Film Spotlight: Thunderball

Thunderball 8

I’m a snob when it comes to James Bond, and I have my reasons why the franchise is at its best during the Connery years. First, if I ever have the means to visit Sweden, I’d have to visit the James Bond museum. Otherwise, there’s nothing better than the  007 Official Site where I pulled tidbits and details to add to my opinions. If you are a James Bond addict, then I highly recommend you look at Bond from statistician Derek Young’s perspective. Chance magazine–a statistical assessment of James Bond. It’s an in-depth analysis of the history behind the franchise. Why is Thunderball one of the better Bond films? There are traditional aspects one expects in a Bond film:

The Opening Song by a Star

If James Bond had a singing voice it would sound like Tom Jones. He’s Welsh, virile, and tall-dark-and-handsome. You could drive a truck through his vibrato. Composed by John Barry & Don Black, the opening song “Thunderball” described James Bond as ruthless when it came to seducing women and killing men. The lyrics may be lame, but the power of the twangy horn section and the robust pitch of Tom Jones’s voice was an oral eruption contributing to the sexiness factor of Thunderball. Want to know more about the songs of James Bond? Here’s an article worth visiting reelreactions J Bond songs . Tom Jones had to follow the sensational Shirley Bassey in Goldfinger (1964), considered by many as the best singing performance in Bond history. Apparently, Tom Jones passed out singing the last high note, but it was worth it for his career. Due in part to his association with the James Bond franchise, his popularity soared. From 1969-1971, Tom Jones was rewarded with his own variety show on television; the playboy performer collected panties thrown to him from admirers in the audience when he sang.

Sexiness Factor

Thunderball-Wallpaper-1 After fifty years and 23 Bond films, Sean Connery remains the best James Bond. In 1965, he was celebrating the height of his popularity for playing the spy. He defined the part. While other Bonds are prettier, Sean Connery exuded that  je-ne-sais-quoi. His wry smile and sex-appeal defined masculinity as much as any Bond-girl defined sexual femininity. Connery tapped into the James Bond machismo best, that is, Bond was the man who always conquered his foes and possessed any woman of his choosing with cool wit, high-class props, and an insatiable appetite. Thunderball was a very sexy film. From the opening song with the silhouette water nymphs to stunning Bond-girls, what a perfect location to film at the Bahamas where near-nudity is perfectly normal and everyone is as gorgeous as the climate. Also, this was the first Bond film to use wide-screen Panavision, too.  Let’s face it, Thunderball was an orgy of the senses, stirring the audience as if struck, well, by a thunderball. This all done and still rated PG.


The Villain

Antagonist Emilo Largo, played by Adolfo Celi, made good use of his granite face and strong chin to play the sinister villain who attempted to black mail the western world with two stolen atomic bombs.  There’s nothing like an eye-patch to toughen up a face. His wielded his power over his cronies in scuba gear with harpoon guns. I loved the concept of an underwater army. It’s rare to witness an underwater battle scene. There’s still plenty of cool gadgets and car chases and explosions for traditional thrill-seekers, but I appreciated the difficulty of filming the underwater sequence. Thunderball ranks up there as number seven with a score of 4 out of 5 shaken, not stirred martinis.

Are you looking forward to Spectre starring Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, and Léa Seydoux? It’s scheduled for November, 2015.

37 thoughts on “Film Spotlight: Thunderball

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    1. I like the new films with Daniel Craig. The films are better as a whole, but I don’t think of Craig as Bond. Just another Bourne or Ethan Hunt. Daniel is way too cold for me and he’s not the least bit sexy like Sean. Craig seems more like a robot. But I do like this new go-around to the franchise and look forward to next November. .

  1. With Daniel Craig we see the Bond movies return to the flavour that Fleming intended – and which Connery movies favoured – and edge that gave the movies some bite – instead of the slapstick cartoons that Moore fell into. But after the Bourne movies they knew they had to raise their bar. Good thing.

  2. I remember that LIFE edition with Sean on the cover cause we had a subscription! I pored over everything they had pictured and written in that magazine on the subject. Fine write-up, Cindy.

  3. Bah! Two words: Roger…Moore! No, I’m only joking, I’m a huge fan of the Connery Bond films; I’ve also enjoyed all of the other Bonds, even the silly late 70s / early 80s safari suit Moore years, although I think Connery is the best to date. A good article on Thunderball, it’s a cracking film! I’m looking forward to SCEPTRE and I think Christoph Waltz should be a good fit

    1. Christoph’s performance in Inglorious Basterds blew me away; I have full confidence he will do the villain part justice. It won’t be an easy role to do–Javier Bardem was outstanding in ‘Skyfall’.

  4. No reasons necessary – hands down – Connery IS Bond!!! I had the good fortune of seeing his yacht when it was here in Palm Beach one time – and the boat agrees – it’s name is “007” – what else!!?!!
    (But I should hope if he sang, his voice would be a tad lower that Jones’.)

  5. having frst been enticed by the poster for Dr. No a few months before the movie was released, and with each of the first three movies being better than the last, I didn’t understand why I was so bored watching Thunderball. Perhaps it was the underwater sequences that went on forever. I saw the picture a few more times, but it did nothing for me. Last week, it was on television. I saw some bits from it, but they seemed only faintly familiar. Those first three pictures had been burned into my skull, but Thunderball wenter in one eye and out the other At that point, there was no comparing Sean Connery with anyone else, because he was the only Bond. His next two picture were better,and in retrospect I ve grown to love diamonds are forever, but no matter how many times I watched Thunderball, it never improved. I do agree with you on Tom Jones, though! As for roger Moore, forget about it. I didnt even bother seeing most of those pictures. Timothy Dalton showed some promise, but didnt last long, and Pierce Brosnan was a drag. Daniel Craig has little resemblance to the original Bond, but he has created a new Bond for a new era that is just as good as Connery was for the sixties. It will be a sad day when his contract expires, especially since christopher nolan has been signed on to direct the post-Craig bonds. I suspect that a string of bonds that were just as bad as the Moore entries will follow the departure of Craig. Oh well, we will always have Skyfall.

    1. Hi Bill, welcome back! Love your comments. I saw ‘Diamonds are Forever’ and was bored! The formula just didn’t sit well anymore–it grew stale. Like you, I glossed over the other Bonds and I’m glad to be back with this reboot. I don’t think Craig is a good Bond at all, but the films are better now and technology has advanced to where I’m awestruck again like in the beginning with Bond’s fun gadgets. I’m a fan of Fiennes and Christoph Waltz–so looking forward to next year.

      1. Cindy, I am going to have to look into this a little more deeply. When I read the Fleming books, to I was too young to be able to determine how well Connery personified the character of Bond as written by Fleming. So I am going to read the books and watch the movies again and will get back to you on this. One thing to take into consideration about Daniel Craig as Bond is that, with the exception of Casino Royale, they are not based on Fleming’s books. I havent read any of the post-Fleming Bond books, so have no idea if the character has been redrawn or is a faithful copy of Fleming’s Bond.

        1. What a fun way to spend your time, Bill. I had similar thoughts regarding reading Ian’s books. Too many I haven’t read and too many I was too young to fully appreciate. I will be curious to hear your thoughts.

  6. I have so many holes in my Bond watching. To be perfectly honest I never really connected to the series until these recent movies. There are some that I have liked. Some that I didn’t. But there are so many I still need to see including Thunderball.

    1. Hi Keith. The early films with Sean are a genre unto their own reflecting society of the 60s when things were mod and swinging. I didn’t care much for the other bonds–the formula grew stale–but I very much enjoy this last go around with Daniel Craig and Mendes. I don’t think Craig is anything like Ian Flemming imagined. He’s more a Bourne or a cold version of Tom in Mission Impossible. What I do like about the new films is that technology has given the series a new spark. There’s more of a plot now and dialogue than the same old one-liners. Since Mission Impossible has grown stale, 007 has a new life, and I’m glad.

      1. I think you hit on what I like about the new films. There really is a more substantial plot and although this is an overused description, I really like the grit and darker tone. And I do agree with you about Sean Connery. Of the older ones I’ve seen, he really stands out.

  7. I agree Sean Connery was the best Bond we’ve had till date. And the fact that, though other Bond’s were prettier, when it comes masculine sex appeal, Connery was the best. But I must say, speaking of looks (with height and the Bond feel), Roger Moore was the best, better than any. Post Connery & Moore, the rest weren’t that good, and I don’t even remember the George Lazenby film, which I watched as a kid.
    But I did like the remake of ‘Casino Royale’ (2006), I also read the book, and blogged about it, a couple of years ago or so.

    1. Hi Nuwansen, Good for you for defending Sir Roger Moore. He was Bond for 12 years and 7 films and he did look the part; however, the films seemed silly, not exciting. I liked him better in his television series ‘The Saint’ in the 1960s. I reckon playing Simon Templar the spy made Roger a natural to replace Sean Connery.

  8. Everyone knows that Connery is Bond, everyone else is a place holder. That said, “Thunderball” is a overstuffed piece of dessert. A couple of extra layers of frosting make it hard to digest, but while eating it, it tastes delicious. I’m going to leave a link for you Cindy. I saw Thunderball on the big screen earlier this year and there are a couple of things you might find enjoyable in my observations. (Dump the post if you don’t want links in your thread, I just thought you would enjoy, I’m not looking for traffic: )

  9. Watching Sean Connery navigate his way through these early Bond films is enjoyable and impressive. His charm and wit really sell those early missions. Connery gets cornered in every other scene yet always seems to glide through the gaps, all the while keeping his cool.
    Of the two great Bonds: Connery is the clean, confident pro while Daniel Craig is the darker spy on edge…the world needs and loves both.

    1. Hi Paul! Well articulated 🙂 Craig with his light hair and blue eyes and hairless body doesn’t feel like the classic version of the spy, does it? Yet, as you say, he is the darkest spy of Bonds. I prefer the films now, but miss the sardonic humor and style of Sean Connery.

  10. I love your enthusiasm for Thunderball Cindy. It isn’t one of my favourites (I’m a Roger Moore fan) but it’s still entertaining within the Bond canon. For me, Thunderball got a bit too silly after the excellent Goldfinger. Indeed, my favourite Connery films are the first three in the franchise. I think I actually prefer You Only Live Twice to this

    1. Hi Dan, welcome :). I can appreciate and agree with you Dan that Goldfinger is the best one and You Only Live Twice is a fine, too. Roger Moore had huge shoes to fill when he took over the franchise from Sean Connery. There are fun things to say about them all–the music for example–my favorite Bond song is Paul McCartney and Wings with Live and Let Die and the various villains and Bond girls and props are fun to look at. Now that it’s post-Cold War, the current Bonds deal with with different problems. I am happy to return to the theater again to watch Craig. I’m a Mission Impossible fan and miss Ethan Hunt; that hole is filled nicely with the current Bond flicks. The Villains are better than ever, too.

  11. Oh, this is dangerous territory for me, Cindy, as Bond actors have caused major rifts in my family in the past and continue to do so to this day. We all agree to disagree and only stab one another in the back with barbed statements of their poor taste when they’re not in the room.
    I’m a Craig fan–as I find him most believable: rough around the edges, always learning on the fly, and a survivor by instinct rather than gadgetry. The best and most believable film in his series would have to be Casino Royal. I’ll never tire of watching it. And yes, November can’t come quickly enough!

    1. Thanks for submitting your two cents, Shelley 🙂 Craig is further away as Ian Flemming imagined, I suspect. But I sure like these round of films starring Craig. Can’t wait to see what Christoph Waltz will do in the role as villain.

  12. Nice one Cindy! I just did a Bond-related post for Rob’s blogathon too. I do think Connery makes for a sexy and suave Bond, but I’m not fond of his films anymore, they just feels so dated to me. I’m a huge Dalton fan as you know, though I’m in the minority. But overall I’m a big Bond fan and so you already know my answer about Spectre 😀

    1. Howdy Ruth: Yay for Spectre! You were the first I had read about the announcement last week. I’ve been reading Rob’s blogathon posts but haven’t caught your entry. Can you send me a link so I can read all about it?

  13. Hi, Cindy:

    ‘Thunderball’ has that old and admirable adherence to Fleming’s written words that made Connery so endearing as Bond. 😀

    Superb underwater cinematography and model work with the RAF Vampire bomber. Its ditching in the Caribbean, camouflaging with nets and theft that gets everything going.

    Aldolfo Celi is excellent as high class thuggish, Largo. And his compound and hydrofoil yacht are very cool, too!

      1. They are all worthwhile reads.

        There’s part of a chapter in ‘Thunderball’ that is a discussion between Felix Leiter and Bond drinking in Bond’s suite. On how hotel chains gouge their customers of their bars and room service on the price of a drink. I wonder how many 1960s global businessmen decided that it’s cheaper to bring a bottle along?

        A nice, informative interlude before Bond and Felix get ready to go to work.

        1. Hahaha. I’ll look out for that. I bet the 60s businessmen went to the bar and then up to the room to drink. There were stashes in cars, in locker-rooms, flasks in suit-jackets. That martini lunch never ended. Drinking and smoking. Seemed you weren’t an adult unless you did both.

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