Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released in the US on December 22, 1965 and in the UK on December 29, 1965
Directed by Terence Young
Written by Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins, based on the novel by Ian Fleming
Cast: Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi, Rik Van Nutter, Molly Peters, Martine Beswick, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, Guy Dolman, Reginald Beckwith, Anthony Dawson
With the first three James Bond adventure films a smashing success, there was no reason to believe that this fourth installment would be anything less, especially with Sean Connery back as 007, the experienced Terence Young again behind the camera, and a story from series vet Richard Maibaum that offered everything you’d come to expect from a Bond film. The terrorist group SPECTRE returned after a one-film hiatus to wreak more havoc, stealing two NATO atomic bombs and demanding a payment of £100 million in diamonds, or else an unnamed city in the US or UK would be obliterated.
This time, the film dispensed with the comic book mentality that was so prevalent in Goldfinger, replacing it with a more serious tone and dampening the abundant humor and overboard plot devices that had steered the franchise onto a slightly different path. I loved that the screenplay was more settled and straightforward this time, especially with the opening, which had Bond not on some thrill-a-minute mission to save the world, but on a peaceful rehab vacation at a health clinic, where he happened to uncover a hint of SPECTRE’s extortion plot.
Young’s direction finely complimented the above-water locales and spacious Ken Adam sets, and Connery was comfortable and believable as 007, helping the film retain its grounded sense of realism. As for the supporting players, Adolfo Celi was convincing enough as SPECTRE #2, Claudine Auger was quite yummy (especially in her black one-piece swimsuit), and Luciana Paluzzi was a voluptuous and dangerous femme fatale. And as for Rick Van Nutter, he was without a doubt the lousiest Felix Leiter in the history of the Bond franchise. He was just plain awful, and why he’s considered one of the best of the Leiters baffles me to no end.
It’s unfortunate, too, that the climactic undersea ending was so lethargic; it lasted just over twenty minutes, but it seemed like an hour, and I’ll have to agree with detractors who say these submerged battle sequences completely bogged the story down. They did, and though as a whole I was impressed with this Bond outing and grateful that the story played out like a true spy caper, it was this wrap-up that kept Thunderball from not quite attaining the level of perfection reached by my series favorites, the ten-star From Russia with Love and Skyfall. (8/10)