This Monday and Tuesday, Bond fans can check out his fourth big screen adventure at the TRYLON MICROCINEMA in Minneapolis. Showtimes are 7:00 and 9:30 p.m. nightly. Tickets can be purchased here. The downside? It’s definitely lesser Bond. Check out my review below.
The fourth Bond adventure to be released in a very busy three-year period, the underwhelming “Thunderball” was the first boring Bond. Although it was the longest and most violent of the series up to that point, it’s hampered by an overly complicated plot and stodgy underwater actions scenes that are well-directed, to be sure, but drag on so long that they border on overkill. It’s particularly disconcerting because the movie was directed by Terence Young, the man responsible for the first two Bond entries, “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love,” who suddenly seemed to have been granted a license to bore.
First, to the good stuff: “Thunderball” is set on an island in the Bahamas, where the bright blue ocean gives the film a gorgeous, exotic look. Despite all the randomized killing and threats of nuclear terrorism, I immediately wanted to board a plane and head to whatever resort 007 was staying at in the film. And the women are just as gorgeous as the locale – former Miss France Claudine Auger, Luciana Paluzzi and Martine Beswick are all stunning in (and out) of their swimwear. And I love the idea of a villain who dispenses of his henchmen by kicking them into a pool of sharks.
There are quite a few exciting action sequences, too, so much of it underwater that I can imagine Connery showing up to the premiere with his fingers still puckered. The hand-to-hand combat between divers is something we hadn’t seen at the movies before, and who doesn’t love the idea of a bad guy taking a harpoon to the face?
Still, it is within these action sequences that the movie feels waterlogged. Some of the diving scenes drone on and on, almost as if Young recognized the difficulty of filming below the surface and refused to cut an inch of it out. It’s a damning consideration, because the lack of editing pushes some of the set pieces to the brink of near-tedium.
Another thing that irked me about Young’s direction was his proclivity to speed up the action in the fistfights between Bond and the bad guys. It’s a technique that sucks the energy out of the action rather than adding to the fun. You should be marveling at the danger Bond was constantly thrust into, not wondering when the theme from “The Benny Hill Show” was going to kick in.
“Thunderball” also lacks a villain worthy of 007’s time. If you think about Robert Shaw’s relentless villainy in “From Russia With Love” or Joseph Wiseman’s tranquil creepiness as “Dr. No,” you know it’s going to take more than an eye patch and a pool of sharks to make Adolfo Celi’s Emilio Largo appear menacing.
Alas, “Thunderball” was not bad enough to put an end to the entire James Bond series, but it was a step in the wrong direction for fans of the previous three. Happily, the series was able to endure, once they figured out a way to do away with the fancy theatrics and focus on what made Bond so groovy to begin with: fast cars, fast women and faster pacing than any of the stilted sequences found in “Thunderball.”
★★ out of ★★★★
Not rated, but it contains more violence than previous Bonds. 130 minutes, 1965.
Director: Terence Young. Starring: Sean Connery, Claudine Auger.
Read all of Jesse Hoheisel’s reviews at AFistfulofPopcorn.com.