Thunderball ★★★

007 Rank-A-Thon

From the people that brought you Flipper and Creature from the Black Lagoon comes Thunderball. Clearly the producers had decided that they'd spend enough time on dry land and on top of the water and now it was time for an underwater adventure.

Once again Bond is kind of in the right place at the right time as he happens upon the body of a murdered French Air Force pilot whose death is part of a plot by SPECTRE to hijack a British aircraft carrying two nuclear bombs which they will use to hold the world to ransom.

There's something refreshingly straightforward about SPECTRE in these early movies, they're only interested in money and I guess that's all any criminal enterprise is interested in, but these guys are uninterested in politics which I think is what generally dirties the water.

So he volunteers to pop off to the Bahamas which is were SPECTRE operative No.2 (even worse than being call Mr Brown), Emilio Largo is hanging out with his attractive young companion Domino who just happens to be, wouldn't you know it, the sister of the afore mentioned and now deceased French pilot. It's a funny old world, what with the way things somehow fit together like this, or maybe it's an outrageous and extraordinarily convenient coincidence.

And from there on in it's a load of chasing around trying to find out where the bombs are hidden.

So what do we make of it it then? Well, it's slow. Although it might have sounded like a good idea to have a lot of underwater footage everything grinds to a halt once the breathing apparatus goes on. With the obvious exception of sharks vs zombies, underwater fights are a bit rubbish, you really don't know who's who or who's winning, it's just a lot of guys in black wetsuits wrestling one another, really, really slowly. Plus some unnecessary shark cruelty throw in for good measure.

And it's a long film, 130 minutes, with less going on that in the previous films in the series, or at least that's how it feels. If those fights had been on land the movie would have come in well under the 2 hour mark.

So what about the standard Bondian elements? Well, they're all pretty much in place by now, although nothing here is all that memorable.

The DB5 is back, although only fleetingly but with the important addition of the optional extra which we all want tucked away in the boot of our car, an awesome jetpack, although it's deployed in an entirely gratuitous fashion.

The girl Domino is so in and out of it that you wonder whether she actually is the one, at times you think it might be Fiona Volpe, a SPECTRE agent, but in a direct reference to Goldfinger she makes it clear that getting screwed by Bond is not going to be enough to make her change sides.

Largo, the villian of the piece is not all that exciting, although his coolness rating us upped several notches by the addition of an eyepatch and his swimming pool full of sharks.

And the sidekicks are a bit ho hum, and in the end the most interesting one is probably Vargas who is something of a sadist and played Philip Locke, most famous down our way for being the defrocked dentist in Porridge who complains about the food and that there's no clue as to it's origins (“No, it's not oranges, it's more like plum or damsen”).

What certainly isn't a let down, as ever, is Ken Adam's set design with it's cavernous SPECTRE meeting room (complete with death chairs) a particular highlight.

All in all it is the weakest entry in the series so far, so it's no wonder that this was Terence Young last outing as a Bond director. And yet it's ironic that this mundane outing turned out to be it's most controversial with the dispute between Ian Fleming and fellow writers  Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham which allowed the film to be remade nearly 20 years later as Never Say Never Again. And they didn't do any better job of it that time either.

One final question. Do you think that all planes come with that place on the instrument panel where you can plug in a mini cannister to knock out and or kill the crew, or is it just Vulcans?

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