MSRP: $23.95
RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes
• ‘The Incredible World of James Bond’ featurette
• Editor/Screenwriter commentary
• ‘A Child’s Guide to Blowing up a Motor Car’ featurette
• 007 Mission Control interactive Guide
• ‘Secret History of Thunderball’ featurette
• Trailer/TV spots
• Selling Bonds featurette
• On Location with Production Designer Ken Adams
• ‘The Thunderball Phenomenon’ featurette


The Pitch

Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang becomes Mr. Snorkel Snorkel Stab Stab.

James Bond’s ‘special’ cousin and his patented fumigation suit.

The Humans

Cast: Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi, Rik Van Nutter

Director: Terence Young

The Nutshell

In the fourth installment of the Bond franchise, Thunderball pits Connery’s superspy against SPECTRE’s number two in command, the ruthless shark-wielding Emilio Largo.  After hijacking a plane carrying two nuclear bombs, Largo ransoms them for millions from his luxurious Nassau stronghold.  Bond finds trouble in paradise as he tracks down Largo in the Bahamas, kicking off a deadly game of cat and mouse between Largo’s crew and Bond’s team.  Spear guns, sharks, steam baths, and underwater fistfights punctuate Terence Young’s aquatic Bond adventure, which earned tech wizard John Stears a visual effects academy award and production designer Ken Adams a BAFTA.

Connery’s audition for a role on an episode of The Twilight Zone was
ruined by his embarrassing nipple-fondling habit.

The Lowdown

Bond Blu-Ray week continues with the release of Terence Young’s good-but-goofy Thunderball, the fourth entry in the everlasting spy saga.  It’s packed with memorable scenes, a great score, startlingly good special effects, and decent turns from both Sean Connery and Adolfo Celi. 

A mammoth success in 1965, Thunderball rivaled The Sound of Music for box office receipts, and was a major hit for United Artists.  The Bond franchise had become a fully-functional international phenomenon.  After taking a break from Bond, Dr. No and From Russia With Love helmer Young returned to direct Thunderball after expressing interest in the property several years prior.  While Thunderball isn’t nearly as good as From Russia With Love, Young’s adept style and Connery’s fantastic Bond marks the film as a good entry in the Bond saga. 

Compared to the much more grounded From Russia with LoveThunderball‘s Bond is funnier, more relaxed, and much more of an idealized superhero.  While he brings the laughs, he’s also a less interesting character.  Connery makes it all work, though, delivering trademark quips (one of the best – and most groan inducing – being “I think he got the point” after speargunning a sulking hench) with a good dose of style and restraint. 

The local tribal custom of hurling boiling water at sleeping women
was a cultural roadblock for most tourists.

The rest of the cast does good work, although the only other character besides Bond who gets any real screen time is Adolfo Celi’s Enpatched SPECTRE VP Emilio Largo.  While it’s fun to watch Largo’s interplay with Bond, especially in the Casino scenes and the cat-and-mouse setup sequences, he’s not an especially memorable villain.  Bond almost always has the upper hand against him.  Largo’s henchmen are universally pathetic; even his pet sharks don’t seem very interested in Bond.  There are obligatory mini-boss henchmen, but they’re all easily dispatched in the third act.  Still, the threat of nuclear annihilation provides a modicum of tension, and Connery is able to work the weak conflict in Thunderball for the better.  Claudine Auger sizzles as Bond’s new love interest, and Lucianna Paluzzi’s evil vixen does a great job playing against the men in the film.

While the story isn’t as interesting as any of its predecessors, its visual inventiveness wins it plenty of points.  The ocean hijack of the nuke jet is still a really good set piece, and the water gadgets look great even forty years later.  Thunderball makes great use of its tropical setting, intercutting bursts of ocean violence with the often serene stylishness of the beach.  A note about the underwater fights: they’re silly, but they can be fun.  Watching Bond deliver a slow-mo underwater punch to a scuba diver is hilarious.  As anyone with a younger brother and a pool will tell you, underwater battles are a no-win situation.  The impossibly funny all-out frogman battle at the film’s climax feels like comedy, especially when Bond keeps sneaking up behind his enemies and yoinking their oxygen with a diving knife, but its goofiness has a distinct set of charms.

Bond villainess reject Ivanna Spinmore could rotate her torso a sinister 180 degrees.

The runaway boat finale incorporates some great effects and a skyhook scene that predates The Dark Knight by decades, and caps off a fun film with a blast. 

There are plenty of memorable cues in Thunderball‘s score, and this release’s rich DTS HD audio makes it even better.  While the audio never drops out, it does seem like the dialogue track is mixed too low compared to both the sound effects and score tracks.  I found myself constantly adjusting the volume between effects-heavy scenes and quieter moments. 

It’s not a masterpiece, but there’s enough fun in Thunderball to please espionage adventure fans, and it’s sure to please Bond aficionados.

The Package

There are a ton of great features here, including a great “World of James Bond” feature that originally aired on NBC prior to Thunderball‘s release.  It’s a fun slice of nostalgia for fans of Bond or ’60s marketing.  The commentary tracks feature Terence Young, editor Peter Hunt, and writer John Hopkins.  There are two making of featurettes, a boat show reel, rocket man clips, TV spots, trailers, a Ford promotional film, and an image database.  Unrelated shark documentaries may be suspiciously absent, but there’s more than enough here to occupy Bond fanatics for days.

The 1080p visuals are good, although there were occasional pixel problems in darker scenes.  Besides the dialogue track, the DTS HD audio is stellar.

The box art isn’t very distinctive, but fits in nicely with the look of the other Blu-Ray bond releases.

At the poker table, Largo always dreaded his turn as the single blind.

8.2 out of 10