007 - Thunderball
R1 - America - Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Cory Max (21st March 2008).
The Film

By 1965, the cold war between the United States and Russia was deeply entrenched in the mindset of almost every individual living in the world at that time. Just three years earlier the two superpowers had stood toe to toe in a Mexican standoff over missiles on a small Caribbean island nation, with the world’s fate hanging in the balance. That same year a film would be released that would play upon the fear and intrigue that had become a way of life between the political enemies. Dr. No would the first in what would become the most successful film series in movie history, and the world’s first look at James Bond, Agent 007. From the opening moments of the film, Sean Connery’s suave demeanor and good looks created an icon that would last for the next forty plus years and five successive incarnations. The following year would see the release of From Russia with Love, a hearty and gut-wrenching sequel to its predecessor. But it would be with 1964’s Goldfinger that the series reached its creative zenith. Everything that is associated with the Bond character was finally in place by the third films release; the gadgets, the car, and of course the women. But it would be with the fourth venture in the canon that the ‘Bond girls’ would take their place alongside Connery as the primary enticements for the viewer, both male and female.

After the success of Goldfinger, the world was clamoring for more of their favorite secret agent. By 1965, the Bond character had seen many pale comparisons and imitators in both film and television, yet Sean Connery still remained ahead of the pack. Thunderball would be his fourth outing with the shaken, not stirred martini and sadly, the last time he truly gave it his all. He would star in three more ventures, but mainly for the paycheck. Although the story lacked the punch of the Goldfinger screenplay, it more than made up for this shortcoming by giving us the best of the ‘Bond girls’ so far, and probably of all time. Luciana Paluzzi, Claudine Auger and Martine Beswick would set the standard for each of the successive films as the perfect foils and femme fatales for what had become a legendary screen icon.

SPECTRE has hijacked a military bomber and stolen two nuclear warheads. It is their plan to extort £100 million or a major city in England or the United States will be destroyed. Agent 007 is sent to the Bahamas to investigate a lead and while there he meets Emilio Largo (Adolpho Celi), SPECTRE No. 2. He soon deduces that Largo is behind the plot and after seducing his mistress Domino (Claudine Auger), who is actually the pilot’s sister, he plots to stop Largo’s plan. But Largo knows who this stranger is and sends his trusted assassin Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi) to silence him once and for all. Here is the first time in a Bond film where the femme fatale is not only gorgeous but is equal to Bond in expertise. She is not so easily swayed by Bond’s looks and charisma, as she states in the film; “But of course, I forgot your ego, Mr. Bond. James Bond, who only has to make love to a woman, and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing. She repents and immediately turns to the side of right and virtue. But not this one. What a blow it must have been. You, having a failure.” How refreshing to view such a sexy seductress verbally sparring with the Uber-macho agent and putting him in his place.

Although everything that would be essential to a successful Bond outing is in this film, it runs a little long and therefore can’t reach the strata of its predecessor. There are plenty of cool gadgets, the villains are eerie, calculating and cold, and of course the women are to die for, but for all intensive purposes this movie never really clicks. Sure, it made a lot of money, in fact it was the most successful film in the series up to that point, but a little editing could have propelled it past Goldfinger in the eyes of most Bond fans. Two years later, the release of You Only Live Twice, would send Connery into the first of his ‘Bond’ retirements. After that, to me, the series was never the same. Roger Moore just was a little too smarmy for me, and the rest of the 007’s were overshadowed by the gadgets and special effects.

Video

From a visual standpoint, this is one of the most astonishing digital re-mastering’s I have witnessed on a DVD. The viewer would be hard pressed to find any blemishes or imperfections on this pristine transfer. The only fault that you could probably find is with the colors of the film. One could say that they are a slight bit over saturated, but taking into account the year that this film was made, this would be acceptable. Color televisions were just breeching the electronics marketplace and to showcase the new technology, filmmakers and television shows tended to boost up the hues. 2.35:1 anamorphic.

Audio

The audio portion of the disc is presented in Dolby 5.1 and DTS, along with the original 1.0 mono track and French language track. Subtitles are in six languages, including English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Thai. The latter three languages also have subtitles for the two commentaries featured in the supplements.

Extras

As I purchased this DVD as a stand alone disc, as opposed to the box set being offered in the James Bond series, the only supplements are two commentary tracks. The first features director Terence Young who contributes plenty of insight to the film and the cast, with only momentary gaps, but they are short. Interspersed with Young’s analysis, are audio clips that I presume are from old interviews with members of the cast which pertain to certain subjects that Young is talking about at the time.

The second commentary features both film editor Peter Hunt and screenwriter John Hopkins, and whose views of the film and the behind the scenes information are a little more interesting than Young’s commentary.

Overall

The Film: C+ Video: A Audio: A Extras: D Overall: B

 


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