Starring: Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Daniela Bianchi, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi
Directed by: Terence Young
Running Time: 125 minutes
The thrills never let up as James Bond dives into this riveting adventure filled with explosive confrontations and amazing underwater action! Sean Connery brings his characteristic style and magnetism to agent 007 as he travels to Nassau to track down a villainous mastermind who is threatening to plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust.
The fourth James Bond adventure sees Terence Young return to the helm for another caper rife with excitement, glamour and exquisite women; and which features the Cold War’s biggest bugaboo, the Nuclear Bomb. When SPECTRE hijacks a British nuclear deterrence bomber and steals the nukes, MI6 calls on its most celebrated spook to go get them back. Bond heads to Nassau to infiltrate the operation, setting off a series of escapades framed by the culture and fabulous scenery of the Bahamas.
When it splashed in 1968, Thunderball was 007’s biggest box-office smash, raking in $141 million-plus — and winning a special-effects Oscar to boot. It was also the biggest Bond production up to that point. Flush with cash after the success of Goldfinger, the producers created an over-the-top circus, laden with more special effects and action than in any previous James Bond movie. Here, Bond the spy is gone, replaced by Bond the über-spy superhero (which only gets more pronounced in following movies) who flies about with a jetpack. The film was also shot in spacious Cinemascope for a more epic feel, and takes the series’ exotic locations motif one step further by making extensive use of underwater locations — and that’s where the film’s biggest stumbling block comes in.
For the time, the undersea sequences were high-tech and exciting, but they have not stood up well to the test of time; frankly, they slow the film down. This gives Thunderball a strange sense of duality: on land, the action is frenetic and relentless, but underwater, things just drag. And for a film that clocks in at just over two hours, the dragging could easily have been corrected by leaving a little more of the underwater footage on the cutting room floor. In fact, Thunderball could have stood being a good 15 minutes shorter.
Crave Factor – 7
Blu-ray and 1080p bring vintage Bond alive like nothing else. The sharp lines and deep colours are so clear and vibrant that the women occasionally come off as overly made-up and clownish, due to the more theatrical approach of sixties-era filmmakers. Without the softening effect of standard definition, the action is crisp, the images are beautiful, and colours are more lifelike.
Crave Factor – 9
As with the other five films, the sound is impressive. The re-mastering for 5.1 systems make sound effects pop. The music and dialogue are clear, and there’s enough subwoofer rumble to turn bangs into booms.
Unfortunately, all the older films in this series share a similar handicap: the music and sound effects are severely unbalanced with the dialogue, which leaves the viewer in the silly position of having to constantly adjust the volume.
There is also an audio issue that seems to plague all six films in the special edition release. The audio track gets knocked out of sync if you pause, then hit play again. To solve the problem, you essentially have to go back to the beginning of the current chapter. It’s not a make or break thing, but it’s an irritant, especially if you pause near the end of a chapter and have to re-watch or fast-forward through to your spot. And it’s a black mark on an otherwise terrific product.
Crave Factor – 7
The extras are a mixed bag of stuff that’s kind of cool and totally inane. The audio commentaries are sometimes illuminating, as are the On Location with Production Designer Ken Adam and A Child’s Guide to Blowing up a Car featurettes. There’s also an interesting Making of, and an old NBC TV special, which are both nice touches. It’s possible that someone out there will find the collection of TV commercials and theatrical trailers interesting in an archival sense, but the interactive guides to 007’s gadgets, women, allies and nemeses are all completely pointless.
Crave Factor – 5
Menu & Packaging
As with the rest of the discs in the series, the menus are tasteful and simple. And the cardboard sleeve over the Blu-ray case is wasteful and useless.
Crave factor: N/A
Conclusions & Final Thoughts
Thunderball is a thrilling joyride hampered by its overuse of underwater action. Bond is still the suave killer he’s always been, but now there’s an undercurrent of the gadgety superhero, and though it doesn’t overpower the film the way it will in some later movies, it still shears off some of the movie’s believability: Bond surviving capers great and small (and landing every woman he sets his eyes on) is goofy fun; Bond on a jetpack is beyond the pale.
Overall Crave Factor – 7