Ricky Church counts down to the release of Spectre with a retro review of Thunderball…
In the next film of the Bond franchise, the evil organization SPECTRE takes center stage in their most ambitious plot yet as they hijack two nuclear bombs, ransoming the safety of a major American and British city in Thunderball. Though still an enjoyable film, Thunderball is weaker than the previous three due to a slow moving plot and a main villain who isn’t quite as interesting as Bond’s other foes.
The plot is engaging enough that it raises SPECTRE’s threat much more by giving a deeper look at their operation and leadership, but most of the time its not that compelling. The narrative somewhat spins its wheels a lot as Bond repeatedly stakes out Emilio Largo’s headquarters and home only to be caught and make a drastic escape. This happens one too many times in the story that it feels nothing quite substantial is actually happening for the longest time.
The underwater sequences don’t help the narrative either. They are often very lengthy and slow-moving, going on for longer than they should. The only exception is the underwater climax between Bond’s and SPECTRE’s forces, even if it is corny by today’s standards. Aside from that, the underwater scenes plod on too long. That said, it certainly is impressive director Terence Young, filming his last Bond film, was able to film so much underwater in 1965.
Connery once again gives a great performance as Bond, though at times he’s a bit more of an a-hole than his previous films. Claudine Augner gives a good performance as Domino, the main Bond girl of the film, though her character isn’t given much to do or as strong a personality as Pussy Galore and other girls. Adolfo Celi also gives a good performance as Emile Largo, SPECTRE’s second-in-command by displaying his cold and cruel nature towards others, though he’s also not quite as interesting as the other villains. However, I again can only comment on Augner’s and Celi’s physicality as, much like Ursula Andress and Gert Frobe, they were both dubbed over due to their heavy accents.
Though Largo may not be a great villain on his own, the standout villain is the female assassin for SPECTRE Fiona Volpe, played by Luciana Paluzzi. Fiona is a very skilled assassin with a lot of sass, easily matching Bond’s wit and seductiveness. Interestingly, Paluzzi auditioned for the part of Domino, but though she lost the part production liked her so much they offered her the role of the villainess, a part she said she enjoyed playing much more. Its quite evident how much fun she is having in the role as her chemistry with Connery in their onscreen rivalry is one of the best things about Thunderball.
Thunderball is enjoyable, but it does suffer from a few elements that drag it down, namely the slow plot and lengthy underwater sequences. There are few truly memorable aspects about this film that make it standout to other Bond films in the franchise. Though Largo is a threatening villain, he’s not very interesting. The film does, however, raise SPECTRE’s threat level as this marks the point where their schemes become more dangerous and sometimes even outlandish. Even still, Thunderball is a relatively easy film to forget in Bond’s many adventures.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★