Friday, November 09, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Thunderball (1965) ***½

PG, 130 min.
Director: Terence Young
Writers: Richard Maibaum, John Hopkins, Jack Whittingham, Kevin McClory, Ian Fleming (novel)
Starring: Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi, Rik Van Nutter, Guy Doleman, Molly Peters, Martine Beswick, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell

There is something so raw about the first four Bond films. Bond is really a prototypical hero, and the casting of Sean Connery in the role was a masterstroke to capture that quality in the character. This was the last film to come out before the character really started to wink at himself and become aware of his own chauvinism and irreverence.

“Thunderball” is unique in the Bond franchise in that it is the only Bond movie that has ever been remade, as “Never Say Never Again” in 1983. Part of Connery’s contract gave him the rights to a remake, something I believe the producers never believed he would make good on. Like many remakes, the original is better, if extremely dated.

I’ve been slowly taking my kids through the Bond movies in no particular order. I’m trying to build the same passion in Bond for them that I have for the franchise. I’ve started them out with some of the best ones. This is their third. Hopefully by the time we get to the more questionable titles they’ll be sold enough not to care.

Anyway, back to “Thunderball”. This was one of the last Bond movies I ever came to see. I saw the remake first. It is unique in the Bond series and in films as a whole because if its extended underwater battle sequences. In the remake, much of the action was brought above water into a cave/villain’s lair location. Here they’re content to make due with the slow motion fisticuffs of underwater hand-to-hand combat. Amazingly, it actually works. There are legions of good guys and bad guys that find their deaths under the sea here, with harpoons to the chest, cutting of the oxygen tank lines, and concussive underwater explosions. It’s all really quite impressive. That wasn’t lost on my kids either.

Not until the casting of the current Bond, Daniel Craig, has the series had a Bond as serious as Connery was in the first four movies, or as flawed. This is a hero with ego problems and others of the self-abusive nature. I’m glad Craig has brought those elements back to the role. It’s easy to see the connection between his Bond and Connery’s. The others just don’t have the same edge.

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