Friday, April 22, 2016


Based on an original screenplay created by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and Ian Fleming himself, the fourth 007 screen adventure was a natural followup to game-changer GOLDFINGER. THUNDERBALL, released in 1965, is bigger, longer, and louder with more stunts, more spectacle, more special effects, and more gorgeous girls in the shapely shapes of Claudine Auger (BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA), Luciana Paluzzi (THE GREEN SLIME), Martine Beswicke (DR. JEKYLL & SISTER HYDE), and Molly Peters (DON’T RAISE THE BRIDGE, LOWER THE RIVER).

So many screenwriting hands in the fire (Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins receive ultimate credit) means the story doesn’t always hang loose, and some of the visuals are a little sloppy, particularly the process shots. Still, what is here is pretty fun, mostly exciting, and occasionally funny.

Sean Connery’s James Bond is sent to Nassau to investigate the theft of two nuclear bombs, which SPECTRE is holding for ransom. Though we see M (Bernard Lee) giving orders to several 00 agents on the same case, the film never checks in with them. Since we know SPECTRE operative Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi) is in the Bahamas with the bombs, what the devil are M’s other agents doing all this time?

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON crewmen Ricou Browning and Lamar Boren handle the copious underwater photography, which includes a busy climax featuring dozens of extras in distinctively colored wetsuits killing each other — exactly the way a James Bond film should end. Connery was still enjoying the role of Bond, while on the other end, a dubbed Celi is a little wet as Largo.

THUNDERBALL includes an appearance by (a partially seen) Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who would be the main heavy in the next film, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, with the face of Donald Pleasence. John Barry composed the iconic score and co-wrote the theme song with Don Black, which Tom Jones performed. Because of the odd legal arrangements involving the title, McClory was able to produce a remake in 1983 called NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN and somehow convince Connery to star in it.


Alan's World said...

Marty, in reality Ernst Stavro Blofeld made his first concealed appearance in a Bond film with FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE(1963) in which a partially seen Blofeld is imparting instructions to Rosa Klebb and Krosteen on his private SPECTRE yahct. Actor Anthony Dawson(who played Prof. Dent in DR. NO) plays the physical version of Blofeld in both FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE & THUNDERBALL while actor Eric Pohlmann did Blofeld's voice in both films.

Marty McKee said...

You are correct, sir. My apologies.

Joe Kenney said...

This is my favorite Bond movie of all. Blofeld is partially seen in From Russia With Love -- that is, just the top of his head and his hands. Curiously he has hair in that one. But then, Blofeld changed his appearance in the three novels he appeared in, so it makes a sort of sense.

Never Say Never Again was actually the second attempt McClory made at carrying out his rights to making the story in his own way; according to the lawsuit he would be able to make his own "Thunderball" every ten years. Accordingly in 1976 or so he got together Len Deighton and Sean Connery and the three wrote the script "James Bond Of The Secret Service." You can find it online. It is very OTT and continues in the vein of Thunderball (Connery by the way was game to work with McClory and appeared in NSNA because he reportedly hated Bond franchise producers Broccoli and Saltzman). There are many parallels to the later Moore movie The Spy Who Loved Me (in the Secret Service script, SPECTRE has an underwater lair, for example), but strangely the 1978 script rewrite, retitled Warhead, keeps most of those elements. There were too many legal questions so Connery eventually backed out, and that version of the film never happened...then in '83 McClory did NSNA, which was pretty much a straight-up remake of Thunderball, only much inferior, I think.

I think the '60s-'70s Bond movies are the best movies out there. I can't stand the current shit, though. Revisionist banality at its worst. Plus Daniel Craig sucks. He'd make a great Red Grant, though.

Bill O said...

Years after NSNA, McClory took out a Variety ad announcing Warhead 2000. With Timothy Dalton.

Grant said...

I harp on this in other places, but to me, THUNDERBALL has the all-time greatest VILLAINESS in spy movies, or for that matter, adventure movies in general, Luciana Paluzzi's "Fiona."
And it isn't even just the actress and character, it's the things the story does and doesn't do with her. So many adventure stories, even really escapist ones, shy away from the very things that make sense with that kind of character, like the big seduction scene. And the big showdown scene, which manages to have things both ways, by having Bond put her out of the way unavoidably, but in a way that still has a "ruthless" look to it. Speaking of "current" movies (and not just Bond movies), any given one of those - and also a whole lot of EARLIER ones - would substitute that with one more of those heroine / villainess cat-fight scenes, an idea that I admit is entertaining, but it's been run into the ground. THUNDERBALL turns that inside-out by having Domino take care of the male villain, and Bond take care of the female one. Which is a simple idea, but again, I almost never see it.