Friday, 15 April 2011

BlogalongaBond #4 - Thunderball (1965)

(This is a link to a revised version of my original review, May 2003)

Thunderball, Penguin 2004
The name's Jones, Davy Jones. We have yet to get to the burial at sea opening of You Only Live Twice, still this film seems to want to scuttle itself at every turn (even the 2004 Penguin edition of Ian Fleming's novel, right, uses an image from You Only Live Twice - perhaps the publishers had mentally moved on from this film as well?).

This is the real threequel, Terence Young's third stab at the material, the third film of the Bond franchise proper and all the signs are of complacency. The underwater sequences are highly variable. Cartoon mock-ups for the grenade defence of the yacht and cavalier health and safety with real sharks are the worst of it, although the well-choreographed and filmed set piece that closes the film is too evidently filmed in a pool and is dragged out to twice its effective length, not least with the distracted fixation on peripheral wildlife that only Werner Herzog might adequately defend. I actually rather like the murky assault on the sunken Vulcan but only because of John Barry's intelligent appropriation of the undulating semitones of Saint-SaĆ«ns' Aquarium.

It's odd. There's actually a lack of class, with the exception of the one or two moments when real money has been splashed out - the Vulcan sequence, the final submarine set-to, the hydrofoil. Elsewhere, Connery's charisma disproportionately carries the film, with only Luciana Paluzzi's turn as the flame haired Spectre agent Volpe managing to create any threat. Celi's a bit of a (smoked) ham and though Claudine Auger can wear a selection of swimsuits she can't act (a return to the casting-from-beauty-pageant policy of From Russia With Love).

Like the underestimated hazard of filming in the drink, the film fails to really surmount technical ambition. The ridiculous jet-pack escape in the pre-title sequence has Bond putting on a helmet (the stuntman wisely refused to go without) and the excitement of the car becomes a damp squib - water cannon exhausts are the sum total of new DB5 features as Bond prevaricates too long in a three way road fight to show us anything new. In fact, the only car action is that of Volpe driving too fast to no apparent dramatic function. Inevitably, the film finishes on the water not with 007 lip-locked but rescued in a over-complicated manoeuvre bought in at the expense of the romance.

Sorry, it's a bit dull to just pillory the thing but, unlike the wonderfully British instructions stencilled on the nuclear weapons, I'm not going to Handle Like Eggs. Bring on May.

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