James Bond: From Worst to Best – Thunderball


This one is mostly remembered as “Bond underwater.” Technology must have really advanced around this time as far as waterproofing cameras because there is at least 45 minutes of underwater footage shot here. It starts out kind of cool, then gets a little tedious in the middle, but by the end of the film it becomes immensely impressive. Being a follow-up to Goldfinger, I could see how this could be a disappointment to some because that is a much more fast-paced action thriller compared to this more “realistic” spy thriller. Thunderball is also where we get our first real introduction to the SPECTRE boardroom. We had seen a hint of them before in From Russia with Love, but they really came into form here, with Blofeld’s appearance still hidden from the audience.


Bond and his trusty jet pack!

The film starts out with an interesting but memorable action sequence in which Bond calls the bluff of a villain dressed as a woman, kills him, and escapes pursuers in a jet pack. It must have blown minds at the time of the film’s release and is still a lot of fun now. Unfortunately, the film drags a little bit after this in the set up until Bond is sent on his mission. For a film that is over two hours, a little bit could have easily been trimmed, especially in the scenes where Bond visits the spa and when Largo hijacks the nuclear bomber. The scenes tend to run a bit long, and we get the point pretty quick. However, those are my only criticisms of the film because once we hit the 30 minute mark, the rest is fantastic. From the exciting (if brief) car chase all the way to the climactic underwater battle, the film is a lot of fun. We also get to see Bond use his spy skills quite a bit in this one, something often lost on the series nowadays.

As for the Bond girls, we get a couple of great ones here. First is Largo/SPECTRE’s black widow-type, Fiona (played by Luciana Paluzzi) who gets a fantastic scene with Bond in which he tells her that having sex with her was for Queen & Country and derived no pleasure from it. The second is the stunning Domino, played by Claudine Auger, who is one of the few helpful Bond girls and actually dispatches of the main villain herself (saving James in the process). Domino is one of my favorite characters in the film, one of the few I would have liked to actually have ended up with 007 in the end.

Thunderball Claudine Auger

Claudine Auger as Domino

I’ve sort of been touching here and there on the underwater sequence that closes the film. I do just want to come back to that because it is such a big part of this one and I don’t feel it really gets the love it deserves. Back in 1965, I couldn’t imagine shooting a sequence of this magnitude. You have a minimum of 20 stuntmen underwater with harpoons, oxygen tanks, and hydro vessels all colliding with each other in combat. The fact that the scene lasts around 20 minutes is even crazier. Bond goes around cutting oxygen tubes, ripping off goggles, and stabbing people in the eye! It’s actually one of the more brutal and cut-throat sequences in the series. It’s a very well shot and directed sequence that gives you a claustrophobic feeling. Thunderball being the first entry in the franchise to be shot on widescreen Panavision, there is no better way to showcase the cinematic quality of the picture.

Worst to Best so far:
24. Live & Let Die
23. The Man with the Golden Gun
22. A View to a Kill
21. Die Another Day
20. Octopussy
19. Moonraker
18. Diamonds are Forever
17. Quantum of Solace
16. Licence to Kill
15. The World is Not Enough
14. You Only Live Twice
13. For Your Eyes Only
12. The Living Daylights
11. Thunderball

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