|Thunderball (1965) is the fourth spy film in the James Bond series starring Sean Connery as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. It is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming, which in turn was based on an original screenplay by Jack Whittingham. It was directed by Terence Young with screenplay by Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins.
The film follows Bond’s mission to find two NATO atomic bombs stolen by SPECTRE, which holds the world ransom for £100 million in diamonds, in exchange for not destroying an unspecified major city in either England or the United States (later revealed to be Miami). The search leads Bond to the Bahamas, where he encounters Emilio Largo, the card-playing, eye-patch wearing SPECTRE Number Two. Backed by the CIA and Largo’s mistress, Bond’s search culminates in an underwater battle with Largo’s henchmen. The film had a complex production, with four different units and about a quarter of the film consisting of underwater scenes.Thunderball was the first Bond film shot in widescreen Panavision and the first to have over a two hour running time.
Thunderball was associated with a legal dispute in 1961 when former Ian Fleming collaborators Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham sued him shortly after the 1961 publication of the Thunderball novel, claiming he based it upon the screenplay the trio had earlier written in a failed cinematic translation of James Bond. The lawsuit was settled out of court and Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, fearing a rival McClory film, allowed him to retain certain screen rights to the novel’s story, plot, and characters.
The film was a success, earning a total of $141.2 million worldwide, exceeding the earnings of the three previous Bond films and breaking box office records on the first weekend of opening in France and Italy. In 1966, John Stears won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and production designer Ken Adam was also nominated for a BAFTA award. Thunderball is, to date, the most financially successful movie of the series, and, adjusting for inflation, made the equivalent of $966.4 million in 2008 currency. Some critics and viewers showered praise on the film and branded it a welcome addition to the series, while others complained of the repetitively monotonous aquatic action and prolonged length. In 1983, Warner Brothers released a second film adaptation of the novel under the title Never Say Never Again.
James Bond – MI6 agent 007 and sometimes simply ‘007’ – attends the funeral of Colonel Jacques Bouvar, a SPECTRE operative (Number 6). Bouvar is alive and disguised as his own widow, but Bond identifies him. Following him to a château, Bond fights and kills him, escaping using a jetpack and his Aston Martin DB5.
Bond is sent by M to a clinic to improve his health. While massaged by physiotherapist Patricia Fearing, he notices Count Lippe, a suspicious man with a criminal tattoo (from a Tong). He searches Lippe’s room, but is seen leaving by Lippe’s clinic neighbour who is bandaged after plastic surgery. Lippe tries to murder Bond with a spinal traction machine, but is foiled by Fearing, whom Bond then seduces. Bond finds a dead bandaged man, François Derval. Derval was a French NATO pilot deployed to fly aboard an Avro Vulcan loaded with two atomic bombs for a training mission. He had been murdered by Angelo, a SPECTRE henchman surgically altered to match his appearance.
Angelo takes Derval’s place on the flight, sabotaging the plane and sinking it near the Bahamas. He is then killed by Emilio Largo (SPECTRE No. 2) for trying to extort more money than offered to him. Largo and his henchmen retrieve the stolen atomic bombs from the seabed. All double-0 agents are called to Whitehall and en route, Lippe chases Bond. Lippe is killed by SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe for failing to foresee Angelo’s greed. SPECTRE demands £100 million in white flawless uncut diamonds from NATO in exchange for returning the bombs. If their demands are not met, SPECTRE will destroy a major city in the United States or the United Kingdom. At the meeting, Bond recognises Derval from a photograph. Since Derval’s sister, Domino, is in Nassau, Bond asks M to send him there, where he discovers Domino is Largo’s mistress.
Bond takes a boat to where Domino is snorkelling. After saving her life, the two have lunch together. Later, Bond goes to a party, where he sees Largo and Domino gambling. Bond enters the game against Largo, and wins. Bond and Domino leave the game and dance together. Bond returns to the Hotel, uses a connecting door to enter his room and notices someone is also inside. Felix Leiter enters and is silenced by Bond, who finds and disarms a SPECTRE henchman in the bathroom. He releases the henchman, who returns to Largo and is thrown into a pool of sharks.
Bond meets Q, and is issued with a collection of gadgets, including an underwater infrared camera, a distress beacon, underwater breathing apparatus, a flare gun and a Geiger counter. Bond attempts to scuba under Largo’s boat but is nearly killed. Bond’s assistant Paula is abducted by Largo for questioning and kills herself.
Bond is kidnapped by Fiona, but escapes. He is chased through a Junkanoo celebration and enters the Kiss Kiss club. Fiona finds and attempts to kill him, but is shot by her own bodyguard. Bond and Felix search for the Vulcan, finding it underwater. Bond meets Domino scuba-diving and they have underwater sex. Bond tells her that Largo killed her brother, asking for help finding the bombs. She tells him where to go to replace a henchman on Largo’s mission to retrieve them from a submarine. Bond gives her his Geiger counter, asking her to look for them on Largo’s ship. She is discovered and captured. Disguised as Largo’s henchman, Bond uncovers Largo’s plan to destroy Miami Beach.
Bond is discovered, and rescued by Leiter, who orders United States Coast Guard sailors to parachute to the area. After an underwater battle, the henchmen surrender. Largo escapes to his ship, the Disco Volante, which has one of the bombs on board. Largo attempts to escape by jettisoning the rear of the ship. The front section, a hydrofoil, escapes. Bond, also aboard, and Largo fight; Largo is about to shoot him when Domino, freed by Ladislav Kutze, shoots Largo with a harpoon. Bond and Domino jump overboard, the boat runs aground and explodes. A sky hook-equipped U.S. Navy airplane rescues them.