Over the last several months, members of the CBn Forum have been reviewing all the James Bond films in the “Countdown Threads“. If you wish to join in on the forum discussion all you have to do is register. Now here are some select reviews, varying in opinions, of Thunderball…
‘Thunderball’ -by Bond111
I’ve been a very big fan of Thunderball since the first day I saw it. I believe it to have been the first Bond film I’ve ever seen (at a very young age). To me it contains all the best elements of a Bond film.
The first element that sticks out for me is the amazing score by John Barry. Absolutely one of his best, and sets the tone for the film perfectly. From Russia With Love may be the prototype for future Bond scores, but I believe the one for Thunderball really perfected it. Add to that Tom Jones’s beautiful and brassy title song accompanied by one of the best main titles Maurice Binder has ever put together.
The action and dialogue is top-notch. The underwater action scenes in particular are extraordinary, although I gather I enjoy them more than many others do. Altogether the film, I feel, is somewhat a mixture of both From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. The end effect is something to be treasured. The setting of the Bahamas creates an almost dream-like location. It seems to greatly expand on the tropical setting of Dr. No.
Sean Connery is arguably at his best in Thunderball, paired with an absolutely stunning Bond girl (Claudine Auger), one naughty femme fatale (Luciana Paluzzi), and a menacing villain (Adolfo Celi). This one definitely deserves poster space on my wall.
‘Thunderball’ -by DLibrasnow
It should come as no surprise to anyone on CBn that I rate 1983’s Never Say Never Again far higher in regard than this 1965 effort by Kevin McClory. The later movie has better dialogue (by Flash Gordon’s Lorenzo Semple Jr.), an interesting score by Michel Legrand (that I like), a great, fun fight scene between Connery and Pat Roach and the second best Felix Leiter in the 007 series (after David Hedison).
Add to that a wonderful turn by Edward Fox as M (second only to Bernard Lee), a soberlngly funny Algy scene and the best femme fatale in the history of the movies in Fatima Blush (deliciously played with relish by the incredible Barbara Carrera) and perhaps you can appreciate why I prefer the 1983 movie.
That said this early effort produced by Kevin McClory is not without its good points. Lucianna Paluzzi is a great femme fatale, a great performance by Sean Connery, Molly Peters, and the better female lead (Claudine Auger’s Domino is simply superior to Basingers 1983 incarnation).
Overall this movie seems to be going nowhere fast. There is no real tension or suspense and when the filmakers attempt to inject some it merely comes out flat. Perhaps its my love of the 1983 film that colors my view but this movie does not work for me – and it’s the last review here on CBn that will be negative (because I love 1 through 12 on this countdown).
A movie that had promise but fails to deliver. Check out the far superior Never Say Never Again instead.
‘Thunderball’ -by Genrewriter
Even better than Goldfinger (slightly better flow), this is the first larger than life epic Bond film and boy, is it ever a good one! Connery is at his coolest and the villains are all top notch with Adolfo Celi giving a splendidly sophisticated villain and Lucianna Palluzzi showing off the sexiest femme fatale in the entire series. The aciton is superb with the fight aboard the Disco Volante at the end capping off one hell of an adventure. Caludine Auger is wonderful as Domino and apart from one or two dry spots, the film never loses momentum. This is as perfect a Bond film as you can get.
‘Thunderball’ -by Jamie007
In my opinion the best Connery 007 film. It makes all the previous Bond films feel small scale after watching it. Its a return to the grittier and more serious first two films, but keeps the gadgets over the top stunts audiences had come to love. It combines the best elements of the first three movies.
Connery is in great form here, but one of the main things that makes me put this film above the others – Adolfo Celi as Emilio Largo. He is one of the all time great Bond villains, and the one of the best from the Connery era, along with Donald Pleasance. The women too are definately above average in this film, Fiona Volpe has got to be the best ‘bad’ Bond girl of them all, she was terrific. Domino too was one of the most beautiful of all the Bond girls.
The story was pretty much standard Bond fare, but it made for some terrific scenes. This film has some of my favorite Bond moments of all time, such as Bond baiting Largo in the casino, and the skeet shooting.
About the only criticism I could make would be that some of the underwater scenes drag a little. Though I think that can be excuses, in their day those scenes were cutting edge and the audience probably couldnt get enough.
All in all, my favorite Connery movie and my favorite Bond film after GoldenEye.
‘Thunderball’ -by Loomis
First the good news: Thunderball is about a billion times better than a certain flick with the words “world”, “not” and “enough” in the title.
And now the bad news: there’s really only one reason why this is so:
Sean Connery, Sean Connery and Sean Connery.
Thunderball boasts the definitive James Bond actor in what may well be his coolest performance as 007. (I said: “the definitive James Bond actor”. You heard. What’s that? Are you trying to be funny? Okay, outside, now. Sorry, just dealing with some Daltonites there, where were we?) Unfortunately, this is more or less all that Thunderball has going for it (well, apart from some pretty scenery and occasionally impressive widescreen cinematography, giving this mostly Bahamas-set adventure a nice “travelogue” flavour from time to time).
Look, Sean Connery IS James Bond. All the proof you’ll ever need of that is in Thunderball. In spades. But to keep things short and sweet, I’ll just refer you to the scene at the Kiss Kiss Bang Bang club. How does that exchange go? “Oh, you’re mad”/”Yes, isn’t everyone?” Connery plays it to perfection. Thunderball is not only the film with arguably Connery’s finest turn as 007 (and therefore the finest turn as 007 – shut it), but possibly also the film in which Fleming’s Bond and “the movie Bond” (the two are usually thought to be mutually exclusive) are combined in the most perfect mix in the history of the Eon series. In Thunderball, Connery gives us a cold, hard, snobbish Bond for the Fleming-reading purists, and the “crowdpleasing” cinematic superhero Bond sought after by Joe Average to provide two hours of brain-in-neutral fun.
A pity that the film in which Connery shines so gloriously is frequently so flabby and dull. What we have here are some of the greatest moments in the history of the screen Bond…. surrounded by plenty of moments that, well, aren’t so great.
Thunderball is very different in tone not only to its three predecessors, but also to the other Panavision ’60s Bond flicks (something to do with Kevin McClory’s production, possibly). Despite generally witty dialogue and the usual 007 quips, it seems a rather humourless film; in fact I’ll go as far as to call it po-faced. Like The World Is Not Enough, it takes itself far too seriously – at times, the mood is downright sombre (another element it has in common with The World Is Not Enough is The Totally Extraneous and Unfunny Q Scene).
It lacks the bizarre atmosphere and – forgive me – raw animal sexuality of Dr. No, the intelligence of From Russia With Love, and the overweening self-confidence and incredible coolness of Goldfinger. Frankly, it’s a bit of a mess (and horribly overlong). Sure, it’s possibly the most faithful of all the films to an original Fleming novel, but then I’ve always found Thunderball one of old Ian’s weakest (to me, it reads like a novelization, with seemingly little effort put into it, and little “heart” – c’mon, it’s hardly “You Only Live Twice“).
And why is Claudine Auger seemingly kept in long shot for much of the movie? Rather a waste of a beautiful Bond girl when you can’t see her, no?
Fortunately, they (well, McClory and pals, not Eon) had another bash at the Thunderball “property” and came up with the excellent Never Say Never Again, which shows its father up as the poorly-paced, meandering nonsense it is. Never Say Never Again provides a better balance of thrills and laughter, with much more enjoyable performances by the supporting cast (Klaus Maria Brandauer and Barbara Carrera, in particular, are splendid).
All of which said, Thunderball is by no means the worst James Bond film, but that’s only because they managed to make a few others that are even shoddier. Which doesn’t say much for Thunderball, really (or for Eon, come to that), but, aw, heck, give it a spin and enjoy probably the best performance as 007 the world has ever seen.
‘Thunderball’ -by Qwerty
Look Up! Look Down! Look Out! Is Thunderball the biggest Bond of them all? Well, it’s definitely one of them. I have regarded Thunderball as Sean Connery’s best James Bond film by far for many reasons. It clearly is one of the most outlandish and epic in scope, the box-office numbers alone show how popular and financially successful this magnificent movie is. Sean Connery is on the ball as Bond. Even though at the time he wasn’t always as enthusiastic for the films as he was a few years earlier, his performance in Thunderball is spot on, and doesn’t show obvious signs of boredom.
The plot itself is terrific. The idea, in 1965, to steal two nuclear warheads and then hold countries for ransom is massive and very effective. Comparing to most likely From Russia With Love and You Only Live Twice, in this film, you really see the entire SPECTRE organization at work with one of their most powerful operations.
The characters are excellent as well. Nearly all of them stand out as being some of the best. I’ve always thought Emilio Largo to be sometimes overlooked in favor of Auric Goldfinger, but he is just as ruthless and cruel. His torture sequence of Domino most certainly shows this. Fiona Volpe is without a doubt, one of the very best femme fatales in the series. Her chemistry with Connery’s Bond is spot on and the dialogue between the two of them (in the car, bed, and during the chase for example) is riveting. Damsel in distress Domino is one of the best Bond girls in the series as well. She’s beautiful, essential to the plot, and very important in bringing down Largo.
John Barry composes a master score for this film, with the blasting 007 theme used very effectively and many of his other cues as well. I like Tom Jones’ title song, but I equally enjoy Dionne Warwick’s version of the alternate theme just as much.
A negative aspect of the film is perhaps a few (much less than what some say) slow scenes underwater, the SPECTRE crew covering up the Vulcan underwater being the main culprit. Other than that, this film takes you on a ride and doesn’t let up until the end.
‘Thunderball’ -by Scottlee
A beautifully shot film, and very much the highlight for me of the Connery era. Great villains, great direction (some say ‘overlong’ at times, but I disagree), great plot, great everything. I particularly enjoy the underwater battle near the end, Volpe’s death scene, and the health residence sequence. Domino Derval looks fantastic, too. It’s just one long wonderful cinematic experience this film.
‘Thunderball’ -by SPECTRE ASSASSIN
A huge spectacle of a film. Just a pure class and sophiscated film. Well done Terence Young! The locations are mesmerizing, and the film is well cast.
Claudine Auger by far is my favorite Bond girl of all time. Her role as a young woman caught in web of deceit and danger is one of the more believable Bond girls.
Lucianna Paluzzi is equally good as the venomous, yet alluring Fiona Volpe. And Adolfo Celi as Largo ranks to be in my top 10 in the rogue gallery.
I particulary like how the film was presented. Everything is filmed on a grand-scale, from the production design, to the cinematography, to the music, to the battle scenes and the gadgets.
Though the film isn’t perfect. Sean Connery is charming as always, but he does look a bit uninterested in some scenes. And though the length of the film had run its course a little bit, this film still stands out.
‘Thunderball’ -by tdalton
SPECTRE returns in Thunderball after an abscence in the previous film, Goldfinger. There plot this time around is, however, much more dangerous than in From Russia with Love and Dr. No.
The hijacking of two NATO nuclear warheads was a threat that was very realisitc for a Bond film. In many ways, Thunderball was the end of an era for the Bond films, in that all of the films prior to and including TB, the plotlines were all very realistic or at least plausible, and the action was generally realistic or kept within the realm of possibility. This would change in the next film, You Only Live Twice, would skip On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, begin again with Diamonds Are Forever and not end until For Your Eyes Only brought back the realistic action and plotline.
When Bond is called in for the briefing on the hijacking of the warheads, and we see him enter a large room filled with the other Double-oh agents, the audience knows right away the scope and the severity of the situation. No other Bond film, prior or since, has ever given the audience the sense that if the agents fail, the world may come to an end. This is achieved in Thunderball, and it adds a tension that is felt throughout the film until the climax.
The locations on Thunderball are also the most exotic they have been in the series up until that point. Nassau is a very beautiful place and is exactly the type of place that a Bond movie should take place in.
Adolfo Celi is brilliant as Emilio Largo (much better than his counterpart Maximillian Largo in the farce Never Say Never Again). Claudine Auger is also very good as Domino. Not the best Bond girl in the series, but a very good and memorable one nonetheless.
Thunderball also marks SPECTRE’s emergence as a legitimate threat to Bond and the world. The organization begins a string of regular appearances in Bond films that would last four consecutive films, easily the most time a villian has recurred in the Bond series. It is the nuclear blackmail plot that gives SPECTRE the attention of the world and gives Bond an arch nemesis to pursue.