to Felix who is standing right there. He also has a Rum Collins with Largo on his pool deck.
Bond’s Gambling Winnings: Bond starts off with 500 pounds worth of those cool “plates” they use instead of chips at all the really high-end places. He sits down at Largo’s table and wins the first hand prompting Largo to fall into the classic gambling trap; when down, go deeper! “Shall we raise the limit, say 500 pounds a hand?” Everyone declines at these stakes, everyone that is except Jimmy B who not only wins this hand, but leaves the table with Largo’s girl errr, I mean niece. The game, James’ favorite, baccarat. In the interest of this blog project as well as my own curiosity I took to the web to learn exactly how baccarat is played. (Ed. Note; I’m a poker guy.) According to Wikipedia it looks incredibly straight forward. “Baccarat is a simple game with only three possible results—’Player’, ‘Banker’, and ‘Tie’. The term ‘Player’ does not refer to the customer, and the term ‘Banker’ does not refer to the house. They are just options on which the customer can bet. In Baccarat, cards 2–9 are worth face value, 10s and face cards (J, Q, K) are worth zero, and Aces are worth 1 point. Players calculate their score by taking the sum of all cards modulo 10 , meaning that after adding the value of the cards the tens digit is ignored. For example, a hand consisting of 2 and 3 is worth 5 (2+3=5). A hand consisting of 6 and 7 is worth 3 (6+7=13 or 3) the first digit is dropped because the total is higher than 9. A hand consisting of 4 and 6 is worth zero, or Baccarat (4+6 = 10 or 0). The name “Baccarat” is unusual in that the game is named after the worst hand, worth 0. The highest score that can be achieved is 9 (from a 4 and 5, 10 and 9, or A and 8, etc).” That be that, then it’s just a matter of straight forward odds. Could be fun; I’ll suggest we play a few hands next Tuesday at the hold em game.
List of Locations: After falling into the background in the last film, elegant locations are back in the limelight, I suspect this is thanks to Young returning to the helm. He milks these exotic beautiful places for all their worth and at moments, like during the nighttime parade in Nassau, the locations come alive and simply sing. The opening sequence takes place at the Chateau d’Anet in Anet France which features an impossibly beautiful room that gets trashed when Bond and #6 grapple mono a mono. SPECTRE operates out of Paris and MI6 is of course in London. (what does this say about Anglo/ French relations?) After getting wacked with a poker, Bond recovers at the Shrubland Health Club in St. Peters England. For some reason, the hallways in this location struck me, they just looked so 1965. Most of the action happens in the capital city of Nassau and other locations on and around the Bahamas. The underwater stuff is stunning and little details like the Kiss Kiss Club, waterfront hotels and Largo’s amazing compound contribute to the overall feel of the film in classic Bond fashion. No offence to our northern neighbors, but thank God 007 didn’t end up at Station “C” Canada.
Bonds Special Abilities Displayed: Right off the bat Bond pilots a jetpack. If I ever even got one on my back, I assume I’d burn my legs off before I left the ground. Bond clearly got certified in SCUBA for this adventure and that included the lesson in underwater screwing. Bond also proved himself to be expert marksmen who can heal wounds in a bar sink. The guy is a machine.
Thoughts on Film: For the second flick in a row, nuclear bombs are the thing which is incredibly 1965. In fact, the entire film just feels very 1960’s, which is the golden time for Bond, at least, this version of Bond. At a time when grade school students were forced to hide under their desks during air raid drills, nukes were at the front of everyone’s mind. But unlike Goldfinger, this time the two warheads are treated with the seriousness and gravity they deserve. Not to say there isn’t humor (in fact, there are many funny moments) but the silliness is gone. For as straight forward as the plot is, the first act is a bit muddied and uneven but once the film settles down in Nassau Thunderball plays as classic 1960’s Bond. It’s got the locations, the girls, some gambling, some gadgets, a great villain and the super cool 007 at the center of it all. I love when Bond is vulnerable and not bullet proof and he actually gets shot and needs to limp his way through a massive street parade in a scene that ups the stakes and really gets the ball rolling. The action builds from this point bringing the audience on a climb up similar to what Young did in his previous Bond film, From Russia With Love. Young also once again uses little moments and details to add to the over all emotion. There is genuine tension when Largo captures Domino, there is beauty and foreboding in the shot of a dozen parachutes descending on the clear Caribbean water, and the underwater battle is simply breathtaking to watch. The film just keeps unspooling faster and faster until the final battle takes place on Largo’s boat as it skims across the ocean. The crazy hand to hand combat is shot and edited in a “jerky cam/ jump cut” style that would become a staple 30 years later. Here it’s fresh and exciting, allowing the audience to feel the force with which everyone is getting tossed around the bridge while the boat careens out of control on the open water. By the time Bond is pulled into the air, a truly rock star exit, I was literally on the edge of my couch. Thunderball doesn’t have as many memorable “Bond” moments as Goldfinger, and it stumbles out of the gate, but out of the four flicks so far, I think it maybe, along with From Russia With Love, my favorite Bond film yet.