Directed by Terence Young
"You shouldn't have opened that door by yourself." This minor act of independence is all the confirmation James Bond needs to be certain that he's not dealing with a woman grieving under a widow's shroud. Sure enough, the widow proves to be a nefarious male agent in disguise and a spirited scuttle ensues with Bond emerging victorious, making a brisk escape via an inexplicably easy to don jetpack.
Welcome to the excess of Thunderball. With more than double the budget of its predecessor (Connery-era highlight,Goldfinger) and given license to indulge due to that film's massive financial success and larger than life characters, Terence Young's third turn at the helm is a bombastic, nautically-themed action romp.
The catch all Cold War paranoia embodiment, SPECTRE, is once again responsible for a nuclear threat. This time, they're extorting the British government for the return of two NATO atomic bombs. Fulfilling the globetrotting franchise custom, the mission to recover the WMDs leads Bond to the Bahamas, where he teams up once again with Felix Leiter (Rik Van Nutter, one of nine men to have filled the role on screen).
With its choppy fight scene editing, bizarre scenarios (a deadly exercise machine tries to jiggle Bond to death) and technical short comings (Young simulates speed in the climactic boat chase by essentially fast forwarding the background shot with vehicles exploding at the slightest provocation) Thunderball is among the most unintentionally funny 007 outings.
The deplorable treatment of women is toned down to chauvinistic bravado for the most part, though Bond does casually use a lady to block a bullet meant for him. On the flip side, Domino (Claudine Auger) is one of the most capable and confident "Bond girls" from the early films, even going so far as to save the suave spy's skin. (I guess that's progress?)
Thunderball is most notable for its elaborate and extensive underwater battles, which come off a little tedious now, but no amount of modern rendering fidelity can beat the menace of real sharks. Using the real McCoy gives these scenes a timeless sense of peril, even when those sharks are kept in a swimming pool by a one-eyed madman.
The juvenile parodies of the future feel superfluous when Bond's own past reaches such ludicrous levels of overkill.
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