Sunday, January 24, 2016

Bond Watch: Thunderball (1965)

this poster does a surprisingly good job of summing up the movie


This was the one Bond movie that, even during the 7th grade sprint of renting Bond movies back to back all summer, somehow I never picked up.  I don't know why.  It's possible it was checked out.  Even stranger, I always assumed I'd run into it on cable or at the Paramount during the summer, but it never showed, or I never came across it.

So, here in 2016, I finally watched the movie.

Unfortunately for me, I had triple-checked the plot of Thunderball (1965) over the years to make sure I really hadn't seen it, and - yes, that movies absolutely was the one where the guy crashes a Vulcan with two atomic bombs into the ocean near The Bahamas and ends with a wicked underwater fight.

Don't worry.  If I had that spoiled for me over and over and still enjoyed the movie, you'll be fine.


Somewhere I read that around this point the schedules and budgets for the Bond films started to get a bit away from the Brocollis, and it's not too hard to see the scale and scope of the films ballooning here at just the fourth movie.  Frankly, I'm wanting to wrap up this post so I can read up on how they pulled off one of the last parts of the movie (where the boat splits in two), but from the pre-credits sequence, this movie is both less serious and far more gadget heavy then its predecessors.  But, also locations, sets, numbers of extras and on-screen gadgets and FX are all state of the art.

Spectre hatches a plot to steal the aforementioned atomic bombs right off an RAF bomber.  Bond puts some pieces together and starts his search for the missing plane in Nassau, seeking out the sister of the murdered pilot of the plane.  She's jungled up with an eye-patched SPECTRE agent named Largo, who keeps a pool filled with man-eating sharks (sans lasers).  Largo is executing a SPECTRE approved extortion gambit for over a quarter billion 1965 dollars, which is... I assume a lot in today's dollars.

This Bond film follows Goldfinger and Dr. No's penchant for disposable henchmen in great droves and matching outfits, and has a deadly sidekick, who in this cases is the fetching Fiona, a ginger-haired assassin.  I liked Fiona.  That bad-guy was all right.

Much of the movie takes place in and around Nassau, and they incorporate a Mardi Gras-like festival during a major chase sequence, making me wonder what could have been in the Mexico City sequence in 2015's Spectre.  But the underwater bits are surprisingly well executed.  That's what you're really going to remember this one for: underwater royal rumble.

And spear gun impalements.  So many spear gun impalements.

After Goldfinger co-starred one of my two favorite Bond Girls, Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore, Domino feels like a throwback to Honey Rider.  She's there, she sorta serves a purpose, but job one is to fill a bikini and keep Bond interested in his work.  The movies were not yet at a point where they seemed willing to consistently give their female leads much to do.

All in all, I liked the movie.  Less so than Goldfinger or From Russia With Love, but those are some favorites of mine in the entire series.  It's not going to be an endless road of escalation of appreciation.

Next up is You Only Live Twice, which I remember as "that one in Japan".


4 comments:

Stuart Ward said...

Haven't seen Thunderball since I was nine, when I fell asleep sometime during the seemingly endless underwater fight. (I also remember losing count of the speargun impalements.) You Only Live Twice, however, is my favorite of the Connery Bonds. Which is not to say I think it's wonderful. Just ridiculous in a way that I liked, rather than a way that put me to sleep.

Ryan Steans said...

There is no way I've seen "You Only Live Twice" since the 1980's, so I'm looking forward to it.

I think Jamie was also bored by the water-fight, but I couldn't believe the logistics of the damn thing. Filming that had to have been a total bear.

Stuart Ward said...

I look forward to your reaction to You Only Live Twice. It just feels like, finally, they leaned into the goofiness, and just throw the kitchen sink in there. It's pretty fucking bananas.

(And even by Bond standards, really, uh, problematic... from a contemporary race/gender politics point of view.)

Ryan Steans said...

Oh, I am sure it's a checklist of "please do not". But in comparison to race in the Bond novels, I am sure it's an egalitarian wonderland.