Monday, July 9, 2012

Nobody Reviews It Better: Thunderball (1965)

Code Redd Net continues its sequential look at all 22 official James Bond films with Thrasher's take on Thunderball, a film in the midst of '60s Bondmania.

Since Chicken Man took up reviewing duties with his excellent pieces on From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, I pick up Bond with Thunderball, and it's really quite jarring to go from the low budget conservatism of Dr. No to the benign excess of this spectacle. Thunderball is lavish, to say the least, and often strikingly self-aware; conventions codified only one film earlier are already sent-up within the series, as when 007 attempts to seduce SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe, only to be rebuffed when she remarks, "But of course, I forgot your ego, Mr. Bond. James Bond, the one where he has to make love to a woman, and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing. She repents, and turns to the side of right and virtue." Such words are practically intertextual, referring just as strongly to critical discourse as to strictly narrative explanation, as in Pussy Galore's swift side-change after being seduced by Bond in Goldfinger. And the now traditional pre-credits sequence is almost as superfluous, and downright silly, as it would ever be: after Bond attends the funeral of an obscure SPECTRE operative (interestingly, Bond remarks that he regrets not killing the man himself, and this may be another, albeit only verbal, example that "Bond does, in fact, kill when it might not be necessarily warranted," as Chicken Man so adroitly noted in the comments to my review of Dr. No), he is attacked by the widower, who is only revealed to be a man after Bond has served "her" a proper knuckle sandwich, and from there Bond makes his escape via jet pack. Seeing Connery flying that jet pack, and wearing that silly helmet all the while, is certainly a thing of camp beauty, and Thunderball is one of the campiest Bonds of all. Still, entirely earnest praise must be awarded for the finale, an underwater ballet-brawl that is both unique and well choreographed, and it's a finale that more than makes up for a fairly tepid, exposition-laden middle. It's a bit gauche, but Thunderball has appeal enough, and it's worth a second look if you've seen it before.

Previous Entries in this Series:

Dr. No (1962) by Thrasher
From Russia With Love (1963) by Chicken Man
Goldfinger (1964) by Chicken Man

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