“I think he got the point”
With a title that sounds like a very uncomfortable medical condition, “Thunderball” was to become the highest grossing film in the Bond canon, which is just as well as it was also one of the most difficult to be made in the first place. Ian Fleming had adapted his original novel from a screenplay co written with Kevin McClory who retained the rights to elements of the plot and characterisation. Consequently, for this film only, McClory receives a producer’s credit alongside Broccoli and Saltzman.
SPECTRE has stolen two atomic bombs and is demanding a ransom of a hundred million pounds in exchange for not using them. Bond is dispatched to the Bahamas to track down Emilio Largo, SPECTRE’s number 2 and manages to ingratiate himself in typical Bond style with Largo’s mistress, Domino. When Bond reveals to Domino that Largo killed her brother, she switches allegiances and eventually kills Largo with a harpoon gun before his ship storing the bombs explodes.
Once again, Terence Young returned as director with Guy Hamilton considering himself exhausted after the production of Goldfinger. His schedule was tough, made more complex by a great many underwater scenes shot both on location and in studio. Mostly shot in the Bahamas, this was the biggest budgeted and most spectacular Bond movie yet.
Connery narrowly escaped a shark attack when a Perspex partition dividing him from the creatures broke free.
Felix Lieter returned, again with a different face supplied by the gloriously named Rik Van Nutter and the requisite glamour came from Luciana Paluzzi as SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe and Claudine Auger, a former Miss France playing Domino. Adolfo Celi was also notable as the eye patched Largo though yet again, his heavy accent ensured that he was dubbed. Largo’s penchant for sharks was one of the elements to be spoofed in the first “Austin Powers” film many years later
The film builds it’s pace and tension extremely well, however the much vaunted underwater sequences come to dominate the final act and can be confusing to watch, slowing the pace considerably and distracting attention from the characters, notably Bond himself.
Peter Lamont returned from Goldfinger as set decorator and would go on to become art director on several of the later movies while effects genius John Stears went on to win an academy award for his work on the film, despite mistaking a living shark for a dead one! The theme song, replacing the originally commissioned track “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” was sung by Tom Jones who reportedly nearly fainted on the sustained final note.
The film opened in December 1965 and became an instant box office hit, earning more in its first week of release than the previous three films combined. Connery began to get dissatisfied with the media attention that came with playing Bond during production, feeling that it was turning him from a person into a commodity, but later went on to say that Thunderball featured his favourite performance as Bond and indeed, he is at the top of his game here.