Monday, 18 April 2011

Thunderball


After the giddy heights of Goldfinger, Thunderball is a bit of a damp squib. It starts out well enough with a pre-credit scene where James punches a woman in the face! But, Oh, James thinks that dude looks like a lady (or something), and so a good scrap ensues, involving the classic Bond move of pinning his assailant to a wall with a chair! Having won the fight, 007 then escapes using a jetpack covered in tin foil and proudly showing a lovely helmet!

The great song is then belted out by Tom Jones (though he did manage to sound quite effeminate at times), before we are transported to SPECTRE’s hideout to find out (#2) Emilio Largo’s cunning plan.
                                                You just wouldn’t sit down would you?

The plan is to hijack a plane carrying two nukes, and use them to extort £100,000,000 out of NATO (but essentially the British Government). Largo (Adolfo Celi) is a really nasty piece of work: inviting Bond aboard his yacht; inviting him to dinner; all this time of course James is trying to locate the nukes. Helping him in this is Domino (Claudine Auger) Largo’s bit of stuff, so naturally Bond seduces her. When Largo is moving the nukes from their safe storage to the handover point in exchange for his ransom, 007 is there, (of course!), along with a lot of aqua-soldiers to have some sort of underwater knees-bent running about fight! Largo escapes, Bond follows for a dramatic finale aboard his yacht (the Disco Volante) where Domino shoots him in the back with a harpoon!

If FRWL was all about the Orient Express, then Thunderball is all about the ocean; and it looks great. Factoid: Lamar Boren who was the underwater cameraman, was DOP on the 1964 Flipper TV series! The only downside of this is that it is harder to act underwater (presumably). The underwater fight at the end is essentially 10 minutes of silent movie, with the occasional thwunk of a harpoon, and some over-acted deaths that would give a lot of Zulus a run for their money! I think that perhaps it is this focus on underwater action that gives the film a slightly surreal feeling and so the pace of the film suffers.

Sean is of course as suave, unflustered, and great as ever; “Yes, I thought I saw a spectre at your shoulder. - What do you mean? - The spectre of defeat.” Claudine Auger’s Domino is perhaps the finest Bond Girl yet (can of worms?) Honey Ryder didn’t do much; Tatiana was pretty, but pretty pathetic; and Pussy had a great name but not much more. Domino is sexy, vengeful, puts up with a bit of torture and then shoots Largo with a harpoon! Adolfo Celi is good as Largo, but he must have turned up on set on the first day and thought they were having a laugh when they told him to wear an eye-patch!

There are a few more gadgets in this outing: Jetpack, hoses and bullet-proof shield on Aston Martin, Geiger counter watch, re-breather, jam trousers (no wait that was an Eddie Izzard sketch). Of course they were all needed for the mission.

                 

Thunderball has a lot going for it; I think its main problem other than the underwater-ness slowing it down a bit, is that it is coming hard on the heels of Goldfinger which was a great film. Probably whatever fourth film was made, it would never have lived up to Goldfinger.

Order of preference so far:
Goldfinger, From Russia with Love, Dr No, Thunderball