Thunderball (1965), James Bond’s fourth adventure, upped the Bond ante with the most ambitious adventure—and budget—to date. A NATO warplane with a nuclear payload disappears into the sea near the Bahamas. Bond (Sean Connery) is called back from an exclusive health spa for the rich and criminal (where he tangles with a mechanized masseuse run amuck) and sent to the casinos of Nassau.
Adolfo Celi plays nemesis Emilio Largo, the number two man at SPECTRE, as equal parts mafia godfather, stylish pirate (complete with eye patch), and barrel-chested society gent. As Largo extorts the world with the threat of an atomic bomb on a major international city, Bond seduces his beautiful mistress Domino (Claudine Auger) and wins her over to his side.
Connery is both more charming and more ruthless than ever as Bond, his arrogant chauvinism is still turned up to 10. So is everything else. 007 is equipped with more gadgets than ever, courtesy of the resourceful “Q” (Desmond Llewelyn), and the film tops previous outings for stunts and set pieces from the opening, where Bond straps himself to a real-life rocket pack, to its most ambitious finale yet. Armies of scuba warriors zip through the surf with underwater scooters, grapple in hand-to-hand combat, and battle with spear guns, knives and explosives in a battle beneath the surf. In between, Bond races a motorcycle firing missiles at his Aston Martin, plays baccarat, tangles with sharks, and romances every beauty in the film.
Luciana Paluzzi plays SPECTRE assassin and Largo’s chief agent Fiona Volpe and other featured Bond babes include Molly Peters as a health clinic attendant (Bond’s first conquest in the film) and Martine Beswick (a veteran of From Russia With Love) as fellow agent Paula Caplan. Rik Van Nutter takes over the role of CIA agent and Bond buddy Felix Leiter this time around.
It’s the third and final Bond film for director Terence Young and he’s backed by a veteran Bond team: production designer Ken Adams, editor Peter Hunt, stunt director Bob Simmons, and composer John Barry. Tom Jones belts out the bold theme song to another classic Maurice Binder title sequence.
It became the top-grossing film of 1966 and the biggest grossing Bond film of the sixties and it spawned a merchandising bonanza with 007 toys and games and the first James Bond action figure. And it was the first Bond film to earn an Academy Award (for the visual effects).
Due to a complicated court settlement, screenwriter Kevin McClory kept the screen rights to the novel and later remade the film in 1983 as Never Say Never Again, with Connery returning for the role one last time. It’s one of only two Bond feature films made outside of the established series (the other is the original 1967 Casino Royale, which was played strictly for comedy).
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The James Bond Collection (24 films) [Blu-ray]