Sometimes the most dated parts of an old film can be the most
enjoyable; so it is with Bond's fifth movie, THUNDERBALL. In the
opening, Bond surreptitiously witnesses the funeral of one of his foes.
As the dead man's heavily veiled widow leaves the church, he deduces
that it's really the bad guy in drag. The giveaway? She opens the car
For my almost 9-year-old son it was an entirely different scene
that won his heart. He literally went wild when Bond broke out that
classic Flash Gordon device, the personal jetpack, as a means of
escape. (I can understand his feelings. When I was his age, I dreamed
of my own rocket strapped to my back, but the closest I ever came to it
was the fast car -- Chevy 409 -- that I drove in high school.)
The setup for 1965's THUNDERBALL is that SPECTRE has taken control
of a jet containing 2 atomic bombs, which they bury in the ocean under
military-style camouflaging. They demand 100,000,000 pounds sterling,
or they will destroy a major British or US city. The tension is on.
Will Bond, played beautifully again by Sean Connery, find the bomb
first or will a city be wiped forever off the map?
THUNDERBALL goes back to the Caribbean where the first Bond film
was set, but this time it is the Bahamas rather than Jamaica. Poor
Bond has to drive an Aston Martin just like the last movie -- later
Bond films were less interested in such recyclables.
Bond has to go up against SPECTRE's number 2 operative known as
Emilio Largo. The casting of Adolfo Celi as Largo and his playboyish
costumes makes Largo less like a villain than a rich member of the
International Yacht Club.
Continuing the tradition begun with Jack Lord in DR. NO, CIA agent
Felix Leiter (Rik von Nutter) wears conspicuous dark sunglasses. Might
as well have worn a CIA T-shirt.
THUNDERBALL, which relies a bit too much on a larger than normal
bevy of beauties to carry the story along, needed the writers to have
spent more time in plot development.
The movie could have used crisper editing. Some of the underwater
sequences in particular run on way too long, especially a full scale
underwater battle between a couple of hundred men. The staging becomes
confusing and it is frequently not clear who is ahead or what is
Bond is always one fortuitous guy. When he is about to be shot he
wheels around his evil dancing partner. The bullet goes into but not
through her. She dies instantly, but he gets off completely unscathed.
Life's like that when you're the world's most handsome spy.
THUNDERBALL runs 2:13. It is rated PG for violence and sexual
innuendo and would be fine for kids around nine and up.
My son Jeffrey, almost 9, liked the movie a lot, especially the
jetpacks and the full-scale underwater battle. THUNDERBALL is his
favorite of the first four Bond movies.
Copyright © 1998 Steve Rhodes