Written by: Ian Fleming/Kevin McClory(original story)/Jack Whittingham(original story)
When Thunderball opens, we see James Bond as he probably really would be: a fucking drunk. All he wants is a drink. He’s beat to shit physically and psychologically…but he doesn’t really know it. A drink would make everything better.
That’s when M calls him into his office. His latest physical didn’t go well. It appears that he’s psychologically shot. M has become a convert to a semi-local spa. They feed you yogurt and cleanse your body and mind. Bond is immediately angry about his new non-assignment, but has to go to this spa anyway.
For the first time (I think), Bond talks to Moneypenny in a “romantic” way. They joke about their relationship and we see that Moneypenny is really in love with Bond, but she knows that nothing will ever come of it. It’s the seed that bred their relationship in the movies.
On his way to the spa, Bond saves a young lady’s life as she’s nearly run down by Count Lippe, a regular at the spa. The girl, Patricia Fearing, is a nurse there. When Bond is sent in to take his first battery of tests, he notices a tattoo when Lippe is forced (almost physically) to take off his watch. He doesn’t recognize it, but puts it in the back of his brain to call HQ to find out more about it. When he does, he finds out that it’s symbol used to identify a person as a Macao gangster. Unfortunately, Lippe overhears the entire conversation.
James is sent to “the rack,” a weird contraption that is supposed to gently stretch a patient’s back out. When Patricia leaves the room, though, Lippe comes in and turns the machine up to 11, sending Bond into shock. When he comes to, he manages to get closer to Patricia…MUCH closer. (He forces a kiss on her and, of course, she melts eventually. At first, though, it’s sort of rapey.)
Before Bond leaves the spa, he gets his revenge on Lippe: he locks him in an electric Turkish bath and turns the heat up. He most likely won’t die, but he’s VERY determined to get Bond to let him out…almost as if he had an appointment to keep…hmmmmm…..
Meanwhile, at SPECTRE…
Fleming takes us through the entire front that SPECTRE uses to make sure that no one knows that they’re really an evil conglomerate of men bent on taking over the world’s money. Basically, it looks to be an organization that helps the poor. In the back room, though, is Ernst Stravo Blofeld, the bald leader of the most evil empire in the world. We also learn a LOT about Blofeld himself. None of it is particularly important, but it’s kind of interesting to hear about his rise to his current status as “Evil #1.”
Blofeld is currently having a meeting with his top men, one of whom has broken his word to an enemy. Blofeld kills him without a thought by sending 3000 volts through him. That’s how we know that he’s a cold, cold bastard, not from the fact that he learned all that he could from his exploits all over the world.
We also learn here that SMERSH was disbanded by the Russians in 1958. Funny how Goldfinger worked for them in 1960…or maybe that book took place in a different time plane than the rest of the books? I dunno.
Anyway, this is where we hear about SPECTRE’s “coming out” plan. They are going to steal a military plane with two atomic bombs within it, writing a letter to the British and American governments telling them to pay up else one random city will be targeted. If they don’t pay up after that, another, larger city will be blown up.
M figures that both cities will be American and is pretty sure that he knows where the bombs are located…in the Caribbean, of course. So he sends Bond on his way. Before Bond can make it there, though, he’s attacked by a man who works for Lippe while driving away from headquarters. (The man carries grudges. What can I say?) Before he can kill Bond, though, he’s killed by a man on a motorcycle: an agent of SPECTRE. There’s really no explanation as to why the man was killed before he could kill Bond. Not even the person who did it fully understood.
(The operation to find the bombs, by the way, is Operation: Thunderball. This was apparently the name that soldiers gave to the mushroom cloud that nuclear bombs make.)
The next chapter tells us all about the guy who hijacked the plane. How his name was Guiseppe. How he entered training specifically so that he could hijack this plane for SPECTRE. How he managed to keep his happy-go-lucky demeanor through it all and how he took over the plane with the help of a little bit of death gas and a mask. He was promised riches and, of course, was killed for his troubles. As these books go on, they get a bit more graphic. This time we get a pretty good description of how the knife went through his jaw, up through the upper palette and pierced his brain.
We’re also introduced to Emilio Largo, aka No. 1. (Why is he No. 1? Because he is in charge here as if he was Blofeld. The bald man himself is No. 2 on this endeavor.) Largo is a ruthless, cold man who’s a sex machine to all the chicks. Also, his hands are twice as big as a normal man’s. This hardly comes up at all, but it’s kind of a Bond-ism, so I count it.
The other evil character in this circle is the Disco Volante, Largo’s yacht. It matches the man in ever way: fast, giant and powerful.
His woman is Domintta Vitali, aka Domino. She says that he’s a “relative,” although she later admits that he’s more a friend of the family. (I certainly hope so they’re not related!) She is almost as strong as Bond, actually. She fucks anyone she wants to, drives like a champ and drinks whenever she damn well pleases. She’s also very hard to get…for Bond, anyway. They have a drink (early afternoon, of course) and get to know each other. She eventually leaves him basically saying, “Hope you can get a taxi, ’cause I’m going the opposite way. Maybe we’ll see each other again.”
As she leaves him with a smile on her face, “Bond smiled. He said, ‘Bitch,’ and walked back into the restaurant to pay his bill and have a taxi called.”
According to Domino, Largo and the Disco are in Nassau to do some “treasure hunting.” She invites Bond to a party where he’ll meet Largo to talk about it. This is why Bond sought out Domino. He had a feeling that Largo had a hand in the hijacking, but needed some sort of proof. This isn’t it, but it will get him closer.
Before the party, Bond goes to meet up with a man from the CIA who is going to help him out. Of course, it’s his old buddy, Felix Leiter! The man has a hook for a hand and a limp, but he’s still in it for the game. They head over to the Disco and meet Largo. Bond tells him that he’s just looking for land and that Leiter is his lawyer. They talk to Largo about the property that he’s renting (Palmyra) and end up getting a tour of the ship. Luckily, Leiter has a Geiger counter with him. Unluckily, it comes up with nothing. No peculiar readings at all.
Sigh. Back to the ol’ drawing board. Where are those blasted bombs? Could Bond’s hunch be wrong? Leiter seems to think so, but he’s back his friend to the end.
There was one possible lead: Largo gave them a weird explanation of what was in storage on the ship. It sounded like FAR too much to fit…unless there was more space underneath than was discernible from the surface. They find out that Bond was right on that score, but it’s still not enough to take to M. But Domino might be his way in. (How did we know that?)
Bond heads to the Casino to party with The Largs. He beats the large man soundly and kind of pisses him off. He throws the word “specter” around to see if there’s a reaction. There is, but it could have just been Italian superstition. Dammit. Largo leaves and Bond gets to chat with Domino…mostly about the man on her cigarette package. She has made up a whole romantic story about the man and his family. There’s some pretty good storytelling here that gives us a full indication of just how sad and lonely her childhood really was. If it hadn’t been for her brother, her childhood would have been unbearable. Her brother…Giuseppe.
Bond takes a trip out to the underside of the Disco. He finds a large extra area down there, but still no Geiger reading. He also finds a barracuda and an armed guard. The guard is killed by the barracuda and then EXPLOSION! Someone is throwing grenades overboard to kill the intruder under the boat! Obviously, there’s something to Bond’s idea.
The next trip that Bond and Leiter take is to try to find the plane. They take a helicopter out to see if they can see any signs from the air. Eventually, they do and Bond discovers Giuseppe’s body. All the evidence they need to tell M and the CIA. Bond takes Giuseppe’s tags so that he can get Domino fully on his side.
When he finds her, she’s on the beach, of course. She steps on some tiny stinging thing and Bond has to suck the spine out. “It’s the first time I’ve tasted a woman, they’re rather good.” Indeed.
They do it and then he chooses to tell her about her brother. Good timing, Jimbo. She hates him for having sex with her first, but he’s able to bring her around and tells her that Largo did it. She wants to kill Largo, but Bond convinces her that life in prison will be worse for him. She leaves to meet Largo on his ship with a new toy: the Geiger counter. She is to sweep the ship and give Bond and Leiter a signal if she finds anything. Bond is distraught because he just knows that he’ll never see her again. (He’s in love, you see? Again.)
Bond and Leiter board the Manta, an American nuclear submarine that is waiting to help them with the Disco. No word yet from Domino. What’s happened to her!?
Well, she’s caught, of course. Largo ties her to her bed and tortures her with a cigarette and ice. Then he has a meeting with his crew to tell them what’s going on with her. He kills one of the Russians for thinking that there might be a conspiracy. He is a lesson to them all. Don’t suspect your evil boss when death and money are on the line.
Meanwhile, Bond and Leiter are conferring with the captain of the Manta over what to do if they’re right and the Disco does have the bombs. They come up with a decent enough plan since they can’t do anything until Largo’s men leave the ship with the bomb. They’re going to send a small army of divers (led by Bond, of course) to follow Largo’s men when they leave the ship. Bond will be No. 1 and Leiter will be No. 2…much like Blofeld’s numbers, actually. Oh, and Leiter will have a plastic fin on his hook. HA!
Bond and his divers float up behind Largo’s men and quickly attack as soon as one of the bad guys notices the good guys behind them. There are a lot of individual fights and Leiter gets taken out pretty early…non-fatally, of course. He has to keep hangin’ out with Bond for later adventures. Bond finds Largo with the bombs and catches up to him, fighting him on the cart that he’s using to move the bombs. He manages to disable the cart and Largo is PISSED! He nearly takes Bond out with an octopus to the mask (!), but life is handed Bond by Domino, who somehow managed to escape from her bed. She shoots Largo in the neck with a gas-powered spear. The two live bodies float to the surface.
Bond wakes up in the hospital with Leiter telling him what happened: both bombs were found and SPECTRE was figured out. Blofeld got away to fight another day.
“WHAT ABOUT THE GIRL!?!?!” screams Bond to Leiter, weirdly. He’s INCREDIBLY concerned about the girl that he saw was ok before he went out. Leiter sneaks the info to him that she’s ok, but she’s been burned pretty badly by Largo. Bond hobbles into the next room to see her and falls asleep next to her bed…like a dog. In tact, she pets him on the head, grabs his hair and shakes his head weakly saying, “You are to stay here. Do you understand? You are not to go away.”
This was a pretty weird book, actually, for this series. Domino is, by far, the strongest lady yet in one of these books. On the other hand, Bond is absolutely at his weakest at the end of the book. He is a dog to her…but a very loyal one. And one that will do her real good and hard.
Anyway, it’s also a pretty damn good book and it introduces a character that will haunt the Bond series throughout the 60s and into the 80s. Hows about a little backstory, eh?
Ian Fleming was always cannibalizing his own ideas for other medium. He turned old teleplays and ideas for comic strips into short stories and, sometimes, novels. Thunderball was really no different. He, Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham developed the idea for Thunderball around 1959 or so thinking that it was going to be the first James Bond movie. Wrote a full script and everything. That movie never materialized, so Fleming used the bare bones as the basis for this novel, jettisoning some characters and adding some other stuff.
Unfortunately, McClory was a rather litigious individual and he didn’t cotton to the idea of Fleming using his ideas in his novels without some sort of credit. According to him, Blofeld and SPECTRE were his ideas, as were many of the situations in the novel. McClory was given the film rights to the story in 1963, so Broccoli and Saltzman with EON Productions had to go to him to get the rights. He wanted a producer credit, so he got it. Saltzman and Broccoli are credited as executive producers.
Luckily for them, McClory was a fairly accommodating dude at the time. He was all over the place for promotion. It wasn’t until later that he decided that he wanted money for Blofeld and SPECTRE, forcing EON to stop using the character/organization after Connery left the series. (Hence the killing of a bald man in a wheel chair at the beginning of For Your Eyes Only.)
Of course, Connery would go up against Blofeld one more time after leaving the series seemingly forever.
CONQUESTS: Patricia Fearing; Domino Vitali
GLOBE HOPPING: Nassau
Directed by: Terence Young
Written by: Richard Maibaum/John Hopkins/Jack Whittingham
Based on book by: Ian Fleming/Kevin McClory(original story)/Jack Whittingham(original story)
For now, let’s move on to the 1965 film.
What do you do after a movie like Goldfinger? Well, do it again, but underwater, of course!
The film opens in Paris at the funeral of a man who killed two of Bond’s colleagues. Bond (Sean Connery) beats the widow home where he promptly hits her, revealing that she’s a MAN, BABY! The “dead man” was disguised as his widow! (Pretty daring for 1965.) The two men have a knock-down, drag-out and Bond kills the man by strangling him/breaking his neck with a fireplace poker. (This is pretty cold, even by Bond standards.) He then takes off in the single most revered non-car gadget in Bond history: the jet pack! Of course, he only uses it to get over a wall, meets up with his beautiful French helper, Paula (Martine Beswick), packs it in the back of his Aston Martin and ends up having to douse the men chasing him in water because the damn car doesn’t start!
Cue the opening theme! Tom Jones’ song (written, of course, by John Barry) is one of the iconic bond themes and one of the few sung by a man. And, honestly, as much as I love Johnny Cash, Tom Jones is a much better Bond singer than he would have been. (You can find his version of the song around the interwebs.)
The song is also better than Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
The title sequence is the first to offer up naked ladies swimming around with pictures superimposed over their silhouettes. It’s a form that would be normal for the series forevermore.
The film reopens on Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi) heading into the office of a Parisian charity. Of course, this is SPECTRE’s headquarters. It turns out that the now dead “widow” was SPECTRE #6. The rest of the evil agents have a meeting with their leader, No. 1, aka Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Anthony Dawson), who is only seen from the neck down. You see all of his cat, though. Blofeld kills one of his men who has crossed him by electrocuting him in his own chair. Everyone else barely reacts. This is also where he reveals his plan to steal two nuclear weapons by hijacking a plane. The plan is exactly the same as the book except for one big difference that I’ll get to in a moment.
Cut to Count Lippe (Guy Doleman) meeting Bond at the spa that M does NOT send him to, kicking and screaming. Bond notices Lippe’s tattoo immediately and calls it in. He seems to know exactly what it is, but just wanted to call it in. Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) puts him off because he’s off duty. Bond sneaks around Lippe’s room to see if he can find anything, but he’s seen by a man in bandages.
Of course, Lippe also noticed Bond noticing his tattoo and is quickly put on his guard. Patricia (Molly Peters), who almost seems to be working for Lippe at one point, puts Bond in the rack because of his old “drop your arms around the nurse and kiss her” trick. That trick doesn’t work nearly as well here as it did in the book. She leaves the room and Lippe comes in, making no secret of the fact that it’s him turning the machine up to 11, doing his best to kill Bond. Our hero passes out and Pat saves him. She begs him to not tell the head doctor. “My silence could come with a price.” Yep. He makes her have sex with him so that he won’t tell anyone that she did something that she didn’t do anyway; They do it in the steam room. I guess the trick worked eventually.
Before Bond leaves, he turns the heat up on Lippe in the electronic Turkish bath, also not making a secret of his identity.
Meanwhile, the pilot of the plane with the bombs on it is being seduced by a mystery woman named Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi). When he answers the door to see himself on the other side, he’s very confused…and very dead. The lookalike is Giuseppe. He’s had surgery to look like the pilot so that he can hijack the plane with no one noticing. He finagles more money out of the SPECTRE folks…only because they know something that he doesn’t.
Bond and Pat are fooling around with a mink glove when Bond notices an ambulance bringing a body into the spa. He, naturally, goes to investigate and finds the body of the pilot. He notices a shadow on the blinds, kills one would-be assassin and then trips the fire alarm, calmly walking out the door.
Back to Giuseppe on the plane. He takes it over with the help of some death gas and a mask, taking the plane to Largo in the Caribbean. (Strangely, the plane is COMPLETELY unharmed when it hits the water.) Largo’s men meet the hijacker at the bottom of the sea and promptly kill him, taking the money that he had with him.
There is now a particularly LONG sequence showing the divers taking the bombs and covering the plane. It’s, like, 15 minutes long. EON was VERY proud of their underwater photography, as they should have been. It’s pretty amazing for its time.
Back in Blofeld’s world, Ol’ Baldy tells his men that, since Lippe chose Giuseppe and Giuseppe got greedy, they would need to kill Lippe. Lippe, though, is on his own mission. He jumps in his car and tries to kill Bond. Before he can, though, a motorcyclist with rocket launchers installed on their cycle kills him. The assassin is Fiona.
Bond meets up with M (Bernard Lee) and the Foreign Secretary (Roland Culver). SPECTRE sent the government a tape asking for $100 million. If they don’t get it, they will set off a bomb in an undisclosed American or English city. If they agree to the terms, the government will make Big Ben strike 7 at 6pm. Of course, they’re going to try to locate the bombs before they do this. Commence Operation: Thunderball! Bond sees a picture of the dead man at the spa in the dossier. It turns out that his sister is in Nassau. There must be a connection! Bond asks to be sent there. (Of course, he does.) When he leaves the office he nearly forgets the girl’s picture. Moneypenny catches him and asks him how he would ever recognize her without it.
“Couldn’t miss. She’s got two moles on the left thigh….”
Bond goes skin-diving in Nassau and saves Dominique Derval (Claudine Auger) from getting stuck in the coral. He immediately comes on to her: “My name’s James Bond. I’ve been admiring your form.” She is only impressed that he’s so forward…but not impressed enough. He sabotages his own boat so that he has to catch a ride with Domino…leaving Paula to fend for herself in a seemingly dead boat. Nice guy.
When they get to the shore, one of Largo’s employees notices them together. Who is this man with Largo’s woman?
Domino remains unimpressed by Bond and deflects all of his come-ons and is almost frightened when he knows that her friends call her Domino…but it’s on her ankle bracelet. Lucky for Bond.
He goes to play cards with Largo, who is MUCH more serious than he is in the book. Bond uses the word “specter” ad nauseum. It shakes Largo up, but not enough to warrant any action just yet. He ends up having dinner with Domino when Largo storms off after losing so much money to this strange man. She tells Bond about her brother and how much she loves him. She starts to fall for Bond almost immediately because of the way he holds her when they dance. Largo is already suspicious, but he invites Bond to lunch the next day.
When Bond goes back to his room he goes in through Paula’s room, which is next door and attached to his. He has a tape recorder hidden in a book and listens as someone sneaks into his room and hides out in the bathroom. He almost gets there when there’s a knock on the door. It’s Leiter (Rik Van Nutter in very nearly his only role ever) almost blowing Bond’s cover. Bond punches his friend in the gut to get him to shut up and goes back to the bathroom to ferret out the rat. He ends up sending the man on his way to let his owner know that Bond is a serious man. Largo just ends up throwing the man into his pool of sharks.
Bond, Leiter and Paula meet a Nassau agent and Q (Desmond Llewelyn! He gives Bond the watch/Geiger counter, an underwater camera, a tiny four-minute oxygen tank and a small homing device that he is supposed to swallow. Bond sends all of his findings to M and then goes diving for more info that night. He doesn’t find any radioactivity, but he finds a man with a gas-powered spear. Largo has closed-circuit cameras down there and sees the whole fight, but he can’t tell who killed his man. He sends some grenades down to bring him up to no avail. They end up chasing him in a motorboat until Bond makes it look like he’s been hit by the boat. When he comes out of the water, he doffs his water gear and hitches a ride with a pretty young lady…Fiona! Oh noes, James Bond! Look out!
She speeds him to her hotel, which just happens to also be his hotel. On the way, though, he noticed her ring. It was the same ring that Largo wore.
He goes to his room and develops the pictures that he took and sees an underwater hatch on the Disco. Bond and Felix take a helicopter out to see what they can see around Nassau and Largo’s property. Of course, Largo and Fiona see him. She is much more in control than he is. “When the time is right, he will be killed.”
A little later, Bond meets Largo at his house. He also meets a henchman who doesn’t smoke, drink or make love (Philip Locke). His entire life is devoted to Largo.
By the way, here’s a nice little exchange between Bond and Largo about Largo’s gun:
“This gun! It looks more fitting for a woman.”
“You know much about guns, Mr. Bond?”
“No. I know a little bit about women.”
Awesome. Bond immediately shows Largo how easy skeet shooting is.
Meanwhile, Fiona surprises Paula in Bond’s room. Then the two men at the door surprise her even more.
Bond and Domino are at Mardi Gras where Felix tells him that Paula is gone. Bond heads to Largo’s house to find her, cutting the power off and sneaking in. He finds out the Paula has killed herself with her cyanide capsule. He gets onto the roof, loses his gun and gets to the back of the house where he fights with a henchman. The two fall into the pool. Largo puts the cover on and lets the sharks loose. The sharks attack the henchman and Bond escapes through a shark-hatch.
Fiona surprises Bond by being in his bathtub when he gets back to his room. They, of course, do it. When they get ready to leave, three men (including Virgin Man) are waiting outside and Fiona produces a gun. Bond escapes from the car and runs into the Mardi Gras celebration, but gets shot in the leg. He head into The Kiss Kiss Club, but they catch up with him. He dances with Fiona and uses her as a shield against a hidden assassin. “Do you mind if my friend sits this one out? She’s just dead.”
The next step in the investigation is more investigation. Bond and Leiter take the copter out again. They see sharks circling The Golden Grotto (not sure what that is, but the plane CAN’T be there!)…where the plane is hidden. They shoot a shark to keep the others occupied while Bond takes a dive. He finds the plane and Giuseppe…still no bombs, though. He takes the watch and tags for Domino.
He finds Domino again while diving and they apparently do it under water? I hope we didn’t frighten the fish.” She’s stung and he sucks the venom out. Once again: “It’s the first time I’ve tasted a woman, they’re rather good.”
He tells Domino that her brother is dead and that Largo killed him. Virgin Man sees them talking just as Bond is getting her to help him. He gives her his camera…which was just an underwater camera before. Now it’s a Geiger counter, too! Virgin Man almost takes a shot, but Bond kills him with a spear. “I think he got the point.”
Domino tells Bond about a set of steps and a bridge that Largo never lets her near. He investigates and, of course, that’s where Largo and his men disembark to do their diving to the underwater entrance to the Disco.
Bond swallows his homing device and joins the evil divers that night. Now he’s on board with the men and they all go to where the bombs are hidden…they’re in a fake rock! No wonder they couldn’t find them!
They offload the bombs onto a tiny sub and Largo recognizes his latest enemy. Underwater chaos ensues and Bond gets trapped inside the rock.
Meanwhile, Domino gets caught and Largo tortures her with cigarettes and ice. Kutze (George Pravda), the physicist, seems to have a bit of a conscience than he did in the book, where his name was Kotze. (He was a pretty small part of the book, so I didn’t mention him. Sorry.) He interrupts Largo’s interrogation session to let him know that the bombs were being armed.
Leiter finds Bond and gets the info about the bombs. The two governments drop about 4000 deep sea divers to fight Largo’s men. Strangely, though, there are fewer of them underwater and the ten guys that Largo has are a match for them. Lots of underwater fighting happens. Bond heads down to join the fight with a Q gadget that we saw, but didn’t really learn about. It’s an individual air tank/propellor/harpoon thrower. Kinda cool…but it spews yellow dye behind him. Why? Who knows?
Bond doffs all of the gadgetry and starts using the mini tank that Q gave him at the beginning of the movie. He fights some of the hordes of Largo’s men in secret, but Largo is following him.
Somehow, Bond’s four minutes of air from his tiny tank has lasted about 10 minutes at this point.
The tide turns (hahahaha!) and Largo’s men are mostly defeated…but not Largo. He heads back to the Disco with Bond in tow. Military ships chase the Disco, but Largo “jettisons cocoon.” The ship splits in half like the Next Generation Enterprise. The back half is left to fend for itself, which it doesn’t do too well.
On the main part of the ship, Kutze is untying Domino and tells her that he has disarmed the bombs and thrown the detonators overboard. Largo is a madman! No shit, dude!
Largo’s men and Bond fight on the bridge until all of the men are dead or incapacitated except for the two of them. Largo gets a gun and trains it on Bond. It looks bad until he gets hit in the back by a harpoon, shot by Domino. The boat’s controls are jammed, though, and they have to jump with Kutze while it hits an island and blows up. A military plane drops a raft to them (quite convenient) and another plane picks them up by a rope attached to a small blimp.
Wait…where’s Kutze? Oh well. Loose end.
Oh, and there was no “James Bond will return”!!!
So, this is definitely a Connery James Bond, but after the 1-2-3 punch of first three films, it’s a bit of a disappointment. Not a huge one, but still… It felt a little padded at 130 minutes, especially after the tightness of Goldfinger. I think it was all of the underwater action. There was just a bit too much of it…like the aforementioned 15 minutes of watching dudes cover an airplane. We really didn’t need all of that.
It’s nowhere near a bad film, though. It has plenty of interesting characters to go around (maybe a few too many that aren’t used very well…Virgin Man being one of them) and a LOT of action.
As for the adaptation, it’s not bad. Still more faithful than the 70s and 80s films, but not as faithful as the first three. They added a lot of characters that weren’t all that necessary, to be perfectly honest. Fiona? She was just one more girl for Bond to lay. Paula? Really the same thing.
At least, though, it’s a real Bond film. There’s nothing here that shouldn’t be in a Bond film and there’s nothing that’s missing to make it a Bond film. It’s a classic in its own right.
That really can’t be said for the unofficial remake.
CONQUESTS: Pat; Fiona; Domino Vitali
GLOBE HOPPING: Paris; Nassau
Directed by: Irvin Kershner
Written by: Lorenzo Semple Jr./Ian La Frenais (uncredited)/Dick Clement (uncredited)
Based on book by: Kevin McClory (original story)/Jack Whittingham (original story)/Ian Fleming
When is a Bond film not a Bond film? When you pop in the Blu-Ray and don’t hear the familiar strains of the James Bond Theme because the filmmakers weren’t allowed to use it.
There’s no real opening stunt like there had been for years in Bond films. The movie just kind of opens with Bond (Sean Connery looking every one of his 50-some years) breaking into a camp somewhere in South America. It’s more like a Schwarzenegger film than a Bond film, except for the cheesy disco theme song playing over the sequence.
Bond kills everybody, rescues the girl and immediately gets stabbed by her as he unties her.
It turns out that the whole thing was a war game. He’s been running these war games for weeks instead of doing the real thing. The new M (Edward Fox) has had him teaching instead of exploring the world. He doesn’t hold Bond’s skills in as high of a regard as his predecessor did. M thinks that Bond has too many toxins running around his body, so he sends him to Shrublands.
(I already don’t like the new Moneypenny, Pamela Salem. She plays her like she’s a fool. She actually believes him when he says that he’s to “destroy all free radicals.”)
Cut to Blofeld (Max von Sydow, which is pretty goddam awesome..although he seems to have a Scottish accent…Scottish by way of Romania?) beginning to tell of the plan
Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera) is starting to hook an American Air Force pilot named Jack Petachi (Gavan O’Herlihy) on heroine. She’s going to get him to steal two Tomahawks from his base. His sister is, of course, Domino (Kim Basinger). Bond hears the two fighting and investigates. Jack and Fatima see him through the blinds and she knows exactly who he is. She sends a strong dude to the weight room to kill him. Of course, he fails. Not before the two destroy the entire spa in a pretty decent fist (and knife and chair and door and glass) fight. Bond wins by throwing piss in his face. No, really.
(It turns out that this strong dude is Lippe. Who knew?)
New M is pissed. More pissed than you would really think.
Off to the Air Force base where Jack is about to do his dirty work. He’s been given a contact lens that will give him the retinas of the president so that he can replace dummy warheads with real ones. Then they get loaded on a plane so that someone can steal them. Jack drives away and Fatima drives up next to him, congratulating him with a snake to the lap and a bomb.
Meanwhile, the bombs take off from the base and Largo’s crew (Klaus Maria Brandauer) makes them go down in the sea. Blofeld tells the UN that he has the warheads and will “apply them” to two unknown cities if they aren’t paid in seven days.
Bond catches wind of it and is put on the case…while Largo watches Domino practice dancing from behind a two-way mirror. Dirt bag. Then he surprises her in the studio and she nearly has an orgasm just from seeing him. He gives her an old necklace that’s worth billions of dollars and tells her that, if she ever leaves him, he’ll cut her throat. Nice guy.
Back at MI6, Bond meets up with Q (Alec McCowen)…also known as Algy? Apparently, Q’s real name is Algernon here. He and Bond are even friendly! Really…effing…strange. I kind of like this version of Q, though. He’s no Major Broothyard, but he’s kinda cool. “I hope we’re going to have some gratuitous sex and violence!”
Bond gets to the Bahamas and meets Nigel Small-Fawcett (Rowan Atkinson), a new recruit who has no idea what he’s doing and a horrible lisp.
Fatima purposefully runs into Bond (“I’ve made you all wet!” “Yes, but my martini’s still dry.”) The two get on a yacht and do it…in a fairly explicit scene for a Bond flick. After the sexin’, they go scuba diving looking for bombs. Fatima leaves and signals her man on the boat to send out a sonar signal for sharks, which now attack Bond. It turns out that he had a shark attracter on him the whole time.
Nigel finds out that Largo’s boat (the Flying Saucer, which is what Disco Volante means) is heading to the South of France, so Bond follows with Felix Leiter (Bernie Casey, the first black Lieter!) and Nicole (Saskia Cohen Tanugi), a French agent. They spy on Largo and Bond catches his first glimpse of Domino. He heads to a bath house…or something…to meet her. (“Do you serve men here?” “But, of course. Some men more than others.”) Actually, he pretends to be a masseuse and gives her a massage. (She’s strangely not pissed when she finds out that he doesn’t work there.)
Bond goes to a fancy party (time for the tux!) and barges his way in by giving the concierge a bomb, telling him that any lateral movement will make it go off. The payoff of this gag is actually one of my favorite parts of the movie…and one of the only parts that I ever remember besides the upcoming game.
Of course, the party is a gambling party and, of course, Bond runs into Domino again…in the video game room. He apologizes and buys her a drink while Fatima and Largo look on jealously. They know everything about him, but still don’t kill him. Why? Because they like to play with their food.
Largo invites Bond to play Domination with him, a game of his own design that no one can beat him at. It’s all lasers and 3D projections…and shocking joysticks.
Bond beats him at his own game and, instead of asking for money, Bond asks for a dance with Domino. Everyone watches them tango.
This is where Bond tells Domino about her brother’s death and that Largo is the prime suspect. Largo pretty much confirms it without knowing and Bond takes his leave…taking his cigarette case from the concierge who was sweating it up in the coat closet.
Bond heads to the place he’s staying and finds that Fatima has just killed Nicole. Chase! (Fatima is fucking psycho, by the way.) He breaks out his secret weapon, a crazy Yamaha motorcycle. They chse through the streets of the French village and he’s forced onto a truck., but he jumps out as they’re lifting the gate. Re-chase!
Q (sorry, Algy) has tricked the bike out with rockets and all sorts of stilly, but useful bullshit, but no amount of rockets can beat a bar that knocks him off of it. Fatima catches him and tells her that she is a “superior woman.” She gives him a piece of paper to write that she was the best lover he ever had. Fortunately, he has a pen that Algy gave him. She explodes with delight. (Leiter, apparently, was there the whole time. Bastard. The two escape the cops by taking off their clothes and pretending to be a trainer and a boxer out for a jog.)
Bond swims out to the Flying Saucer and sneaks on board through a hatch only to be stopped by a butler. “Mr. Largo is waiting for you, sir.” Indeed.
(Leiter is left behind, of course.)
Domino and her nipples greet Bond after he is given the run of the ship by his enemy. (Like ya do.) The two of them go to her dance studio where he knows that Largo is watching and listening. He turns up the music really loud and finds out that the Tears Of Allah (the necklace that Largo gave Domino when he threatened to kill her) is important…he’s just not really sure why, yet. He then proceeds to kiss Domino to provoke Largo into a reaction.
(By the way, there’s apparently someone in the room with them because there’s a GIANT shadow of a man sitting at a desk on the wall. Uh…GET OUT!!!!)
Largo bursts into the studio only to find…nothing. They have already taken off to pull the fire alarm and get a message to MI6. But, since they’re on a boat, Largo captures them and takes them to his house in North Africa. Here, he proceeds to tie Bond up in a tower and sell Domino into slavery. Bond gets him to tell him where one of the bombs is (right under the President’s feet) and then promptly escapes (with the help of a laster watch that we’ve never seen before) and saves Domino.
The two of them are rescued by Leiter and his American submarine. They share a tender moment in the shower and then he’s off again to chase after Largo and the second bomb, which is under the diamond of the Tears Of Allah…or where the diamond would be on a map.
This is where things get ridiculous. Bond and Leiter are LAUNCHED OUT OF THE SUBMARINE IN ROCKETS! The rockets come apart and the two men are on some sort of jet packs that you stand in. Yep. This is certainly a Thunderball remake. Gotta have a jet pack of some sort.
The two men end up in a leftover set from Raider Of The Lost Ark where Largo is preparing the second bomb. Bond pushes a giant stone head onto some guys and the firefight begins with the cavalry finally coming when Leiter’s gun runs out of ammo.
Largo gets away with the warhead. Bond goes after him. They have a knife fight. (This is where Connery got the line, “Just like a wop to bring a knife to a gun fight.” ‘Cause Largo’s Italian…and stuff. Shutting up.) Largo gets caught by the cart that’s carrying the bomb and starts to shoot Bond with a harpoon gun while he’s disarming the bomb. But someone shoots Largo first. Who could it be?!
Well, Domino, of course! She waves to her former lover and takes off with Bond.
The two end up in a pool, drinking boat drinks and Bond says that his old days are over. That’s when someone sneaks in…it’s Small-Fawcett! He’s pleading (in place of M, of course) for Bond to come back to the service. “Never again!”
“Never?” says Domino and they kiss.
Connery (no longer Bond) winks at the camera.
Sigh. Just had to get that one in there, didn’t you?
Actually, after years of not really liking this movie and hearing about how bad it is from everyone in the press…I kind of like it. No, it’s not a great movie. It can’t touch the original Thunderball or, well, any of Connery’s original Bond films. Or even some of Moore’s It’s better, though, than a lot of Moore’s films and it’s actually kind of fun. It’s certainly not one that I would recommend to anyone but a die-hard, but it’s just as much of a Bond movie as, say, a Timothy Dalton Bond flick, even if it doesn’t have the Theme or any of the canon actors.
Directed by Irvin Kershner (Empire Strikes Back), the movie is pretty fast-paced and funny, even sexy at times. There’s no long underwater scenes where nothing much happens, so that’s a good thing.
I’ve been over how this movie came to be, but it’s interesting to see how the movie was actually made. It turns out that Kershner initially wanted an older Bond who was being called back into action. Not a lot of action, more of a psychological study. Connery read it (after being told that he would have a lot of input), and said that it wasn’t what he had agreed to do. He wanted action!
The original screenwriter (Semple) was let go and Frenais and Clement came in to do uncredited re-writes, putting four separate screenplays.
Meanwhile, more litigation was going on and the producer, Jack Schwartzman, was dealing with that…because he was a lawyer, not a producer.
Everyone agrees that the ending is weak. Kershner wanted to reshoot the entire ending with a real script. He says that the movie wouldn’t have been finished if it hadn’t been Connery playing Bond. No one would have cared enough.
And, yes, it was Sean’s wife who came up with the title.
The ultimate result of this movie, though, is that it proves that, honestly, anyone can make a James Bond movie. Sure, they have to get the rights, which will never happen again in our lifetimes. But as long as you have the right guy in the role (and Connery will ALWAYS be the right guy) and an understanding of the material, you can make a fairly decent flick. The official films will always be better, but this wasn’t bad. I would kind of like to see more independent Bond flicks.
I guess I’m not as much of a purist as I thought.
Then again, it could only be because Connery was in it.
CONQUESTS: Patricia; Fatima; another random girl (credited as “Lady In Bahamas”)
GLOBE HOPPING: False South America; Bahamas; South of France; North Africa (’cause this is a country, ya know?)