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Watch Thunderball (1965), Story, Stars, Reviews & All You Want To Know About A Great Movie

Sep 17, 2022
Watch Thunderball (1965), Story, Stars, Reviews & All You Want To Know About A Great Movie

Watch Thunderball (1965), Story, Stars, Reviews & All You Want To Know About A Great Movie

 

Thunderball (1965)

James Bond heads to the Bahamas to recover two nuclear warheads stolen by S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Agent Emilio Largo in an international extortion scheme.

Thunderball (1965) Trailer

Thunderball (1965) Reviews

By the time Thunderball, the fourth in the “official” James Bond film canon, was released, the “Bond Formula” had already been perfected. It goes something like this: take the suave 007 (always impeccably dressed and ready with a witty one-liner) and add several beautiful, scantily-clad women, at least one exotic locale, a few neat gadgets, multiple polished action sequences, a megalomaniac villain, and a musical score by the inimitable John Barry.

These elements, taken together, made Bond a huge success in the 1960s and have kept him riding a crest of financial profitability for more than three decades.

Thunderball is from the team that brought all the early Bond adventures to the screen: lead actor Connery (as 007), director Terence Young (who also helmed Dr. No and From Russia with Love), longtime Bond screenwriter Richard Maibaum, cinematographer Ted Moore, title sequence designer Maurice Binder, and composer John Barry. Thunderball proved to be the most popular Bond of all, topping UK and US box offices in late 1965 and early 1966. The film was so well-received, in fact, that it was remade some 18 years later as Never Say Never Again.

As Thunderball opens, SPECTRE is again on the move. This time, the mission — to blackmail the United States and Great Britain — is headed by Number Two, Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi). The plot he has masterminded involves stealing two nuclear weapons, then threatening to blow up a major city if the two countries don’t pay the ransom.

After the threat has been issued, M (Bernard Lee) calls in the “00” agents and assigns them to tasks around the world with the goal of finding and stopping Largo. 007 draws Nassau, where he encounters old friend Felix Leiter (played this time by Rik Van Nutter), Largo’s lovely mistress, Domino (Claudine Auger), and a host of deadly adversaries.

At two and one-quarter hours, Thunderball runs too long. Certain sequences could have been trimmed, especially the climactic underwater battle, which seems to take forever. The villain of the piece is a little weak, coming in the wake of such memorable adversaries as Dr. No and Goldfinger.

While Adolfo Celi is suitably menacing, he plays Largo like a high-placed thug. There is some compensation for the deficiencies of the lead villain, however. It comes in the person of femme fatale Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi), whose sophisticated, black widow-like personality makes her more dangerous than any male SPECTRE agent.

Of all his Bond performances, Sean Connery seems the most comfortable here (not that he was ever uncomfortable). With three movies behind him and two more yet to come, Connery was in the midst of a career-making, successful run. His screen version of the superspy may not be what Ian Fleming envisioned when he first put pen to paper, but, by the release of Thunderball, the actor had left his indelible imprint on the role — a characterization that none of the performers following him has been able to equal.

The 007 of the books is different from the 007 of the movies, and Sean Connery is James Bond for the film-going audience (with apologies to George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan).

The underwater sequences, which are choreographed and directed with great skill, are Thunderball‘s standout feature. Connery is more often in a bathing suit than a tuxedo here.

A fair amount of time is spent beneath the ocean’s surface, and, down in Neptune’s realm, the photography (by Lamar Boren) is clear and the action sequences are invigorating (when they don’t seem to last forever, that is). Thunderball is classic 007 — not the best picture in the long-running series, to be sure, but a more-than-worthwhile diversion for the action-loving escapist in us all.

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Thunderball (1965) Credits

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Thunderball (1965) Plot

SPECTRE operative Emilio Largo devises a plan to hold NATO to ransom by hijacking two atomic bombs from a Royal Air Force (RAF) Avro Vulcan strategic jet bomber during a training exercise. To facilitate Largo’s plans, SPECTRE operative Count Lippe recruits Angelo Palazzi to oversee the theft of the bombs. With help from SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe, Lippe has Palazzi surgically alter his face to match that of French Air Force pilot François Derval, who is assisting in the exercise.

Volpe and Palazzi murder the real Derval, while they are staying at the Shrublands health resort, only for the latter to demand more money. Volpe acquiesces, merely to have him continue with their operation. Following the plan, Palazzi successfully hijacks the bomber, killing its crew, and lands it in shallow waters within the Bahamas. While the bombs are recovered by his men, Largo murders Palazzi for reneging on his original deal with SPECTRE.

British secret agent James Bond, recuperating at Shrublands after a previous assignment, notices Lippe’s presence and keeps him under observation, discovering Derval’s body. Upon being urgently recalled to London, Bond finds himself targeted by Lippe for trying to interfere. Before he can defend himself, Volpe kills Lippe for jeopardizing Largo’s scheme.

Once back in London, Bond learns that all 00 agents are being put on high alert following the theft of the bombs, after being informed a major city in the United States or the United Kingdom will be destroyed unless £100 million is paid to SPECTRE within seven days. While in talks with M on his assignment, Bond requests he be assigned to Nassau, Bahamas, to contact Derval’s sister Domino, after recognising Derval from the photo given to the agents in their main briefing as the body he found at the resort.

Bond meets with Domino, who he learns is the mistress of Largo when he visits a local casino. Both men recognise each other as adversaries and engage in a tense cat-and-mouse game while still pretending ignorance of each other’s true nature. Following their initial meeting, Bond meets with his friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter, fellow agent Paula Caplan, and MI6 quartermaster Q, to receive equipment to help with finding the bombs, including an underwater infrared camera and miniature underwater breathing apparatus.

Investigating Largo’s ship, Disco Volante, he notices an underwater hatch beneath her that intrigues him. The next day, he visits Largo at his estate during the night, only to find that Paula had been abducted and committed suicide before she could talk. Forced to escape, Bond evades Largo’s men during a Junkanoo celebration. Volpe catches up to Bond, but is accidentally shot by a henchman aiming for Bond.

Suspecting the bombs were brought to the area, Bond and Leiter search for the Vulcan and find it camouflaged underwater, along with the body of Palazzi. Upon returning to the island, Bond reveals to Domino that her brother was killed by Largo and gets her to help him search Disco Volante. However, Largo catches her in the act and has her imprisoned. Meanwhile, Bond replaces one of Largo’s men as SPECTRE prepares to move the bombs, and manages to learn where one of them is being moved to before being discovered and left behind.

Reuniting with Leiter, the pair gets the U.S. Coast Guard to intercept Disco Volante crew and recover one of the bombs in an underwater battle. Bond pursues Largo and grabs hold of Disco Volante as she sheds the rear half to become a hydrofoil to escape. Bond gets on deck and sends the Disco Volante out of control whilst he defeats Largo’s men and fights Largo.

Largo gets the upper hand and is about to shoot Bond when Domino kills Largo in revenge after his hired nuclear physicist frees her. The trio quickly flees Disco Volante just barely before her destruction, whereupon Bond and Domino are retrieved by a plane with the Fulton system.

 

Thunderball (1965) Box office

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Thunderball (1965) Critical Response

The film premiered on 9 December 1965 at the Hibiya Theatre in Tokyo and opened on 29 December 1965 in the UK. It was a major success at the box office with record-breaking earnings. In its opening in Tokyo in one theatre, it grossed a Japanese record opening day of $13,091 and the following day set a record one-day gross of $16,121. It grossed $63.6 million in the United States, equating to roughly 58.1 million admissions, and became the third-highest grossing film of 1965, only behind The Sound of Music and Dr. Zhivago.

In total, the film has earned $141.2 million worldwide, surpassing the earnings of the three preceding films in the series—easily recouping its $9 million budget—and remained the highest-grossing Bond film until Live and Let Die (1973) assumed the record.[35] After adjusting its earnings to 2011 prices, it has made around $1 billion, making it the second-most financially successful Bond film after Skyfall.[36]

Thunderball won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects awarded to John Stears in 1966.[9] Ken Adam, the production director, was also nominated for a Best Production Design BAFTA award.[10] The film won the Golden Screen Award in Germany and the Golden Laurel Action Drama award at the 1966 Laurel Awards. The film was also nominated for an Edgar Best Foreign Film award at the Edgar Allan Poe Awards.Contemporary reviews

Upon its release, the film received generally positive reviews. Dilys Powell of The Sunday Times remarked after seeing the film that “The cinema was a duller place before 007.” David Robinson of the Financial Times criticised the appearance of Connery and his effectiveness to play Bond in the film, remarking: “It’s not just that Sean Connery looks a lot more haggard and less heroic than he did two or three years ago, but there is much less effort to establish him as connoisseur playboy.

Apart from the off-handed order for Beluga, there is little of that comic display of bon viveur-manship that was one of the charms of Connery’s almost-a-gentleman 007.” 

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times found the film to be more humorous than its previous instalments and felt “Thunderball is pretty, too, and it is filled with such underwater action as would delight Capt. Jacques-Yves Cousteau.” He further concluded his review with praise for the principal actors and wrote “The color is handsome. The scenery in the Bahamas is an irresistible lure. Even the violence is funny.

That’s the best I can say for a Bond film.”[40] Variety felt Thunderball was a “tight, exciting melodrama in which novelty of action figures importantly.” Philip K. Scheuer, reviewing for the Los Angeles Times, was less impressed with the film writing, “It is the same as its predecessors, only more–too much of everything, from sudden desire to sudden desire.”

Additionally, he wrote: “The submarine sequences are as pretty as can be in Technicolor, featuring besides fish and flippered bipeds, all sorts of awesome diving bells and powered sea sleds – not to mention an arsenal of lethal spear guns. If I could have just known more than half the time what, precisely, they were doing, the effect could have been prettier yet.

Time applauded the film’s underwater photography, but felt the “script hasn’t a morsel of genuine wit, but Bond fans, who are preconditioned to roll in the aisles when their hero merely asks a waiter to bring some beluga caviar and Dom Pérignon ’55, will probably never notice. They are switched on by a legend that plays straight to the senses, and its colors are primary.”

Retrospective reviews

According to Danny Peary, Thunderball “takes forever to get started and has too many long underwater sequences during which it’s impossible to tell what’s going on. Nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable entry in the Bond series. Sean Connery is particularly appealing as Bond – I think he projects more confidence than in other films in the series.

Film has no great scene, but it’s entertaining as long as the actors stay above water.”Critics such as James Berardinelli praised Connery’s performance, the femme fatale character of Fiona Volpe, and the underwater action sequences, remarking that they were well choreographed and clearly shot. He criticised the length of the scenes, stating they were in need of editing, particularly during the film’s climax.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a “Certified Fresh” 87% rating based on 52 reviews with an average rating of 6.70/10. The website’s consensus reads: “Lavishly rendered set pieces and Sean Connery’s enduring charm make Thunderball a big, fun adventure, even if it doesn’t quite measure up to the series’ previous heights.”

On Metacritic the film has a score of 64 out of 100 based on reviews from 9 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews”.[47] In 2014, Time Out polled several film critics, directors, actors, and stunt actors to list their top action films;[48] Thunderball was listed at number 73.

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Thunderball (1965) Accolades

 

Thunderball (1965) Movie Info

Special agent 007 (Sean Connery) comes face to face with one of the most notorious villains of all time, and now he must outwit and outgun the powerful tycoon to prevent him from cashing in on a devious scheme to raid Fort Knox — and obliterate the world’s economy.

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Thunderball (1965) Pictures

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