Bonding with Bond, Day 4: Thunderball

One intrepid RT editor is watching all of the James Bond films in order.

by | October 24, 2008 | Comments

Today is Day 4 of my journey, and I’ll be talking about Thunderball and some of the things I’ve noticed about the franchise in general.

Thunderball (1965)


I have to say, I’ve really liked the opening credit sequences thus far. They’re thematic, yet consistent in style, and they establish a trademark of sorts on the franchise. Dr. No started it all with the credits colorfully projected across the bodies of dancing women, and each successive movie has customized the concept; Goldfinger‘s women were appropriately slathered in gold paint, for example, and now with Thunderball, the credits are displayed amidst a backdrop of women tumbling underwater. Great execution of a novel idea.

So now, having watched 4 Bond movies, I’ve made some general observations I’d like to share, even if they’re not entirely specific to Thunderball — be warned, spoilers may follow. First, it’s apparent that the opening scenes, which are mostly irrelevant to the rest of the film, exist simply to remind us how amazing 007 is. In Thunderball, he attends the funeral of a colonel who’s killed two of his colleagues and faked his death, choking the life out of the colonel, escaping via jet pack (yes, jet pack), and speeding away in his Aston Martin. A totally irrelevant but blissfully testosterone-packed 5 minutes.

Secondly, Bond is a sex addict and a bit of a misogynist. He’s hot, he knows he’s hot, and he milks it down to the last homogenized drop. Maybe this was a given for others, and I probably acknowledged the probability of this on some level, but not to the extent that I’ve witnessed in these films so far. I had always pictured him more to be a suave, seductive womanizer, and while he’s certainly that, he takes it to the next level. He will lay any woman he can get his hands on, including the mistresses and operatives of his enemies, often manhandling those who dare to misbehave. In fact, if he knows a woman is out to get him, he’ll get her into bed just because he knows they’ve been told to do whatever it takes to get close to him… and then he’ll kill them or have them arrested.

That each and every one of these ladies conveniently falls in love with Bond feels a bit like a copout way to justify the mysoginy. When he practically rapes Pussy Galore, for example, does she turn right around and fire one off into his swimsuit area? No, and in fact, she ultimately betrays Goldfinger and helps Bond defeat him! The Bond girl in Thunderball, exotic Dominique “Domino” Derval, whose initials are appropriately DD, is the mistress of the film’s main villain, Emilio Largo. As Bond swaggers his way into her life, she falls for him, and next thing you know, she’s planting a harpoon in Largo’s back. Conclusion: Bond’s lovin’ is so righteous, it turns bad girls good.

Thirdly, I have to acknowledge the brilliance of the concept of SPECTRE. By allowing glimpses of Blofeld and populating his rogue’s gallery with a gaggle of peons with generic names, the writers (perhaps Ian Fleming himself, in the books?) have set themselves up with unlimited sequel fodder. I can imagine audiences returning to theaters for each installment in hopes of seeing the ultimate showdown between Bond and the mysterious cat-stroker. What, Largo wants to blow up countries with nukes? That’s wicked and all, but look, there’s this other guy behind the scenes pulling the strings!


Thunderball is enjoyable, though the plot is a bit simple (“Give me money or I’m gonna blow you and your people to smithereens!”), and the climactic underwater battle is somewhat uninspiring. Bond remains uflinchingly cool; he could suffer a subdural hematoma and still keep right on solving mysteries and snacking on pecans. I think that these first four films I’ve seen will have given me sufficient perspective on the franchise to get a lot out of tonight’s viewing, the “original” Casino Royale, one of the unofficial James Bond movies and a spoof on the agent.

Favorite line: “I think he got the point,” after nailing a would-be assassin to a tree with a spear gun.

Favorite moment: The scene in the clinic when Bond is almost killed by some antiquated physical therapy machine. The hot nurse he’s been flirting with comes in, afraid she’ll get in trouble for allowing it to happen, and Bond tells her he can be convinced not to tattle if she goes to bed with him. I’m sorry, but that’s like something straight out of amateur porn. In other words, incredible.

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