Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolpho Celi, Bernard Lee

The fourth installment in the James Bond film series was the most lavish and complicated one up to that point. Following on the heels of the smash hit, Goldfinger, producers Broccoli and Saltzman picked Thunderball because of its spectacle, and success as a novel. A legal battle over the rights to the story meant that Ian Fleming's former collaborator, Kevin McClory was made a producer of the film and reserved the right to make a future Bond film of his own, based on Thunderball. (He did in 1983 with Never Say Never Again.)  However, legal issues weren't the only hurdle in the making of Thunderball, as the producers and veteran director, Terence Young struggled with how to film the plethora of underwater sequences in the script. By bringing in skilled divers and stunt performers, they were able to do for scuba action what On Her Majesty's Secret Service did for skiing.

Differing only slightly from the source material, the film follows 007 as he tracks SPECTRE to Nassau in the Bahamas in order to thwart their plot to hold NATO ransom after hijacking two atomic bombs. The villain this time around is suave, cruel and cycloptic Emilio Largo whose plan involves keeping 007 and his allies unaware while he hides the nuclear weapons aboard his yacht- the Disco Volante. The plot is almost too straightforward, but the overwhelming sense of urgency keeps you in suspense as Bond races against the clock to stop Largo's nefarious plans. Complicating matters are two women, Largo's innocent kept woman, Domino and the sultry killer, Fiona Volpe. With all due respect to Claudine Auger's Domino, it is busty redhead Lucianna Paluzzi who steals the show as Fiona. Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewellyn and Lois Maxwell are great in their usual roles, and add some nice humor to the goings on.

While some of the underwater action gets a bit convoluted and tiresome, Thunderball is a very exciting and fun Bond film. Sean Connery was at the hight of his powers as 007, and this would mark the last time that he really looks as if he cares in the series. Much of what was done in this film was far ahead of its time, and there is little debate among Bond scholars that Thunderball ranks as one of the more complete outings. The villain, women, locales and action are all top notch- and even if there are a few more cartoonish elements here than in say, From Russia With Love, the series had not yet jumped the shark. That would unhappily occur in the next film, You Only Live Twice.

Things to watch for-

Feisty widows
Jet pack
Octopus rings
The Mink glove
A suped up scuba tank, courtesy of Q
Tom Jones' killer title song

"I thought I saw a Spectre at your shoulder."

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