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Thunderball Review

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SPECTRE operative Largo steals two missiles with atomic warheads, and implements a massive international extortion scheme. Secret agent James Bond stumbles into the plot while recuperating at a health farm. Along with Domino, who wants revenge on Largo since the death of her brother, Bond sets out to thwart the villain.

★★★★★

The fourth 007 epic is perhaps a slight falling-off from the high water-mark of Goldfinger. Though it’s the entertaining combination as before, there’s a sense that the story – devised by Fleming specifically for the movies rather than as a book – consists of bits of the earlier movies pumped up and stitched together (we’re back in Jamaica, for instance), while the nuclear extortion premise is so standardised that it served for many other 1960s masterminds, down to Dr Evil. It ups the serial-like feel of the 1960s Bond series by bringing back the as-yet-unseen cat-stroking Blofeld (Anthony Dawson), head of SPECTRE, and establishing that the plots of Doctor No and From Russia With Love were only initial moves in a vast campaign of evil which would continue, with Blofeld out of the shadows, in the next three movies.

Connery is already seeming more bored than cool, an eyepatched Celi is just a smidgen less bizarre than previous Bond villains and the glamour girls (nice Claudine Auger, nasty Luciana Paluzzi) get little to do other than melt in 007’s arms (which is where Paluzzi is when she gets shot dead).

It was the first Bond which really went overboard with watersports – featuring a mass attack of frogmen on a SPECTRE base (a very exciting scene, though Bond himself tends to get lost in the melee) and one of the series’ wildest gadgets in the villain’s breakaway yacht the Disco Volante. Through a rights quirk, remade as Never Say Never Again.

Connery was cruising by this point and the movie doesn’t quite match the swagger of Goldfinger (1964), but still effortlessly plies the glory Bond years, concluding with a stunning underwater battle.